I just spent an evening listening to Chris Packham talk about his photographs and conservation issues.
Some may know him from his very reasoned argument that we spend too much time, effort and cash trying to save Pandas. I wholeheartedly agree with him ( and managed to tell him so tonight ).
I enjoyed his very serious points about the potential of extinction of wild tigers. We have so many in captivity that they probably won’t die out totally, just in their chosen natural habitat. I share his frustration with attempts to save the Wildcat, as it easily interbreeds with pet and feral cats. I have little time for pets that have been introduced into important environments : for instance I would ban all tourists from selected Galapagos islands, and make sure we cleared all of the cats goats and rats. I’d love to do that with Madagascar too, but I think it would be an impossible task.
But why I chose to write this was that I was actually quite disappointed by the reaction of the audience to many of his photos. Chris, if you do happen to read this, I hope some of your audiences see what a challenge we have to save environments and animals dependent on them. I hope that the ‘oooo’s and ‘aarrr’s heard tonight are not totally representative of how we Brits view the natural world. As a set of cuddly mammals
OK – so thinking that Big Cats are cuddly is fine, because. to be honest, they are… and having photos that show them ( literally ) in their best light, is a great start. But I wondered, while people were cooing over the pictures, if they grasped the enormity of what we are doing to the world. Drat, I’m on that same old hobby horse again. I must feel really strongly about how we are not looking after the planet.
What I heard was a shared passion for natural history. A shared love of animals whatever shape, size or smell. A shared concern for how we can make a serious change in conserving and increasing numbers of animals. I hope that the people in the audience work this through, and relate it to how they might alter their behaviour to help.
Chris suggested making sure the audience set their children or grandchildren free in the countryside to climb trees, to fall out trees, to get dirty, to collect things : to wonder at the world and develop a love for nature. That is just what I used to when I was growing up and never really lost the love of our countryside and the fauna and flora in it : and it is just what many kids simply do not get an opportunity to do : but they would love it if they did.
Let’s hope that at least half of the audience concluded that they need to change, even slightly, how they view the world, how they bring up their kids, how they think about food production and how they can help conserve those cuddly mammals they all cooed over. If they did, then the world will wake up a little easier tomorrow morning, knowing that the legion of its supporters expanded a little overnight.