wildlife & not so wild life

Good times in the Bristle over the weekend (I have been down here on work experience with BBC Wildlife Magazine) though it has been super chilly, leaving me rather envious of those creatures curling up and snoozing through the wintry season. Thankfully plenty of the birds, beasts and other animals at Zoo were up and about doing their thing, so our trip to see them on Saturday was well worth it.

I always have mixed feelings about zoos. It’s great to see animals that otherwise you might not have a chance to, but I always feel a pang of sadness seeing certain creatures so far removed from their natural environment. I remember seeing a very unhappy polar bear pacing round his enclosure, turning, pacing and turning, and pacing and turning in Mexico a few years ago. Yet conservation work and breeding programmes, along with their massive educational impact make zoos, for the most part, very positive institutions. For example, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) released footage last week of a long-eared Jerboa hopping about the night time desert in Mongolia, the first film of the creature to date and one of the ten critically endangered and evolutionarily distinct species included in the ZSL’s ‘EDGE’ research and conservation programme this year.

But on the other hand, on seeing a western lowland gorilla twiddling his thumbs in the corner of his indoor enclosure, I felt a surge of empathy for the fine fellow. Broad and muscular, he was an impressive bulk of darkness – deep glassy black eyes and a wrinkly forehead. There is something very poignant about seeing a sentient and intelligent mammal, so close to us genetically and physically, contained like that – their ranging territories in the wild must be huge, miles and miles perhaps. Yes, they have been bred in captivity so don’t know anything different, you might say, but there is still instinct. And it is even sadder to think it is man’s greed and materialism that have led to the deforestation, poaching and hunting that have earned them the unfortunate badge of ‘critically endangered’.

Phillipe Barrio (c) On a more optimistic wildlife front, I spent a very happy hour visiting the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibit yesterday, currently in the Bristol City Museum (as well as the NHM in London). The images are stunning, thought provoking and wonderful all at once – big respect for the genius and the hours, or even days, of patience and waiting that goes into them. It was hard to pin down favourites but mine include a shot of some whale sharks swimming with a shoal of sardines, their great spotty forms to the schoolers like London buses are to ants, perhaps?! Dwarfed is an understatement.


…and on the rowing front?

All is well in the shire. Things are ticking along nicely and due to be stepped up in the New Year in a bid to fully finance the boat. The build is due to start in February, and will hopefully be finished by July, ready for sea-trialling in the summer.

Perhaps the last blog of 2007? Happy New Year wishes to one and all and here’s hoping for a peaceful Christmas all round.

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