If you’ve ever been camping, or to any national park, you’ve likely heard the rule of not feeding the wildlife. And if you have the internet, you’ve likely come across the stories of those who ignored this rule, such as Barbara Paschke, who paid with their life for doing so. In turn, it becomes a commonly enforced idea that humans belong as far away from wild animals as possible, not only for our own welfare, but for theirs as well.
Yet, this also puts us in harm’s way. While many people may simply consider it a matter of opinion on where our place in the ecosystem is, it is a very important perspective. For, if we feel it is best to remove ourselves entirely, we will lack experience with other animals. We lack interaction with wildlife altogether. And, needless to say, it is much harder to have a successful relationship when there is no understanding in that relationship. And we will always, so long as we live here on Earth, effect the lives’ of other species…this is something that cannot be avoided. We will always have a relationship to our surroundings and those who inhabit them, regardless of whether or not it is wanted.
Many civilians will insist that you cannot trust wild animals due to their inherently unpredictable nature. This is not entirely accurate. While trust isn’t as important of a factor (because what is there to be trusted?), it is important to understand our neighbors, those we share our home, Earth, with. The main issue, understandably, is the fear that an animal will attack at any given time, despite your possibly positive intentions with it. But it is important to realise that this is just fear on both ends of a relationship. The majority of the time a wild animal attacks a human is out of fear, perceived self-defense, rather than active hunting. And certainly not out of spite.
All in all, interspecies relationships can be formed and can be positive. This can be seen when one species makes up for a need or desire of another, and forms a sort of mutually symbiotic relationship. This can be as simple as the act of pollination, to as complex as a kitten’s desire for grooming and a human’s desire for companionship.
Part of the beauty of being human is our adaptability. Adapted to various cultures, for both solitary and social life, many overall lifestyles are possible. Our adaptability is a key point in our survival, due to the fact that we more-or-less lack instinct. This makes us one of the few species capable of living in the presence of another species, and able to take on said species’ own lifestyle, such as Jane Goodall has done while living with the gorillas, or as Jim and Jamie Dutcher or Shaun Ellis with wolves, or Oxana Malaya with dogs.
Removing ourselves entirely from the presence of wildlife is unrealistic and is only furthering the domestication of ourselves. We were, and some of us still are, wild. The way we, as biological animals, are meant to live. Interacting with our environment. Not merely seeing it, or trying desperately to separate from it, but truly working with and in it.
(Featured photo credit to Olga Barantseva)