June 30, 2016

Rewilding and Our Love of Animals

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine    

There is no questioning Americans love of animals. Our love is expressed in so many ways. It is expressed in the love of our pets, the numerous save the animal funds, protective laws, amazing zoos and even our petting zoos are just a few of these expressions. Now there is a big push for the next great step in showing our love and that is Rewilding.

Rewilding is simply returning animals into wilderness areas. Wilderness areas that were possibly at one time a natural habitat of the species. From this we have seen bald eagles, peregrine falcons and California condors returning from near extinction. In Yellowstone National Park the return of gray wolves and red wolves; regulating deer herds in North Carolina. Grizzly bears are again on the slopes of the Rocky Mountains, Mexican Jaguars in Arizona’s Sky Islands and cougars back in the Badlands and Black Hills of the Dakotas. Not to be left out are the wild salmon returning to old familiar running waters after dams are removed. But as with most conservation movements there are pros and cons.

The advocates and opponents, both experts in the field have their opinions. The advocates say working with our neighbors, both human and wild; we can restore our great natural heritage. The opponents say it will disrupt the natural evolution that has occurred where a particular predator has not been part of the natural scheme for a while and is returned. The devastation it brings has in the past caused the greatest predator of all, man, to either fight the conservation policy or kill the predator.

I saw the concern of the opponents in the 1960’s and 1970’s in Arkansas when it was overrun with beaver. They dammed up streams causing flooding of thousands of acres of farmlands. Lack of production on these flooded acres cost the farmer income and the state tax money. The answer was to bring in alligators to naturally regulate the beaver. Hunters killed the newly introduced predators for sport, out of fear or just the novelty of it. The beaver population continued to grow.

As writers and animal lovers we can and many of us have used this love and fascination of animals to draw our readers in. Walt Disney’s success is based on animal characters. Who doesn’t love Mickey Mouse? Disney has a huge following and it is based on our emotional connection with the animal characters. Our emotions with the characters are driven with human like relationships. We love, we laugh, we cry and we are happy for these characters.

Rewilding could be written about either for its success or its failure. Success could show the natural re-blending of the species brought about, a hoped for result. Larger Bison herds, more condors and bald eagles would be an example. An example of a failure would be the introduction of a predator and something goes terribly wrong for mankind and animal alike.

With pet ownership in the US nearing 80 million plus, there are a lot of animal loving readers out there to connect with. As writers we must decide on our approach. The approach of lovable characters, the fearful approach of predators gone terribly wrong, the hero or the villain are all good ones if our readers connect.

With some of our greatest stories being that of animals we all know there are opportunities for your animal story to be shared with the world. Use your love of animals to write that short story, novel, poem or play.                   

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