I was watching a bus the other day, and it came to me that buses are incredibly dangerous. It could very easily run me over. A bus could crush my body in a way that no wild animal could. But why do people act so casually around them?
I believe there's a simple explanation: it's because we can predict what they are going to do. We know how buses react, when they are about to move and when they stop. We are familiar enough with the behaviour of buses that we know that there is no need to be afraid of them. With knowledge there is nothing to fear.
Which brings me to our reaction to most animals. Instead of actually understanding their behaviour, we instead react in fear. This ranges from killing snakes on sight to running away from monkeys to shooting tigers that get close to villages. Mankind has been able to survive this long because we are adept at observing and understanding other life forms.
Unfortunately, we have forgotten that part of our heritage. We have designed our current societies so we don't have to come in contact with anything more than a cockroach or a rat. It's a shame that we have the capability to manage wildlife in ways that can meaningfully benefit both parties, but we are limited by fear of the unknown.
In this country, cars kill more people every year than all the wild animals put together. Yet we don't try to isolate all automobiles into protected reserves. We are taught about road safety and we learn to balance the risk with the obvious benefits of having transportation around.
A direct comparison of cars with wildlife is a bit of a stretch, but why can't we apply the same risk management mentality to wildlife and human interactions? Some may say that there is no practical need for humans to be in contact with wildlife, but do these people know what they are missing out on?
T.G. Goh is an entomologist based in the Museum of Zoology. He can frequently be seen walking around campus, ruminating on the state of biodiversity; it is from his shortcuts through untarred territories that he gets the inspiration for his columns. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.