As green areas and natural corridors get smaller we are vicariously getting closer to nature. We have a choice to develop this relationship and benefit from a respectful symbiosis or we can choose to out compete and eliminate everything around us. We have far more to gain from the former and there are plenty of success stories we can follow.
Smooth coated otters occupy the parks, waterways and streets of Singapore unmolested and free as residents. Imagine if our Cape clawless otter had the same status in our riverside towns here in South Africa. There are plenty of examples locally that demonstrate not only nature’s defiance but our own ability to live alongside our furred and scaled brethren. Tortoises, snakes, mongooses, genets and porcupines are common in gardens and already share our residential areas posing very little threat to us.
Under the right circumstances these animals can thrive if left to their own devices and are quite happy where they are. As tempting as it is, it is not advantageous to the individual and population as a whole to feed or relocate any local fauna. We can assist them by looking after the green areas that are left, replanting indigenous vegetation and by picking up after not only ourselves but others too. Taking responsibility for open areas within our neighborhoods is a good place to start. The adage of “it is not my rubbish but it is my planet” goes rather far in this case. A safe and clean environment is more important to local fauna than adopting a provider or saviour role. There’s a big difference between a wild urban animal that forages within a built-up area and a habituated one whose health is comprised and life expectancy diminished because of handouts.
As the urban environment grows to overlap and consume space previously occupied by the natural landscape certain changes are guaranteed to take place. It’s how we deal with these changes that will not only define us but the areas in which we live. Being creatures of habit, change is not always the easiest pill to swallow, especially if it means breaking routine in order to rethink one’s role as a species and how one’s actions can either positively or negatively impact the ecosystem and environment.