Found myself reminiscing today about a trip to Tasmania in 2006, and specifically, time spent exploring the Cradle Mountain National Park. The fond memories have been intertwined with an increasing disillusionment I have with the habitats and wildlife in my home country of Scotland, where experiencing wild animal encounters are a rarity and biodiversity is in short supply, particularly in relation to mammals. The variety, although severely lacking compared with many other countries, isn’t the main problem – it’s the sparse distribution of much of the fauna and the lack of habitat connectivity.
There was also a tangible wildness about Tasmania that is now absent from most of the British Isles, as wilderness governed by natural processes has given way more and more to intensive farming practices and the general over-management of land for various reasons. When exploring the Cradle Mountain reserve, I was acutely aware of the sense of being surrounded by wildlife and enveloped in nature. I was a visitor to this land of Wombat, Pademelon, Tasmanian Devil, Platypus, Quoll and Echidna; I was inhabiting their space. Back here in Britain, it usually feels like the opposite is true. The wildlife is merely a displaced visitor in our land of artificial landscapes.
More often than not, I’ll go out into my local countryside and come back having seen very little of interest, despite countless dawn and dusk wanderings. Regular readers of this blog will know that I do also get some memorable encounters, but these are few and far between and usually require a lot of research and luck. I often think that if our wildlife was more abundant and visible, more people would then engage with it and therefore really care about it. So many of Britain’s mammalian creatures are nocturnal or crepuscular that you can understand why so many people in this country don’t actively seek out interactions with their wildlife.
There’s a theory that virtually all of the world’s wildlife started out as diurnal and that the proliferation of human disturbance and persecution has gradually shifted their collective behaviours towards a night-based existence. If that’s true, it’s a stark reminder of how marginalised the wildlife has become in my country.