Monday, December 3, 2012

Life in the Wild Not Entirely a "Nat Geo" Series

(Photos: 1-- "Cochise, Conner, Carol and Connie," the tightly bonded domestic ducks at Harlem Mere.  2--  Wiggly and Honker, not always so close now since the loss of their leader, Brad, in September.)  

Some thoughts today on the popular National Geographic cable channel ("Nat Geo Wild").

It is very easy to get addicted to this station.

I watched three back-to-back episodes last night of "Wild Mississippi." 

The photography is truly magnificent and awe inspiring. One cannot even imagine how the film producers are able to get such incredible and vivid footage of life (and death) in the wild.

But, there does seem to be great (and to me, over) emphasis on the life and death struggles of nature and predator/prey relationships.

One might wonder how any animal makes it to adulthood?

But, many animals do make it to adulthood obviously -- though not without struggle, calculation and wariness.

What it seems these series often lack is any examination of the emotional lives of animals and the various cooperative relationships they form with each other and with other species (including, in some cases, human).

One might conclude from many of these programs that wild animals exist only on instinct and the drives to eat and procreate.

But, animals are much more complex than that -- just as we humans are.

My personal observations of ducks and geese over the years have demonstrated close cooperative and family bonds, not only with their own kind, but often with other species.

In winter for example, ducks and geese will often work and cooperate together in order to prevent parts of ponds or lakes from entirely freezing over.

Geese are of course, larger and heavier than ducks. They will often move through (or step on) thin sheets of ice in order to break it up. But, because mallards are smaller and faster than geese, the ducks are helpful in keeping the water open, once the ice is broken through. (Typically, a number of ducks will swim in a quick circle in the open water, as well as continually dive and dunk, keeping the water moving and open.)

Additionally, many birds concentrated in a small area of water help to keep it open from body heat alone.  It is not uncommon in winter to see a watercourse completely transformed to ice -- except for a small area where the geese and ducks are congregated and working together to maintain a small liquid patch.

In fairer weather, geese and ducks are not always so fond of each other. There is some competition for food and territory and it is normal to see a great deal of "feather pecking" both within their own species and with the other waterfowl.

But, come the challenges of winter and almost all territorial or hierarchy squabbles go out the window in favor of cooperation necessary for survival.

As demonstrated in recent videos posted in this blog, birds of different species will also band together and cooperate with each other when there is predator threat in an area.

Put simply, animals in nature appear to be capable of anticipation, planning and forming important attachments for the purposes of survival.

Part of this can of course be attributed to "instinct," but it is much more than instinct alone.

Many species of animals (such as elephants, dolphins, dogs and geese) grieve for loss of mates or family members.  Many species form extraordinarily tight and inseparable bonds with members of their flocks or groups.  -- The four new domestic ducks at Harlem Mere for example who are never seen without each other. The four ducks even snuggle up to each other at night, presumably for warmth, safety and companionship.

In some cases, a tight flock or group might even be formed by a "lead" duck or goose.

For example, when Brad (the Rouen domestic duck) was alive at Harlem Mere, he organized and kept together, himself, Wiggly and Honker (two other domestic ducks) as a tight flock.  But, since Brad's passing this past September, the two surviving female ducks, have tendency to wander from each other.  Without a leader, Wiggly and Honker are either more independent or a great deal more risk-taking and potentially naive.

(Indeed, the main reason for rescuing Casper, the white Moscovy or Pekin duck from Harlem Mere more than a week ago, was because he was both flightless and more significantly, without a protective flock.)

In essence, as beautiful, educational and amazing the various nature programs on National Geographic they, (in my view) fall very short on examination of both, the cooperative bonds of nature, as well as the emotional ones.

Reality is that if truly as brutal and "dog eat dog" as these programs show us, few animals would survive to adulthood.

But, billions in fact do.

And along the way, many of these "wild animals" enjoy (just as humans) various cooperative relationships with other animal species and even the joys of devotional attachment and love with each other.  -- PCA


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