Their stories and previous lives resonate with all too familiar similarities. Taken, they were, from their environment for any one of hundreds of reasons, separated from their family – be it a pride, biological family unit, a herd, a flock, or any of dozens of formal and informal groups. Most of these, wild and or exotic, wonderfully enchanting and engaging creatures were used and abused along the rocky road that took the lucky ones to any of many sequestered foreign environments.
The memories of the journey, that bring them back to our intimate care, are etched in neuronal circuits in well-demarcated areas of their brains that are so very similar to our own.
So it is, I speak of those wild and exotics who would now move with us through our collective life cycles with their unique and individual memories, perspectives, and reality concepts we can only occasionally glimpse and never fully grasp. Any and all communication to be had between the few remaining species can be found in various types of body language only; common verbal communication is as of yet unimaginable, and many believe impossible, even given the advances in technology recently attained.
Nevertheless, the most evolved and compassionate of us would attempt to offer some form of respite, even retribution, for the special creatures who have preceded us by large amounts of time in their journey along very similar paths of life as we know it.
We are left to wonder, as did Mr. Russell Wallace did nearly 150 years ago, in his book, the “Malay Archipelago” written in 1869:
“I thought of the long ages of the past during which the successive generations of these things of beauty had run their course…with no intelligent eye to gaze upon their loveliness, to all appearances such a wanton waste of beauty….This consideration must surely tell us that all living things were not made for man….Their happiness and enjoyment, their loves and hates, their struggles for existence, their vigorous life, and early death, would seem to be immediately related to their own well-being and perpetuation alone.”
The arguments continue, without resolution, as to the level of consciousness, understanding, and awareness all animals and especially many other large wild and exotic mammals share with us. The evolutionary pathway that brought us to wherever we are now as a species is well documented and “naturally selected” over billions of years.
The one glaring certainty we humans all know , and demonstrate on a regular basis, seemingly not present in other species, is that we are indeed a flawed species. We are indeed flawed by overt acts of the most base inhumane behaviors of which we are all acutely aware. We appear to be, whatever else, frequently angry and irrational, worried beyond belief, cruel and destructive. All such behavior has been exhibited by us repeatedly during our short existence to date. We kill all types of creatures, not necessarily because we tell ourselves they are inferior, and not of necessity. We kill because we can. As with peoples’ treatment of other people, intellectual and moral superiority is beside the point. Those, with the power to, obliterate those without, no matter what species, including our own.
In his book “Being Mortal,” detailed to some extent in my previous blog, Atul Gwande demonstrates how the tremendous power our interaction with other non-human species, both plants and animals, can complete our existence. This model is being studied by institutions everywhere, and has been instigating change for some time now. It would appear to be self-evident since we all co-evolved to the same time/space we share today. We were meant to interact and evolve together, and are bound together in the tapestry we call “life.”
So I ask you to imagine that the devastation of the Three Plagues, described in the last blog, applies to ALL species. Specifically, all creatures removed from their natural environment, and social structure, react similarly. It doesn’t matter whether these animals are removed from the desert or savannah of Africa, a backyard in the wealthier suburbs, or a territory in the vast ocean where they roamed sometimes large distances around the planet – they are all subject to the same boredom, loneliness, and helplessness.
The boredom of their isolation obliterates their ability to use their learned and instinctual behaviors.
The loneliness of separation from their group leaves them with holes where support once lived.
The helplessness forces creatures who were previously self-sufficient to be unable even to feed themselves, satisfy eons-old instincts, and meet the most basic individual needs.
And where do we go from here and how to we get there? If we fail to become failsafe keepers, and their perception of the remaining time allotted to them becomes too distorted, our evolution as a species will surely falter.
The thoughts of our ecosystem in the midst of the sixth mass extinction provoke the words from Harrison Ford writing a Foreword in “The Photo Ark” circa 2015:
“Preserving the world’s biodiversity ultimately comes down to saving ourselves.”