Orangutan has never tried to kill me in shopping mall

Orangutan has never tried to kill me in shopping mall
By Zan Azlee

I have loved animals since forever. As a child, I used to run around looking for insects, tadpoles and small snakes around the house. I kept an aquarium filled with garden snails in the dining room (which my father made me throw out because he said it’s not a sight he wanted to see while eating meals).

I had a lot of other pets too. While growing up, I had cats, dogs, ferrets, tortoises, iguanas, snakes, gerbils, mice and hamsters. Currently, I have a dog, a snake and a couple of fish. I loved going to zoos too and I still do. Sure, there can be a lot of criticism when it comes to zoos, but for the most part, they play their part in conservation.

I also used to like watching wildlife documentaries. National Geographic and Discovery Channel were a staple on television. Steve Irwin the Crocodile Hunter was one of my favourite wildlife television personalities. I loved how he interacted with his environment and the animals to promote the love for wildlife and its conservation.

We learned that whatever environment created on earth, man has been responsible for it. From the creation of villages to small towns and the huge cities and metropolises that exist today, it has all been man’s creation. We have chopped down the original environment of the earth to make it more convenient for us.

Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with that. It’s just man’s way of surviving. All animals do that too. Natural instincts determine our actions to continue living. But as human beings, we a supposedly intelligent enough to understand that we need to create a balance. Should we push our survival to the extreme that it affects the survival of other creatures?

If we continue to plunder the earth in order to create an environment that is perfect for human beings, then what happens to the environment that is perfect for other living creatures to survive? Do we have a right to destroy that? And if we do start to destroy it, will the other creatures then have a right to defend it?

Respect animals

As a child, watching these wildlife documentaries and reading books, I learned that animals would never harm human beings intentionally. One of my favourite animals is the snake, and as I have mentioned above, I have even kept snakes as pets. So I do know a thing or two about these animals.

I remember people saying to me that I have to be careful because a python might eat me if they get hungry. Well, the one thing I learned is that human beings are never seen as prey by snakes because we are just too big. Even for big pythons. What that means is that a snake will not attack you. If on the rare occasion that they do, it is probably because they feel threatened.

When we see stray dogs in the street as well, we tend to fear being chased and bitten. The dogs don’t intentionally do it. It’s just that they live in whatever area that we are walking in and natural instincts tell them that we are intruders and hence they need to defend themselves. If we read their behaviour, we can very easily avoid being chased or bitten.

I have brought my children to the deep forests of the Kinabatangan area in Sabah to teach them to appreciate nature and wildlife. The guides there constantly stress that this is the natural environment of the animals living there. We are entering their space, so we need to learn to respect that and to respect them. Sounds logical.

But for the most part (and this is something I learned from all the wildlife documentaries I’ve watched, the books I’ve read and even from the teachers who have taught me in school), the first thing a wild animal would do when they see an intruder is to actually run away. Ninety-nine percent of the time, this would happen.

If you enter a jungle, make as much noise and ruckus as possible and the wild animals there will stay clear of you. Even if you encounter stray dogs on the street, just scream a little bit and stomp your feet. I guarantee you the dogs would rather run away than engage in a battle to the death with you.

Natural environment

If you think logically, have you ever seen any wild animals in the towns and cities that you live in? You rarely do. There has never been a situation where I was walking down Jalan Ampang past the Petronas Twin Towers and suddenly encountered a tiger crossing the street. A tiger would probably avoid the bustling city centre.

If you do see a tiger in a human environment, it would most probably be a place that is very close to the tiger’s natural environment. And it could also be very likely that the human environment had encroached into the tiger’s natural environment. So, whose fault is it now? Human beings or the tiger?

Same thing with an orangutan. Of all the times that I have been to shopping malls that are near where I live, I have never stumbled on an orangutan. There has never been a situation where I was lining up to pay for my coffee at a cafe and an orangutan just pushes me aside and tries to kill me because he wanted to get his iced frappuccino first.

We have always been told that, as human beings, we are at the top of the food chain when it comes to animals. That means we wield the power to determine what happens to our environment. As the living creature that has the most control, we basically have added responsibility.

It’s just like what Uncle Ben said – “With great power comes great responsibility.” Peter Parker took that to heart and Spiderman has been protecting this earth for decades now in many iterations (but Tobey Maguire will always be my true Spiderman). Heck! Even the Quran states that man is supposed to be the caliph of the earth.

It is something very simple to understand. We need to protect the earth and all the different types of environments and habitats that are out there. It is important because as human beings, we have the power to do so. It is okay for us to develop the earth for our survival. But we must also ensure that we do it responsibly and to create a balance so all living creatures can live in harmony.

[This article was originally written for and published at Malaysiakini.com]

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