Again in 2016, Wildlife Queensland was out in force in Brisbane’s CBD on Threatened Species Day where everyday shoppers, struggling with their bags and the crowds in the Queen Street mall, were exposed to a greater nature experience than simply the pigeons.
Hitting the pavement that day was a southern hairy-nosed wombat, accompanied by a less than discrete paparazzi of mobile-phone-wielding Snapchatters. Snakes were out for a stroll too, hanging from the necks of their handlers and being patted by passersby. The squawks of a yellow-tailed cockatoo mingled with sounds of the traffic. There was a turtle in a tub, a frog in a box, and even a sea cucumber in a plastic wading pool.
But as an Environmental Management student I could not help but be disenchanted by the sight of a naturally shy and nocturnal bilby burrowing down into its handler’s arms to escape the sunlight and endless fingers outstretched to pat her silky coat.
I was prompted to ponder, does the wildlife experience afforded the humans on such a day warrant the human experience had by their creature counterparts, even if it is in the name of environmental awareness raising?
To what degree does human enchantment and escapism from the concrete surrounds of the city justify the animals being crated up, handled for six hours, gawked and goggled at, patted, prodded, poked and polluted?
Surely, as intelligent beings, we should be able to contemplate and appreciate the value of wildlife without having to physically encounter it.
Or could it all be worth it – if that little girl chasing the wombat on a leash is inspired to one day create change? It’s a challenging question and one that’s more easily avoided.
As I grappled with it all from within the Wildlife Queensland display, it was at least a small comfort to see our Richmond birdwing vines sell out and to think of those happy home gardeners contributing to the network of plants sustaining Queensland’s endangered birdwing butterfly population. Yes, a lot of those home gardeners still asked for a plastic bag as they purchased their vines, but some progress is always better than no progress at all when it comes to saving our threatened species.
by Alexandra Brown