Thursday, 10 May 2012

Wild Thing

For those of you who know me (or at least follow me on Twitter), the following two facts will not come as a surprise.  First, I like watching documentaries on Channel 4.  Second, I have a bit of a soft spot for furry animals – especially little baby ones.  Needless to say I’ve been keeping half en eye on the above channel’s investigation into the nation’s population of foxes for the last couple of weeks.  I know a lot of people who don’t like foxes, whether due to fear of attack, memories of childhood pets falling foul of their need to feed or those who just think they look a bit mangy.  I, on the other hand, find them fascinating. 
Living in London, you don’t see a lot of wildlife, and coming across it, for me, is a real treat – not just because I’m a big softie.  It fills me with hope to see wild animals adapting to the urban landscape.  Let’s face it, without this ability, they wouldn’t stand a chance of survival.  So, when I see a fox trot across the street on my way home from the pub, or a squirrel scamper up a tree on the commute to work, it makes me smile.
Yes, I have heard about the attacks on small children and indeed I am aware that grey squirrels have pushed their rusty-coloured cousins to the corners of the country.  But is this really their fault?  If the world wasn’t so over-populated and devoid of their natural diet, foxes would be much less likely to put themselves at risk by attacking their mortal enemy.  If people hadn’t released grey squirrels to the UK they would be thriving in their country of origin – and not playing a Darwinian version of tug-of war with their rivals.  What they are doing is surviving – and in what is more often than not a hostile environment.
Okay, so the summer before last my entire crop of salad leaves was destroyed by a healthy colony of caterpillars and I often blame a bad day on a solitary magpie.  But, along with the birds I can hear singing outside my bedroom window and the spiders who weave their webs between the plants on my terrace, they keep me in touch with the real world.  A wander around Hampstead Heath fills me with memories of childhood walks with my mum as I spot bluebells and violets.  The aroma of wild garlic adds to the atmosphere of Highgate Cemetery, and even though it’s giant trees are responsible for a lot of damage to the majestic tombs that watch over London, they add to – in fact, create – the Victorian site’s beauty.
So whilst some people might dismiss the city’s four legged inhabitants and bemoan trees that cause structural damage to their houses, I welcome them.  They act as a reminder that London wasn’t always the polluted concrete jungle that it is today.  
I think it’s about time we made the foxes and the flowers feel welcome again and show them a bit more respect.  At the end of the day, they were here first. 

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