Not so long ago Britain was an abundant forest land full of animals such as beavers, wild-boars, wolves, bears... even elephants! But with human progression came hunting, deforestation and a complete desolation of a beautifully established ecosystem. Now heading out into the wildlife of Britain you may expect to see a rabbit (introduced by the Romans 2,000 years ago), a grey squirrel (released into the UK in 1876), or perhaps, if you're lucky, a fallow deer (brought over by the Normans). We Britains spend a lot of time telling other countries not to destroy their forests, not to shoot predators that hunt their livestock.... to protect their environment at all costs. But how do we have a leg to stand on?
During the past year I have met some truly remarkable people whilst volunteering and studying in Africa - people who have dedicated their lives to the welfare of animals, who live and breathe conservation and will fight to no end to stand up for what they believe in. Not least of all is my friend, Angie Goodie, who after a life-changing trip has become a dedicated activist fighting to raise awareness to the plight of the highly threatened rhinos.
This morning, on 'Sunday Morning Live', I caught a discussion on the development of new advances in technology that may allow us to bring back animals that have become extinct - those such as the Wooly Mammoth, the Dodo, the Chinese River Dolphin... animals that have been driven to extinction by humans. There is no doubt that humans have wreaked havoc on the world, and currently animals are going extinct faster than species can evolve to survive. We are all dominant, all powerful and no other species can win against us in the fight for survival. But does this now give us the right to play "God"? Is bringing back species an attempt to fix the problems that we have caused, or an egotistical display of what we can achieve?
For a long time I have struggled with my opinions of Zoos - do they do good or bad for Wildlife? Do animals suffer more than they are benefited? Are our reasons for still having and visiting Zoos for the right ones, or is it just like forcing animals to perform in the circus for our entertainment? In all honestly I have visited many-a Zoo over the years, even as recently as last summer. I've enjoyed my visits but tend to come away with a feeling of sadness - why should these animals have limited space and limited lives when they could be wild? Is a lion a lion if it doesn't hunt? What is the life of a penguin if not to strive for survival for that of it's mate and chick? Should that parrot really be riding a small bike and ringing a bell just to make me laugh?
Unless you've been to Africa I think the tendency is to think that all the animals lions eat are pretty much the same; fast running herbivores who spend most of their day eating grass. I have to say I had no idea how many different species of antelope there are, but when I went to my first volunteer project I was sent a list of 10 different species to learn! I couldn't believe it! I think to truly understand the richness and diversity of Africa you have to understand those at the bottom of the food-chain, the animals that make Africa work.
So! Here I am to introduce you to a few of the species I have come across, and to show you just how diverse they really are.