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Friday, 18 December 2009

Local Animals for Local People

As surprising as it may seem, I have a friend. His name is Steve and he lives in Oxfordshire, near Didcot. (Well someone has to) He's not part of the conservation world, he's not a birder, nor does he survey cetaceans (although he is pretty handy at wild flowers). In fact he's a building surveyor. But he just loves wildlife, thrilled when he sees almost anything regardless of whether he knows what it is or not. But he always wants to know.

But the curious thing about Steve's love of wild places and wild things is that ask him what wildlife sight he'd most like to see and he'll say something like an otter or a peregrine falcon. Now although these animals are 'way cool' as my nephew would say, they aren't particularly exotic. But this doesn't concern Steve in the slightest because it's the stuff in his backyard that interests him most. Offer him the choice of a trip to West Wales or the South American rainforest and Aberystwyth would win every time. It's just the way he's built: his home is part of who he is and the wildlife around him is the wildlife he cares about most.

So, despite the restraining order, he took me out on a walk to the outskirts of his village because he said he wanted to show me, as he put it, "my water voles".

I sort of feel the same about cetaceans. I love being abroad and seeing the cetaceans that I'm unlikely to see from Southampton docks but when I see them from British shores or in our own waters there's a different kind of satisfaction there: they're my cetaceans.

In a curious way that somehow makes me want to make sure they stick around more so than if they were animals I never saw because they were on the other side of the world. Now, obviously, just seeing them makes them as much mine as seeing a picture of Nicole Kidman makes her my next date, but you get the idea. For instance, there's a guy in Pakistan who's spent 15 years protecting the Snow Leopard but, get this, he's never even seen one. As much as I admire his sense of dedication I couldn't do what he does: protecting the invisible.

With cetaceans filling British waters then doing something to protect the marine environment is as good an opportunity we're going to get to not only see the animals but also to say that they're cetaceans that we've had something to do with: they're our cetaceans.