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Friday
Oct102014

Can you be a predator and a peacemaker at the same time?

Today the Nobel peace prize was awarded, a glorious trophy previously given to people like Gandhi and Nielson Mandela – and now Indian Kailash Satyarthi and Pakistani Malala Yousafzay get to join their ranks. Human beings are fed up with war, crimes and cruelty and have spent decades dreaming about peace. It’s there, shining like a sun, a round circle of beauty we are unable to touch. But wait a minute; we are not the only animals on earth, are we? In fact, humans are among the most violent creatures on this planet while many of our fellow beings live a much more tranquil lifestyle without plotting to win territory and kill to survive.  The question is, can you be a predator and a peace-maker at the same time? 

Image courtesy of Emma Fischer, Frontier Costa Rica Animal Rescue Project

The vegetarians

The animal kingdom is often portrayed as a war zone, a place where survival of the fittest is more than just words from Darwin – it’s the ruling condition. But if we look around us, there are plenty of animals that live in peace without the urge to harm others, dedicated vegetarians with a flair for cuteness. Lambs are known for their harmlessness as well as sloths, pandas and butterflies. What an odd collection! While sloths are famous for their slow speed and clumsy nature, butterflies are quick graceful flyers. However, being a veggie does not necessarily mean you don’t kill and if a threat arises, most animals will respond by trying to defend themselves in order to survive.  Rabbits are often associated with children’s pets, but in the wild their behaviour might be slightly more hostile due to their fear of foxes and other predators.  

The recipe for being peaceful

Image courtesy of Emily De Groot, Frontier Madagascar Conservation Adventure

But what does it even mean to be a peaceful being? Imagine if peace was like a dish you could cook by following a simple recipe. What would the ingredients look like? And most important of all: Will a dish like that taste any good? Some people claim that living beings are born for conflict and violence; it’s inside us, like an invisible body part we cannot get rid of. Others feel certain that peace can be achieved. If we take a close look at humans both things could be true. Many human beings live at peace without feeling the urge to harm one another, but for others fear and violence is present at all times. So where do we draw the line in the animal kingdom between good and evil? Well, it all comes down to the kill.

Are predators evil?

Image courtesy of Frontier Africa Trail 

Let’s not completely ignore the fact that there are predators with sharp teeth out there, blood thirsty and ready to go for the kill. The question is: Does it make them evil? While some animals strive as vegetarians others are born with the need to eat meat and while humans can wander to the supermarket and choose between various packs of pre-killed meat, other animals have to do the job themselves. Killing for survival or killing for pleasure? That’s the question that could help us answer this important question. We know for a fact that animals do kill to survive, they need to feed and will go out of their way to get a tasty meal, but while lions and leopards might sneak up on their prey and kill them at once, others have slightly more brutal strategies that could go on for hours.

Hunting techniques 

Image courtesy of Frontier Canada Kajak with Orcas Experience

When orcas hunt their prey they sometimes use exhaustion as a technique, hurting and hunting their prey until they are unable to go on and ready to hand themselves over. Chimps can rip other monkeys apart and bears don’t bother to wait for their prey to die before they start eating.  Other animals just look scary but are in fact peaceful and harmless. Manta rays are huge, known as the devil fish, but they don’t tend to harm anyone, only small fish are a part of their diet. Another example is the gharial, a scary looking reptile that resembles a crocodile, but they never attack other animals – only smaller fish.  So looks are not everything. Even the toughest looking fellows can be chilled out.  Some predators can be merciless in their quest to survive but their kills are not for pleasure but a way to get food on the table.  The majority of predators will only attack if they feel threatened, especially when it comes to their young ones in the pack.  But at the end of the day, most animals will leave you in peace if you don’t pose a threat to their loved ones or take over their territory – unfortunately the same cannot always be said about humans.

Image courtesy of Frontier Africa Trail

So let’s go out in the wilderness and get inspirations from our fellow creatures! Most of us have different preferences, so whether you are at one with the hunting predators or favour slow-moving sloths - there are opportunities for in the wild. Volunteering abroad can give you the experience of exploring the behaviour in the nature and who knows - you might find out that there is nothing but peace in the jungle! 

By Caroline Edwards

 

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