Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Nature is red in tooth and claw

In her estimation, Sheri Williamson would likely count me in the camp of the callous regarding the Green-breasted Mango's disposition. Nevertheless, her take on it is the one of the most well-reasoned and sensible approaches I've read yet. Regular readers of my blog know my fondness for birds, wildlife and nature, and when I say "leave the mango in the wild" I hope you understand it isn't out of callousness and lack of compassion begging me to this view. Lest we forget, the reason our world is filled with incredible biodiversity is partially grounded in the fact that extinction is the rule and death is very much a necessary part of the creative force of life.

I don't think this necessarily demands that we shouldn't help critters when we can. I do believe in good stewardship. In many ways, as we continue to degrade the wilderness, the remaining patchwork of natural areas become less wild and more zoo-like than they probably ought to be. Therefore, it's almost unavoidable for wildlife to not to be touched or affected by our way of life in this age of rampant development and habitat loss, rendering every living creature a candidate for our assistance should they make what we deem to be an error in their natural behavior. Is this just good stewardship or is it subjective meddling? Many birders I know are conflicted about the mango because it isn't so easily put in black and white terms. Perhaps this is the reason there isn't much listserv discussion and debate apart from that occurring on Humnet.

1. A Green-breasted Mango remains coming to a feeder in Wisconsin and the natural course of seasonal change threatens its survival.

2. A Green-breasted Mango remains coming to a feeder in Wisconsin and a natural predator threatens its survival.

Though a less probable threat to its life, a hummingbird can become a meal at the talons of a Sharp-shinned Hawk. What if one had taken up residence at that Beloit backyard and was observed taking strikes at it? Would you rescue the mango from imminent death? Would you try to shoo the hawk away? Watching a nature documentary on DVD or PBS, I sometimes catch myself letting out an instinctive sigh of relief when an Emperor Penguin out-swims a Leopard Seal, or wince a little when a Great-white Shark shreds a Sea Lion pup to pieces. I hear myself thinking, "I obviously know the cheetah needs to eat critters in order to survive, but I'm glad they showed the young gazelle getting away in this particular documentary." How many of you have seen the "Battle at Kruger" and not cheered for the young Cape Buffalo? "They're too late, they're too late," a woman can be heard lamenting. So much for the villainous lions!

In my opinion, it isn't the probability of a particular demise that counts; it's whether or not one is comfortable with the mango being taken from the wild by the wild. Whether by predation, weather, accident, disease or the slow decay of time, the Green-breasted Mango will eventually die. Left alone, it wouldn't have died without a reason; it would have died because it migrated too far north. Such is the reward for any creature that makes a "wrong turn" during it's lifetime. Though I fundamentally disagree with other opinions regarding the unusual circumstances surrounding this hummingbird, no one should doubt my respect and adoration of our world's wild creatures. At the very least, the mango should be returned to the wild as recommended by Sheri.

Link: Read Sheri Williamson's excellent blog about the Mango

Peregrine Falcon © 2007 Mike McDowell

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