EDITOR – ‘The time has come, the walrus said, to talk of many things.’ The opening line of a nonsense poem by Louis Carroll of Alice in Wonderland fame.
It came to mind when I saw the images of that unfortunate creature that washed up on the rocks at Valentia Island, so far from his native habitat.
I thought of how the walrus was hunted to near extinction in past centuries for its tusks and bone. Man’s unthinking rapacity has also impacted on its conservation status via climate change. The greatest threat to its survival now is the depletion of sea ice which it needs as a platform to feed and rest.
But the forlorn walrus seen off the Kerry coast also reminded me of other man-made threats to wildlife. I think of those repulsive pictures that appear almost daily on Facebook of trophy hunters posing with the carcases of majestic animals they’ve slain, like elephants, tigers, lions, giraffes and gorillas.
I think of bulls tortured in Spain by swashbuckling matadors and dogs boiled alive in parts of Asia, of chickens or veal calves confined in tiny spaces on factory farms. I think, too, of Ireland’s wildlife heritage, and of the fact that an estimated 85% of habitats deemed to be of international importance have ‘unfavourable’ conservation status and that whole populations of wildlife and the eco-systems that support them have disappeared over the past 50 years.
A third of our bee species faces possible extinction, our rivers are polluted, landowners continue to light illegal gorse fires that decimate huge swathes of vulnerable habitat, and we still await a government with the guts to end hare coursing and fox hunting.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service is committed to protecting wildlife and biodiversity but receives a mere fraction of the funding given to the bloodstock industry. Gambling on dogs and horses that run around in circles is deemed a greater priority.
The walrus, fair play to him, came a long way before alighting on the rocks at Valentia. But we as a species don’t seem to have come a long way since the days when our ancestors roamed the earth wearing animal skins or nothing at all.