Land of Lakes

Hello!

Finally, here is the promised post on the Lake District.

So here’s a little run down of what I did. Me and my partner went there this year for a week. It was my first time going, and we decided to camp. We stayed 3 nights at one campsite (Kestral Lodge), 2 nights at another campsite (Gill Head Farm) and out final two nights at a third campsite (Harbour Lights). The idea was to do a mini tour, but the first two campsites were North as we couldn’t get anything near Windermere or the center of the Lake District when we booked. Harbour Lights is South West – I’m not sure if it’s technically IN the Lake District but it’s near enough, either way.

We went at the end of August to the beginning of September. I’ve been camping many times before, but at festivals. We were NOT prepared for ‘proper’ camping! We’d borrowed a 4 man tent off a friend (I thought I had a 4 man, but two days before realised it was a 2 man, which I had the sense to know wouldn’t be big enough!) a 4 man without a porch is NOT big enough for ‘proper’ camping.

Let me just say here that by ‘proper’ camping, I mean with our own stove, plates, pans etc. A table was very useful too. All of this stuff we’d borrowed off my sister to save money. When you have two people in a tent, a blow up bed, bags of clothes (taking up more space than usual because we camped for cold weather – we got cold weather!), a crate full of cooking and eating utensils and another crate of food, a 4 man tent without a porch is not big enough. I’d say we over-packed, but I don’t feel like we did. We got through most of the food, I certainly got through all the clothes I took and it’s nice to have a little bit of room to move. So yeah, unless you’re one of those insanely camping-savvy people who have learnt how to pack a weeks worth of clothes, food and cooking stuff into one giant back pack, get a bigger tent! We ended up buying a bigger one on our second day with a porch, and we are SO glad we did. It would have been miserable otherwise, particularly because the first tent was very cheap and not 100% waterproof! You can wing it at a festival, there’s usually a friend you can crash with if it all goes tits up. You can’t do that with ‘proper’ camping!

We got to Kestral Lodge, and the area was beautiful. I forget all of the names of the places we went so I’m gonna add in some map shots. The drive up there was wonderful and refreshing, and even the 24 hour rain didn’t stop us going on a local walk through a lovely forest.

Kestral Lodge

After a long drive and setting up, we were quite tired, so that was it for day 1. On day 2, We grabbed that new tent, set it up and then went off to Dodd Wood. It’s not too far form the campsite, we weren’t really sure what to expect but it was fantastic. It was a great little visitor center and we ended up going all the way to the summit. There’s several different routes, some easier than others. Our trek was quite tough, but so worth it! It took about 2 hours to get to the top – it was a lot quicker coming down, but we stopped at an Osprey viewing point. We saw an Osprey! Anyway, here’s some photos showing it’s beauty. It really was an incredible walk, and a great unexpected way to kick off the holiday!

On the second day, we went to the Lake District Wildlife Park, and then for what should have been a relatively short walk from the campsite down to Bassenthwaite Lake. The Wildife Park was good, much bigger than we were expecting. Not all enclosures were as big as I’d like to see, but a great morning out nonetheless. The walk to the lake was fantastic, though! We got lost, and walked down tiny little paths next to rivers, through fields, over huge areas of puddle (we’d worked out my shoes weren’t waterproof so there was lots of jumping and lifting), and eventually found an incredibly peaceful, secluded and beautiful spot on the lake. The sun had come out for us, and it was bliss to sit there for half an hour. If we’d gotten there earlier (as we should have done), we would have stayed longer, but we were concerned we’d get lost again and the sun was setting. Well worth it anyway!

 

On the third day, we moved over to Gill Head Farm. We didn’t realise how close Gill Head was to Kestral Lodge until we set the sat nav up, but we went for a wonderful detour on the way there.

I’m going to have to make this a two-parter because I’m cutting into Uni work time now. I have a research proposal due this month in preparation for my dissertation, which I’ll be doing on Rewilding, but I have nowhere near enough research to focus on one area yet! It’s a huge subject with lots of things to consider. It’s also a relatively new subject, which is nice!

Enjoy the images, there’s more to come! 😀

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Every little thing is gonna be alright!

Hello!

So I’ve yet to do the lake district post – I am, in fact, in Wales right now, on a ‘lovely relaxing’ holiday. Nobody wants to do anything apart from me but I’m not quite confident enough to go trekking by my lonesome (I’d probably be fine, but I’m still a small lone female!)

I’d rather do one big post on the lake district, so let me tell you about Wales quickly.

We really haven’t done a lot. We visited Dolgoch falls and we’ve driven to a couple of towns. That’s more or less it. The image doesn’t do it justice, my phone is useless and I haven’t been through my camera yet, it’s beautiful.

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Last night, the rain was pretty heavy! We’re in a caravan, so it woke me up (very loud on the roof). I couldn’t sleep for two hours, and when I did, I had a nightmare that my female rabbit, Whiskey, had broken her leg. Needless to say I’m not feeling overly great this morning.

I also spent a large portion of last night arguing with someone who is more traditional in their views of conservation. They’re the kind of person who full on believes that working in an area is better than studying it. This can be true, of course, but it can also be untrue. The issue with someone who’s worked in the land for a number of years is that they don’t necessarily keep up with the newest progressions and discoveries in science. Admittedly, basing my opinion purely on research and no current practice is also not the best way to go about things, but at least I am aware of this. The other issue is the misconception that rewilding will damage peoples livelihoods. This is NOT the goal. We still need farming, we still need meat and crop production, but we need it to be economical and have more of an output than input, or it becomes a financial loss, which in some cases it currently is (Wales imports more meat than it exports, despite such a huge amount of land being used for mainly sheep, but also cows, predominately for meat).

The unfortunate thing in being so interested in this subject is it’s playing on my mind too much. I’ve found myself in a deep sadness over the current state of the environment. Some conservation efforts in the UK are misguided and failing. Birds and mammals that have had our protection for a long time are in decline, and much of this is down to our obsession with heath land and rejection of forest. Some animals which we’re successfully protecting are actually abundant. I don’t know if this is a product of our protection or they never really needed protecting to begin with, but the continued protection of some abundant species is causing rapid decline in endangered species, in some cases.

The argument really highlighted the issue with peoples attitudes, in my opinion. How can be progress and move to a new stage of potentially more effective conservation when attitudes are aligned with the previous methods and show no sign of changing? It’s completely natural to progress within science, and true conservation is indeed a science. To conserve a species or area relies on behavior research, study of evolution, genetics and many other areas of science.

I sit here typing this when in reality I shouldn’t be surprised. There are still people in the world denying evolution, which for all intents and purposes, is scientific fact. The label of ‘Theory’ in science does not mean the same as it does in standard English Language. According to ‘Dictionary.com,’ the definition of scientific theory is as follows:
a coherent group of propositions formulated to explain a group offacts or phenomena in the natural world and repeatedly confirmedthrough experiment or observation:

the scientific theory of evolution.’

Anywho, that’s what’s on my mind. I’m looking forward to beginning my third year of uni next week, even if I’m not as relaxed as I had hoped. I’ve barely given my dissertation a thought all summer, at least now I’m thinking about things, even if it isn’t giving me great happiness right now. It is an incredibly interesting subject and one that I feel passionate about.

‘The White plague’

*’The white plague’ is a term used by George Monbiot to describe sheep, in this book ‘Feral.’ Most of the information in this post comes from that book, so if you enjoy it, I’d highly recommend finding a copy!

Below is an article I’ve written for Wildlife Earth (You can find the Facebook page here, where you can keep up with what we’re up to and learn about wildlife!)
Rewilding is exactly what it sounds like – the process of making an area wild again. This is a process that’s going on right across Europe and some other continents. A good example of this process is demonstrated in Yellowstone National park, where the re-introduction of wolves has proven to have a knock on affect on a number of other species and natural processes. Deer numbers have fallen which has allowed the growth of more trees, which has attracted more bird species and caused the rivers to return to their original state, as there is less soil erosion.

Within Europe, the UK has proven to be one of the most difficult areas to re-wild. This is largely due to land ownership and a strong relationship with farming. Cultivation of the land resulted in all of our larger predator species being wiped out, and strong evidence suggests this was due to human hunting. Land has been cleared to make room for farming, and with no natural predators, deer and rabbit populations have soared. This has created an odd situation. Farmers see animals such as deer, rabbits and foxes as pests. They are responsible for eating crops and causing harm to livestock, in some situations. Deer, fox and rabbit numbers have soared since natural predators died out, and yet the predators were wiped out to prevent damage to livestock. Natural predators include wolves and lynx.

These predators are actually far more likely to hunt undercover, i.e. in forest land rather than farmland. There would always be a risk that they’d take the odd lamb, chicken or calf, but it’s much more likely that they’d reduce the damage done to crops by hunting rabbits and deer. Fox numbers would dwindle due to competition over resources and habitat.

Another issue that may be related to sheep farming is flooding. Many hilltops have been cleared, either by humans to make room for sheep, or by sheep themselves demolishing tree shoots. The earth becomes compacted the more heavily it’s grazed, and this causes rainwater to immediately run down the hills to the valleys. We cannot confirm this as solid fact, but it is an interesting theory.
East Anglia is a part of England well known for its farm land, and when a re-introduction of sea eagles was proposed in the area, it was voted down. The local people did not want to risk having their young livestock taken by the eagles.

In the Highlands, Trees for Life are currently re-planting native trees in huge areas, with the goal of making ‘corridors’ which will be home to wolves again. ‘Rewilding Britain’ and ‘Rewilding Europe’ are two other organisations working towards re-introducing lost species.

The purpose of rewilding is to let wild areas extend, either by themselves or where necessary, with human intervention in terms of re-planting native species and re-introducing native animals. Instead of managing the area in the following years, the area will be left to be as wild as it wants. No coppicing, no breeding programs (eventually – these may be needed initially to ensure a viable population), no clearing of the land, no hunting and no felling. Simply letting the wild stay wild.

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The Lake District, Emily Hull – picture showing farmed scenery in Northern Lake District.

Cover photo shows Dodd wood, an area where the woodland has been preserved and you can find red squirrels, birds of prey including osprey and other examples of wildlife.

Wildlife Earth

Hey, this is just a quick post as I need to get ready for induction to third year of uni (Exciting, I’m changing from Animal Science and Welfare to Wildlife and Conservation!!) but I figure this will be good for those of you who are into wildlife and animals!

Me and my partner run a Facebook page called ‘Wildlife Earth.’ (that’s a link, it doesn’t show up well on the page! oops!) It’s photos and information on animals in the wild, sometimes conservation efforts and sometimes just facts about the animals. The idea is to try and get as much fact out there as possible. With the media being so mad right now and things like climate change deniers being on the rise than to that lovely straw head guy in charge of America, I feel it’s incredibly important to spread as much fact as possible. If you’re interested, please head on over and give it a like!

If not, fair play, I hope you continue to follow me and read my posts regardless 🙂

I’m working on the Lake District posts, there’s just a couple of thousand photos to go through and I’m done….

Perception

So here’s an interesting fact:

Class divides don’t exist until you’re an adult (or at least teenager).

They exist in the sense that you may not go to the poshest school if you’re from a working class background, and you may be on cheaper food, but it’s not something you realise or care about until you get older. It’s the same with racism and to some extent, religion…and of course many other things.

I say this because my family was well off when I was a kid. We had all sorts of pets, all sorts of junk we didn’t need. Nearly anything we’d ask for, we’d get, because my dad could afford it. I never felt better than anyone though. Sure, I liked to show off a little, but that’s what kids do – especially kids that feel like they have something to prove (usually if they’re lacking something else, like basic parental support..) I never thought I was smarter or more entitled than the people around me.

Skip ahead 10 years and my family is broke. My parents had to go on jobseekers because unfortunately, my dad decided to take a break from a very well paid job at the same time as the recession hit. As an older bloke, he really struggled to find work, which was very upsetting because he’s incredibly intelligent and had he been 20 years younger, I don’t think he would have struggled so much. His career never fully recovered and now he’s in a job which would leaves him okay, but nowhere near as well off as we were when we were kids.

I’ve gone off on a tangent about money but in reality, I don’t think class divides are just about money. My family is dysfunctional through and through, and that’s the divide that I feel. It’s a strange concept, but when I meet my partners friends, I’m incredibly aware of the differences between us. They’re all well off and for the most part seem to have happily married parents. They’ve lived quite privileged lives, not just in terms of money but the love and support from their parents they clearly had access to.

They’re the kind of people who take opportunities and don’t let things hold them back. I can’t do that. I try, and I’ve definitely opened myself up to more opportunities in the last couple of years than ever before, but it’s a constant struggle. I never find an easy balance. Either I’ve got a crap job that’s easy accessible or I’m out of work, because the jobs I want are at least 40 mins away by car and my ca is so old, I don’t trust it not to break down. That’s a crappy excuse, but it causes me real anxiety. I could volunteer at a zoo to get much needed experience for my C.V., but I have rent to pay and I can’t give up all my time working for free. You see? There’s always something. I’m effectively in a position of an 18 year old with little work experience in my chosen field, part way through a degree, but I’m not 18. I’m 26.

The class divide doesn’t just stand for income, it stands for the way you were brought up and the way you think. Some people have this fantastic work ethic where they never take a sick day, even when they’re genuinely ill. Some people take every opportunity given to them with no fear and no set backs, and if they happen to have money to begin with via family, there really is nothing holding them back, and they absolutely flourish. Others struggle.

I’m sure there’s others out there who feel like I do – there always is, so here’s my message to you guys as a fellow struggler: Don’t give up. Don’t compare yourself to other people. You’ve lived different lives. There’s no point wishing you were one of ‘those’ people who seem to be given everything on a plate – your childhood and teenage years have already happened. You are the person you are. But don’t give up. Work on it, work on yourself. Just because you’re not that person you want to be, it doesn’t mean you have to be a person who isn’t successful. If you find yourself constantly making excuses, ask yourself why? Is there a real reason behind it? Are you scared of something and if so, what? Also think there’s thousands of people out there who have struggled equally, or more, or less than you do. I don’t mean compare yourself to homelessness (unless you are suffering from it yourself), or starving people in another country or anything like that – that’s a completely different life. There are people who have been bought up in western society, that haven’t financially struggled but still struggle in themselves, who put up barriers. Those people often also break those barriers. I’m too scared to get a job 40 minutes away in case my car breaks down. I can guarentee I’m not the only one who’s faced that issue, and I’m pretty certain there’s people with worse cars out there that do the journey. At the end of the day, so what if it breaks down? It happens! It’s bound to happen at some point in my life. It happens to people with much newer cars, it’s not something I have control over, so why am I scared?

There’s no real reasoning behind it.

Break the class divide, it’s not a real thing.

‘A setback opens the way for a comeback’

Hello!

It’s been a little while, very busy month! Things are good.

I’ve moved, yay! Well, mostly. There’s still some bits at my parents because I have a lot of stuff to sell, and not a lot of storage space. I don’t like my room lay out, but it’s an awkward shape and the plus are in funny places. It’s a work in progress!

I’ve rescued 8 gerbils! Yup. Someone was keeping 8 together in a tiny gerbilarium. The reason is they’re all family. I think the guy meant well but I’ve just ordered an Ikea Detolf cabinet to adapt into their new home. I’m very much looking forward to that little project!

I’ve built the rabbit run! Kinda. It looks messy, but the garden is wonky. If I screw it all together, there will be gaps underneath, so right now it’s cable tied.

I’ve bonded the bunnies! This makes me very happy! I got Rafiki as a lone rabbit from a pet store. Generally, I’m against pet stores, but I’m also a sucker. He’d been the last one left for weeks, all by himself in that little pen they have them in. I gave in. A couple of months later, I got Whiskey – she was a breeding bun, and the lady selling her claimed she was downsizing, but according to her breeder page, she was bringing in new buns. Unvaccinated, so it was risky, but I figure better coming to me who will vaccinate and look after her than someone else who may leave her in a small hutch. Well, they’ve lived above/below each other for a while, I was delayed in getting her spayed for various reasons. They had their first proper meet yesterday (they’ve met a few times through bars/an open run door with Rafiki on a harness). It went so well that they’re now in together. It doesn’t usually happen so fast, so if you’re inexperienced, please don’t attempt to bond like this! Anyway, they’re adorable together and really, really like each other!

I also went to the Lake District with my other half, and it was incredible. We did so much! We went to the summit of Doddwood and Grizedale, we went to Lake District Wildlife Park and a small aquarium, we stayed in the North for 5 nights (3 nights at one campsite, 2 at another) and the Southwest for the last two nights. It was cold, wet and windy with a couple of sunny days. The views were something else! It’s a little sad to see the deforestation in some areas, but lovely to see wild red squirrel and all the birds of prey. There was only one day when we didn’t see a single bird of prey.

Me and my partner are doing well. I think we needed the holiday!

And now I’m off to enroll for my final year of university. I’ll do more in depth posts soon, particularly on the Lake District, but this post is really just to touch base. Things are good!

‘There are people so poor that the only thing they have is money.’

Hello!

Today, I’m going to be writing about money. I’m no financial expert, I don’t know if anything in this post will be useful, but it’s what I fancy writing about.

Money is the most important thing to many of us. We may not even realise it, but at the end of the day, we need it to live in western societies. We absolutely, 100% rely on it. I hate that. Money controls us every single day. Money is the reason most of us work. We need a career to be successful and buy a house, car, etc.

Money is something I constantly say I don’t have – ‘I can’t do this, I’ve got no money,’ ‘No, I can’t afford that!,’ ‘I don’t want to go to town, I’ll spend money I don’t have!’

At the same time, I am constantly spending money. Yesterday, I bought some chocolate and lady products. The day before, I spent a small amount for a game. The day before that, car insurance and rabbit food. Before that, MacDonald’s. I’m not sure when I last went an entire week without spending money.

I have no income. Despite all my spending, I have no job, no hobby I’m making money from, nothing. Through student finance and my previous job, I’ve saved up enough that I’ve been able to spend all summer, despite constantly claiming I have no money. When I look at what I’ve spent though, I’m pretty horrified.

Why do I choose to spend money on Macdonalds, and then tell my friends I can’t go for a drink? The money I spent on the game is enough for a coffee, or parking for an hour or two. Chocolate bars are so expensive these days I could have bought a house (joking, obviously, but it could have been 70p in my piggy bank). I simultaneously spoil myself whilst living frugally, and the stuff I buy gives me no long-term satisfaction whatsoever. I said 4 years ago I was going to save up for a macro lens for my camera. Do I have a macro lens? Nope! Have I been able to afford one since saying I’d get one? You bet! I spent two years of that time working full time. I could have my macro lens, another zoom lens, a decent car, or even just tyres (literally avoid driving my car when it’s raining because my tyres are so bad, I’ve skidded out about 4 times). I could have the money to go back to Africa sat in my account. I could have gone on one or two beach holidays.

Sometimes I think about what my life would be like if I’d chosen to stay in full time work instead of studying. I could have the deposit for a house by now, easily. There’s a high chance that I would have been promoted (I had already been promoted twice, neither time I asked or pushed for it, I got on with my manager well and worked hard). But I’d be bored. Working in a coffee shop for my whole life is not for me. I am too passionate about animals to stick to just having pets. I always want more. I always push for me, whilst simultaneously holding myself back, e.g. by spending the entire summer jobless.

Working with animals and wildlife conservation is not going to make me rich. I am fully aware that until I’ve got 50 years of experience and a PHD, giving me the opportunity to be head of department at some university, I will likely only ever earn a below average wage. I could have been a vet if I wanted money, but a vets job, to me, seems boring. I don’t mean any offense of course, I have enjoyed learning about animal health, but there’s no bigger picture or purpose. You vaccinate and treat animals, you save some lives, but for what? So that a domestically bred and raised animal can hopefully live a happy life. That is great, but also not natural. I’m a complete hypocrite because I’ve had pets all my life, and I currently have two beautiful rabbits, and of course I’m incredibly grateful that vets can protect them against all kinds of diseases and health issues…But it isn’t natural. My poor bunnies serve no purpose other than to line the pockets of the breeders and give me a personal level of satisfaction.

Working with wildlife and conservation is more than that. It means I’m contributing to an entire planet. If I can educate people about ecosystems and animals, help people understand the damage we do and how we can turn that around to aid ecosystems instead, to stop mindlessly destroying habitats and decimating other species – that, right there, is a purpose.

I have gone completely off track but maybe the point to this post isn’t really about money, but about ourselves. Money is a necessity, yes, but don’t let it rule your life. I am not a happy person, but I am probably more deeply satisfied with what I’m doing than those who have settled for money, those you don’t allow themselves time to live because they’re working too hard and those that are trapped in menial jobs or careers that they don’t enjoy, just because it was a better financial option. I know that when my degree is over and I find a job, it’ll be a job I love. Sure, it’ll have bad days and good days, let’s be realistic! But I will be satisfied.

Where is Home?

Hello!

I’ve been away for a few days. My lovely other half took me to Southampton to meet a couple of guys he lived with when he spent some time in the Falklands, and the following day we stayed in Windsor. It was a lovely weekend, and we also went to Thorpe Park where I was persuaded to go on some of the bigger roller coasters, including the SAW ride, which is actually pretty cool.

I loved walking around Windsor, and the ground of the posh estate hotel we stayed at. I saw buzzards, cows, wild parakeets (I had no idea they were a thing, it’s a feral growing population that was started when people released some into the wild in certain areas), rabbits, geese, swans, and even a red kite!

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Forgive the poor quality image, my phone is awful.

It was a lovely weekend, but I’m very aware that I’m not happy. I am trying, but I just can’t seem to get there. I think I’m bored. I’ve been jobless through choice since May, I’ve had no university to keep me going and I haven’t really done much apart from stress myself out this holiday. I went to Poland and had this weekend in Windsor, but as I’ve been pretty disconnected, Poland never sunk in and there was a few things that made that event stressful, although in general it was pretty good.

I want to start job hunting, but I don’t ‘feel’ ready. It’s awkward. I’m aware that I’m getting low on money and I’m about to move again and have car insurance, but I feel like I’m stuck until I move. I feel like that’s the moment I’ll be able to be me again – when I’m out of this shithole my parents call a home.

I’ve really, really struggled with UK life since I got back from Africa. I think, in a way, I’ve always felt homeless. If anyone has experienced real homelessness, please don’t think I’m trying to belittle your situation, past or present, by saying this. I’ve always physically had a roof over my head, and to compare it to real homelessness would be insulting to those who are suffering without, I’m aware that this is an emotion that’s probably limited to those who physically live ‘comfortably.’ I’m talking about an emotional homelessness. I’ve never lived anywhere where I felt I could be 100% myself, bar when I had a flat with my ex but he was never home (we’d broken up) and I was living by myself. That felt like home. Africa also felt like home.

I detest UK life. It’s boring and mundane and full of little bullshit issues that don’t make a damn bit of difference to anything on a larger scale. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but there is no passion. Most of us end up in mediocre jobs that we are just doing to get by. We don’t want to do that job for the rest of our lives, it doesn’t give us any satisfaction, but we plod along, living to work and working to live a life we don’t have time for. We all go around with these big dreams in our heads of being rich, owning holiday homes or boats or flashy cars. I know that to complain about such a life would be deemed as being petty or spoilt, but it really is bullshit. We have lost ourselves.

We are so detached from nature by work and government and society and medicine that our lives have become meaningless. We have stripped the land bare for farmland and buildings and energy plants. Our wildlife is nothing. We went from having wolves, boar, beavers, lynx…to what? Sheep and cows, basically. The forests that once covered the land are gone. The UK is an empty place to live. You know you’ll survive, because we have the means to keep everything alive, but for what? Without being born into money or having great social skill, and knowing how to play society, you are left to trundle along, earning money for the big bosses, for the ones who know how to play the game, to ease their way up the financial and social ladders.

Maybe my issue is that I am too passionate. I’ve been through emotional trauma as a child and seen things kids shouldn’t see, only to come out the other side for this life to be waiting for me. This life with no challenges because we live in a western society, where we don’t need to fight to survive. We just survive.

Saying all this, because I never had to face off to physically dangerous situations, never had to hunt, never had to keep warm (bar a couple of winters with no heating), never really had to physically test myself, I am probably far from physically capable of doing such things now. At 26, my body shape is what it is. I do relatively little exercise, my muscles are weak, I’m not even a great cook because I don’t need to be. The chances are that moving into a community that’s anything other than the one I’ve known all my life would make me seriously ill, AND I’m terrible with languages.

So where is home? Where can I challenge myself without damaging myself? Where can I find satisfaction?

The search continues.

Confidence Diary: Day 3.

Hello!

I haven’t done one of these properly for a few days because either side of doing nothing, I’ve been doing everything. Last weekend, I went to a wedding event with my partner. I knew absolutely nobody there, and I still enjoyed it! Whey!

If you’ve been following my posts, you’ll know by now that I am no social butterfly. In fact, this very week I have reduced my number of female friends down from 2 to 1. I shy away from new situations because they’re scary. For a lil while last year, I was very good at socialising. I taught myself to see new social interactions as opportunities  – the good kind, not opportunities to make an ass out of myself, which is my current mind set. I live in hope that one day, new social interactions might excite me again, but for now, I just can’t do that.

Despite that, I had fun! I wasn’t left out despite knowing nobody, my partner was excellent and included me in everything. I feel like he made a real effort for me, but I’m really proud of myself for making the effort too.

I managed to make my rabbits a larger run with panels and string. This sounds ridiculous but it’s been playing on my mind that my bunnies currently have a crappy tiny run. I was supposed to build them a huge one, but I’m actually moving in like two weeks and the crappy weather has delayed the building of the proper run. Now, I may as well put it all up at the new place instead of building it to fit my parents garden. The new garden is smaller, but having a look today, I think I can still make it the same size as I’d planned, which means building can commence, aside from the weather. One of my rabbits, Rafiki, has seemed particularly unhappy recently. He started chewing at the rubbish run every time he was in it, and out of fear he’d cause permanent damage to his teeth, I stopped letting him in the run, so the only times he’s out is either on my single bed or on a harness. This is not ideal and he has not been having the exercise he needs. He’s less than a year old and is a ball of energy. I haven’t known what to do about it because I’ve been in such a funk, until yesterday. I finally had enough of having a depressed bunny and did something about it. I’m quite proud of the makeshift run – it’s not perfect by a long shot, but there’s room for me to sit in there with them, and more room for them to hop about, yay!

I’ve also driven for the first time in a week or so. Generally, low confidence = an aversion to driving. My car is 16 years old, the air con leaks, it makes a funny noise that sounds like creaky metal, I’ve had all kinds of welding done on it and it is in DESPERATE need of new tires. I have skidded out more than once on a wet road, as has my sister. I promise you it’s not my driving! I have never skidded in another car and nor has she. I’ve also never crashed, beyond very very very gently bumping a wall when I hadn’t driven for a year (pulling forward into a parking space…) and curbing the car when I very first passed my test because my bag fell from the passenger seat. I don’t put it on the passenger seat anymore…Back to the point, I drove! And it was all fine! Yay!

What else? I’m meeting some people that my other half lived with in the Falklands for a year or so. I’m excited about this! He was in the Falklands before we were an item. I had a huge crush on him before he went, but we both ended up in other relationships. He kept in touch more than I did, and would send me incredibly penguin photos he’d taken, pictures of a horse in a boat they were ferrying from a nearby tiny island, and other ridiculous things. I’ve heard so, so many stories about these two guys, both of which sound lovely, so I’m looking forward to that.

Anyway, that’s it for today I think! It’s had it’s moments, but it’s been a pretty good week!

Behind the Cage

Let’s talk about zoos for a moment.

This post is for anyone, regardless of whether you agree with disagree with zoos. My view point will become obvious very quickly, but please hang with me even if your view is conflicting. This is a post based on fact and may provide a new way of thinking that people haven’t considered. If I mention anything that isn’t true, please feel free to comment to let me know, but if you can also provide evidence against what I’ve said (for the purposes of learning, not because I think my word is law), that would be great!

Whether or not zoos are good or bad depends on who you ask. There are many conflicting views out there, particularly among people who think they’re campaigning for animal welfare. I will explain why I’ve used the phrase ‘…who think…’ later on in this article.

I can completely understand being against zoos. These are ‘wild’ animals being kept in cages or behind perspex glass, the space they have is very limited, they’re being kept in countries with climate that does not match what they’re adapted to and, in some cases, it appears that the purpose of zoos is just to allow the public to get a good look at animals they wouldn’t see in the wild.

Zoos in some countries are diabolical. With tiny, dirty enclosures, incorrect diets leading to malnutrition and health needs not met, I do not agree with those zoos. They are awful and it upsets me greatly to see animals kept in such a way. For some, the intention is good, they genuinely feel as though they want to help the animals, but the lack of education surrounding the needs of the animals lets them down. For others, it’s probably to do with power and money. They want to profit off the animals backs, and ignore the needs of the animals. This type of zoo tends to be in poorer countries – I’m from the UK and it’s unlikely you’d see such an image that I’ve described over here.

That does not mean all zoos in the UK or Europe or other richer parts of the world are ‘good’ though. I’ve visited a few zoos in the UK, Salzburg zoo in Austria and Berlin Zoo in Germany. Two of the worst zoos I’ve personally seen are here in the UK. One of the best is also here in the UK, and another is Salzburg zoo.

So so conservationists tend to support and work with zoos?

For a start, zoos have come a very long way, particularly in some richer countries. Once barren enclosures that were designed to be convenient to clean are now full of enrichment designed for the animal it houses. Expansion is constantly taking place in some zoos, and the research surrounding the animals in their care is vital to endangered species. It gives scientists and behaviorists a chance to examine to physiological and psychological aspects of animals that they simply wouldn’t be able to do in the wild. Research that can be done in the wild is often compared to the same research done in zoos in order to measure the captive animals welfare, but also to allow successful breeding programs in captivity. Once successful breeding in captivity is achieved, they can move on to successful breeding on reserves and such, which will ultimately contribute to the wild population (hopefully).

In the UK, it’s a legal requirement that zoos make some effort to contribute to conservation, whether that be by donations or physically owning a reserve. Colchester Zoo is the biggest zoo near where I live. I have been there many times and although some areas could do with much improvement, some are huge and filled with natural enrichment. Colchester Zoo ‘owns’ (I’m not sure if it’s complete ownership or a partnership or another arrangement, but the reserve gets a LOT of support from the zoo) a reserve in South Africa, called the Umphafa Reserve.

DSC_2024 copyWM.jpgMale Lion at Colchester Zoo. The lion enclosure is one that I feel needs improving. They have enrichment, but more space would be much better.

Many people think that the animals in zoos should simply be released, but this is unrealistic and dangerous. I would love to support this idea, but here are some of the factors rendering it impossible.
1. Most of the animals in captivity today were bred in captivity, particularly in richer countries. Although some smaller, more exotic zoos may still illegally take from the wild, and all animals will be descendants from some that were caught from the wild, this is likely to be a good few generations ago. This means that most of the predators would struggle to hunt and most prey animals would struggle to recognise true danger. I’m not saying this is true for all animals, but to ‘re-wild’ most of the animals would be incredibly costly and time consuming, and detrimental to the animals involved.
2. Most animals in captivity will survive longer than they would in the wild. Animals that have the proper care, nutrition and environment will lead a long and relatively relaxed life. A rhino in the wild has a much higher chance of getting poached, being preyed upon or fighting with other wild rhino/animals. I’m not saying zoo animals have a higher life expectancy, but say 1 in every 4 rhino was poached in the wild. The remaining rhino could have a lifespan beyond that of 4 captive rhino, but there’s a much higher chance of all 4 captive rhino surviving to a decent age than the wild ones. This is a key point to zoos – protection. It angers me that animals are safer in this environment over their natural environment, but it’s undeniable.
3. Lack of habitat. One of the main forces behind the decline of many species is a dwindling habitat and human encroachment. We are constantly building over animal habitat for houses and farmland and power-plants etc, and we’ve reached a point where habitats aren’t sustaining the animals. There is just not enough left. Often, what is left is in ‘pockets,’ and whereas animals like tigers used to roam a huge range, providing regular mating’s with tigers they haven’t encountered before, they are now restricted to their ‘pocket,’ which is causing a loss of genetic diversity due to only a very small population of mating tigers being available to them. This is causing inbreeding, and this doesn’t just affect the tiger. Without the habitat to sustain current wild populations, releasing all the tigers from all the zoos would quickly cause a huge decline in overall numbers. Assuming that the tigers can survive and they can hunt etc, this would mean food resources will dwindle even quicker than before, and the tigers that are surviving will quickly die off.

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Baby White Rhino at Salzburg Zoo. This zoo was overall very good, with large and natural enclosures for most of the animals.

In nature, it’s completely normal for an abundance of prey to cause an abundance of predator, which leads to less prey and therefore less predators, until the prey populations recover again, and the predators follow suit. This is a natural cycle in sustained populations, but many populations have suffered so ferociously at human intervention that this cycle simply stops. We take both predators and prey, we cull antelope and take up land for livestock, and then we kill the predator for taking the livestock, even though the chances are that the land that holds the livestock used to hold natural prey.

We are stripping nature and destroying animals at a rate that is only comparable to previous mass extinctions. As it explains here (http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/biodiversity/elements_of_biodiversity/extinction_crisis/), extinction is a natural process, just as climate change is, but the rate that it is currently happening is not natural. I can’t say if this next sentence is 100% fact because I can’t find the source for it, but I have read that our current rate of extinction is fast than even that of the dinosaurs. Mass extinctions are usually long, drawn out processes. What is currently happening is happening incredibly quickly in comparison.

Anyway, that is why, currently, we need zoos. Not all zoos, but good zoos. Zoos that support conservation as well as the animals they are housing, zoos that provide research and protection, and zoos that encourage the public to care about wildlife.

DSC_6562 copy WM.jpgRed Panda taken at Banham Zoo. This is not a great zoo in my opinion, enclosures are small and although they clearly try to include enrichment, I strongly believe all of the animals could do with more space, particular their large cats, which include cheetahs and snow leopards. One thing that upset me greatly at this zoo was seeing vultures display abnormal behaviour.

*Featured Image taken at Colchester Zoo. The tiger enclosure is a reasonable enclosure, they have a lot of space and a lot of foliage.