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Making the world safe for predators

By Valerie Yule - posted Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Do you have birdsong at dawn outside your window in the suburbs? Twenty years ago our Mount Waverley home had plenty. Now it is silent almost always.

As well as campaigning for the nearly extinct birds in the wild, the organization BIRD and we ourselves should be protecting the wild birds that remain in our suburbs.

Thirty years ago we had blue fairy wrens, tits, humming birds, honey-eater and others, now gone because of cats, rats, foxes, and foolishly-protected Australian crows attracted out of their normal range by people's food litter. Even the wild ducks used to nest in our garden, but were frightened away by the rats. We now have only crows, magpies and mynahs although we are close to a reserve.


I want to campaign against the protection of predators of small native birds in our suburbs, when the predators are out of their normal range. Since crows arrived in our suburb less than ten years ago, all our wrens and honey-eaters are gone from my garden, and other birds are desperate at nesting time, trying to harry the crows away from nests. Yet these battalions of forty or so mobs of crows are protected natives. Surely culls are needed.

We are making the world safe for predators, at the cost of the vegetarians.

Who likes crocodiles, wolves, sharks, lions, tigers, pythons, piranha fish and bull-terriers? We do.

From prehistory until the past thirty years, the animals which have benefited most from human protection and affection have been those that could be tamed and domesticated. The fiercer the animal, the more fiercely it has been hunted, and many monsters, from sabre-tooth tigers and dragons (? dinosaurs) to many species of tigers, wolves, bears, and other big cats and dogs which are now extinct.

Now we are beginning to realise a bit late that our rate of extermination of whole species of animals and birds may be going to make the world a lot less interesting, as well as upsetting ecosystems. But it is very curious indeed what animals we seem to be taking most prominent interest in conserving.

Apart from pandas, whales, koalas, Gibraltar monkeys and some species of deer, human beings seem to be most fascinated by their animal rivals in causing danger and destruction.


It starts with change in books for little children. It's been taken for granted for a long time that children are fascinated with animals and identify with them. Victorian children's books were full of puppies, kittens, ducklings, chickens, and baby birds. Children's beginning readers today are also full of mice, rabbits, foxes and other vermin, for children to identify with (as small, weak, helpless, and possibly as nuisances to adults as well) as well as pigs and snakes. I am sometimes reminded of the ancient Greek saying, "I thank the gods that the tales told me at my mother's knee were tales of the open-breasted heroes, and not of vermin."

However, contemporary adults also appear to be identifying with animals - and on balance, more fascinated with the destructive and dangerous predators than the 'safe and friendly'. Horses, ponies and bulls have never lost their attraction - but now we have people trying to save animals that are dangerous to man and often dangerous to harmless animals too.

The pests (yes, pests) that are sold in pet-shops today are soon abandoned in the wild.

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About the Author

Valerie Yule is a writer and researcher on imagination, literacy and social issues.

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