Nobody’s property

My letter to the editor of BBC Wildlife was printed in this month’s issue. I wrote about my impression of an illegal primate trade in the UK featured on a previous issue, which reminded me of human slavery where lives were treated as expendable chattel.

The story of TikTok tells the marmoset baby monkey who was rescued from a miserable life as a pet in a birdcage abandoned alone. It raised awareness of animal abuse in mental and physical forms as pets at the mercy of whims and caprice of the owners, who regard them as nothing more than live, expendable toys. TikTok was first bought for its exotic beauty and rarity in the illegal animal market, but the owner soon lost interest in the new pet, forsaking due care owed to him. When TikTok was finally rescued, he was in a state of fear and shock, so he was put together with another rescued older marmoset who cared for him like his son. Looking at the two photos, I thought of enslaved people who were sold off like commodities seen from Alex Haley’s heartrending saga of American black family “Roots.” In the story, humans are perceived and treated as nothing more than talking stock, and therefore the most basic unit of society in the form of family is unthinkable for slaves. Mothers and children are forcefully separated, let alone husbands and wives are for mating purposes only to multiply the population. Such comparison is not a stretch of the imagination but a sheer fact of association.

We have come a long way to the progress of the mind regarding human rights and animal rights compared to the past, or we like to think it so. Perhaps it is our animal instinct to dominate what is perceived as controllable. That is why a force of civilization in the form of rules and law is essential to reining in our unruly and crude id in implementing reason as a way to prevent cruelty against lives. But such rationalism should always complement humanism lest we should act on the mechanism of the mind. And let us not forget that those who mistreat animals also do the same to their human brethren.

cathedral of forest

She, with her wings clipped in shackles
Sees the light above the high altar
Through the dusk of leaves and boughs
Beneath the dome of boundless skies
Without spires and stained glass within.


But why else when nature has it all
Sermons in trees, brooks, and skies?
From the haunt of life’s vicissitudes
rests herself under the pillars of trees
As the choristers of hummingbirds begin
The hymns of hope in nature’s cathedral.

St Francis and the Wolf of Gubbio

I have recently read an article about how the prosperous presence of wolves reduces the number of deer road-kills because their very predatory sense intimidates their prey, one of which is the deer. Fewer traffic collisions mean fewer government funds to spend on the aftermath of car and traffic accidents from animal crossings. So far, so good. But what about the resolution about protecting livestock from wolves, which has become an economic issue disturbing the farming community? So here are my small suggestions that I deem mutually benefitting people and wildlife by virtue of Charity, Faith, and Hope.

The article continues to support recolonization that the reduction of traffic collisions resulted in economic gains, which outweighed the costs of livestock losses by nearby cattle ranchers whose livelihood feels threatened by their lupine marauders. I remember reading newspaper articles and tweets about ranchers in Washington that the multiplication of wolf population engendered their livelihood and that clamoring for lupine rights outright disregarded human rights to make a living. When I commiserate with the woes of the ranchers at the same time, and also hope best for the great grey wolves, my mind’s eyes see the visceral images of the Maasai in Tanzania and African lions living in co-habitation. The Maasai find the most cost-effective and nature-friendly way of guarding their livestock against the lions by establishing chain-like fencing supported by the thorny African myrrh trees. I am sure the American contemporary can take cues from the Maasai and adapt them to their environment.

I like wolves for their commendable fidelity to spouses and respectful sense of a society that emits from their majestic composure. I also admire the fortitude of cattle ranchers who are vigilant of the livestock their families subsist. Both beasts and men have reasons to live for and kill for. Yet, there should/must be a way of satisfying the needs without losses. Indeed, the medieval Italians knew exactly about the problem, but no more understanding and effectively than St. Francis of Assisi in meeting with the Wolf of Gubbio. Francis admonished him for his terror of fear over the people and made a pact with him publicly at a popular marketplace that if he ceased his predations, people would feed him from their very doors. The Wolf put his paw in Francis’ hand as a gesture of agreement, a sort of beastly hand-shaking. Can I make a wish for the miracle once again in my time? I believe I can, if they or we want to, for sometimes we as part body and part spirit can do beautiful things together.