Posted by: Dan | July 27, 2010

It’s okay to let wildlife live

There’s a story in the NY Times blogs today that expresses an idea totally foreign to most of the peoples of the world: that one can observe and interact with birds (or any wildlife) without shooting it. This is a profoundly simple concept, but for the Kenyans in the story, it’s one that never dawned on them. Nor has it dawned on many people of Cyprus or especially Malta, it seems.

We Don’t Need to Shoot Birds, by Columbia University Biologist Dustin Rubenstein

We’ve started trying to educate the girls about what we are doing. We show them the birds we are searching for in the field guide, and when we are finished processing one, we hold it near to them so they can see it is safe; they are too scared to hold it themselves. We are doing this partly to dispel a myth that anyone coming to see birds in Kalacha wants to kill them. Since the day we arrived, everyone asks us why we are not shooting the birds. From the herders, to the children, to the teachers, everyone expects us to pull out a gun, not a mist net. Kalacha is one of the few places in Kenya that allows game hunting of birds. The Goda, or watering hole near our camp, attracts thousands of sand grouse each day. They come in small flocks of 5 to 10 and large flocks of 100 or more. They land for only a few seconds, just long enough to slurp some water before heading back out into the desert.

We hope that by showing the girls that the birds are healthy and unharmed when we let them go they will understand we don’t need to shoot all birds. It seems to be working with the girls, but not the teachers. Earlier today, when we told one of the teachers that we were nearly done catching birds at the school, he asked us if once we were done trapping, would we begin shooting.

How is it, exactly, that so many people of the world maintain this thought that the only good bird is a dead bird??


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