My respect for animals and wildlife

By Warren McKay
Friday, 3rd February 2012

As I headed down towards the gate, a pair of wood ducks, a dark-headed male and his grey mate, sauntered a couple of metres further from the driveway and resumed grazing as I drove past. A magpie was sitting on the top rail of the gate as I pulled up and got out of the ute and I whistled to it in my poor attempt of a magpie song. I often get a song in reply, but not this day. The magpie remained, perched barely a metre from me, as I gently swung the gate open and returned to the vehicle.

I have often said that I derive great pleasure from the natural world and spend countless hours observing the birds, animals and reptiles that inhabit the bush I frequent. I am lucky, as I live on a small acreage with many native trees and bushes and so each day is heralded by the screeches of lorikeets and the songs and calls of many other birds, rather than the sounds of traffic and people.

I was also very fortunate that my early childhood was spent in the country and this no doubt fostered my love of the bush and its inhabitants. I was free to roam, and as we had no close neighbours, I created my own entertainment, often in my own fantasy world, where a boy’s dreams of cubby houses and Knights of the Round Table could be played out. Two of my favourite places were the shallow creek that flowed along its sandy bed, as it ambled through the paddock in front of our house, and the hill out the back with its resident rabbit population.

It was a country upbringing. I had a pet kangaroo that was given to us as a tiny joey, taken from his mother’s pouch when she was killed on the road. And to this day, I love the call of the double-bars and red-head finches, as they were an integral part of my early childhood. It was a time when I could watch them building their nests and the first flights of the fledglings. My childhood was spent in a place of natural wonder, a place of wildlife. I grew up with a natural affiliation with the bush and all that it contains. My early life was not one of television and computer games, but rather, one of exploring the outdoors.

I sometimes think back and realise that I could have very easily become a non-hunter, and as I get worked up about things I believe in, I probably would have. But something else also happened to that boy exploring the bush; while time in the paddocks developed my knowledge and fascination of the wildlife that lived there, it also stirred up instincts and brought them to the surface.

The hill out the back had plenty of rabbits and I spent many an hour trying to creep up on them. Somewhere along the line, this ‘creeping’ developed into a desire to ‘get me a rabbit’. The innate instinct to hunt came to the surface and I found myself wanting to take these rabbits. This is interesting because no-one I knew sought after or trapped these furry beasts and as far as I knew, nobody even paid any attention to them. So where did this drive to pursue them come from?

In my whole life experience up to that stage, there was nothing to even plant the idea of hunting an animal. Ian Lillico in Boys and Their Schooling answers the question: “Innately within boys and men is the hunter/gatherer instinct and anthropologists from around the world state categorically that this will continue for the next five thousand years.”

Just because I choose to hunt and source my own food doesn’t mean that I don’t have a great love of and respect for animals. In fact, I think it’s just the opposite.