I love baby animals. I think most people do. (Comedian Dara O’Briain explains this phenomenon so brilliantly here.)
Spring and early summer prove to be the best time for baby anything spotting, so one Easter, many years ago, I grabbed some stale bread in a plastic bag (as is tradition) and headed to the park to feed the ducks. Now this wasn’t just any park this was the fancy park in the nicest area of town. You know, the park that nobody uses because it’s mostly ornamental. The park you have to wear a hat and dress to enter. Everyone has that park in their town. As I was a young whippersnapper and did not want to conform I wore jeans and a white button up oxford to feed the ducks – ohhh radical. Stop. I know.
To continue, I arrive at the park. I’m with my boyfriend at the time, a young man who had grown up in this Sunday park crowd. If they figured out I didn’t belong they would still let me in because of him.
Moms and Dads with Easter baskets, and their 2.5 toe headed kids, dressed in perfect pastels, roamed the park which had sprung from an ornamental creek. The creek was more of a dammed drainage ditch and was notorious for silt and possible alligators (not native to the area in the slightest, more of the fiction sewer dwelling type of alligators).
I found a spot, a bit removed from the crowds, where a mama duck and three baby ducks were swimming. I assumed all the ducklings were hers' and believed I had found the perfect spot to feed nature bread crusts made with artificial preservatives as God intended.
I threw the bread crusts to two of the babies, but the third duckling stayed removed, circling on the periphery. I was not having this inequality. Bread was for all. I pitched some rolled up crusts to the loner baby who immediately dived at them.
What happened next blew my mind and was only much later explained to me by the Internet and my grandfather. The mother duck attacked the third duckling, the one who had purposefully stayed outside the group. She snapped at it viciously over and over at the neck. I didn’t know what I was seeing. Why was this mother duck behaving this way to her own child?
Asking too many questions as usual I hesitated one second too long.
If you had been in the park that day you would have seen spring flowers pushing through perfectly manicured grassed, families on peaceful Easter picnics, and a girl dressed in jeans and an oxford, doing a spontaneous lifeguard dive into the shallow-muddy runoff-algae infested-rumored alligator dumping ground creek to save a duckling.
By the time I made it to the duckling it was too late. Head down in the water, lying lifeless, it’s little neck twisted and broken. I did the rational thing, the only thing I could do – I started crying hysterically, standing in the pond, and began to give the duckling CPR.
Before you assume I put my mouth over the duckling’s beak you should know that in animal CPR you just cup the muzzle with your hand (seriously), forming a tunnel, and blow air into the lungs. But no air was passing into the lungs.
The baby was gone and only through my companions calm pleading did I manage to walk back to the side of the pond, sit on a wall, holding the tiny body, and cry.
The duckling was buried in a nearby yard and I continued to cry for days. I had interfered where I did not belong and caused the painful death of a lovely little creature.
Nature is a vicious and beautiful thing. It’s not to be trifled with, or polluted, or disturbed in any way. It should be respected.
As a species, humans have disrupted much of nature. We’ve messed up the delicate balance so terribly how can we judge where to get involved? How can we make up for the damage we’ve done without causing more harm?
One of the only clear cases of needed human intervention lies in our involvement with domesticated animals like cats and dogs. Many people still argue that they are animals, descended from wild creatures, so their place is in the wild outside. In layman’s terms we should leave dogs and cats outside and not worry so much about strays. I flatly disagree.
We had our way with wild cats, and to a greater extent wolves for thousands of years. Breeding enough speed, agility, and instinct out of them so that we could feel superior, comfortable, and unthreatened. We created an animal for ourselves, to our liking, to be protectors for us. And then we want to turn a shoulder and say it should fend for itself. There are few stances as blatantly hypocritical as this one.
Be careful with nature. Help where you can. Be kind using your best judgment. Beware of ducks. Please don’t feed the wild animals. If you want to feed an animal go adopt a cat.