Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The turtle and the scorpion

One of my favorite parables is the story of the turtle and the scorpion. As the story goes, the turtle is ferrying animals across a river so they can get to high ground and escape a flood. The scorpion repeatedly asks to be taken but the turtle refuses. Finally all the animals are across except the scorpion who pleads his case one last time. He convinces the turtle by telling him that it would be foolish for the scorpion to sting him because then he would die as well. About halfway across the river, the scorpion indeed does sting the turtle. The turtle, dying, asks why since now they would both die. The scorpion responds that it was his nature to do so.

Some might take this as the “evil” scorpion tricking the turtle so he could kill him, even at the cost of his life. I choose to say that the turtle took the risk and really shouldn't have been surprised. I don't make any moral judgement of either one. It was an expected outcome of the situation. There's no need to hunt down all the scorpions and kill them.

On September 4, 2006, Steve Irwin of Crocodile Hunter fame was killed by a stingray while filming. I was quite fond of his work. It was entertaining and educational. Anything that gets people interested in nature and conservation is a good thing. I don't classify his death as an accident, but as an unfortunate event. This was an experienced individual with a proper support crew. Getting stung is to be expected, but having it pierce your heart is about as unlucky as you can get. Sometimes even with every precaution bad things will happen, but it's one of the risks of working in a dangerous environment.

On the other end of the spectrum we have Timothy Treadwell. He spent his last few years in close proximity with bears in Alaska without any means to defend against an attack. He knew it was dangerous, but he continued to be in close contact with these animals. His methods, while spectacular, were generally held to be reckless and dangerous. On October 6, 2003, his body and that of Amy Huguenard was found at their campsite by the pilot that was to take them home. They had been killed by a bear sometime during the previous 24 hours. He had been going on these trips for over a decade. Frankly I'm surprised it took that long. Being isolated, defenseless, and surrounded by potentially deadly animals is a recipe for disaster.

Then there are the people who don't know any better. Most wild animals tend to stay away from people. Interactions are unavoidable, but generally end with all parties walking away. Some people, however, think it's good to feed them. This desensitizes them from their natural wariness of people and the results are generally easy to predict. In Florida, the typical animal in this situation is an alligator. They might seem cute and harmless when they're couple of feet long, but when they're all grown up they can be a real hazard. It's illegal to feed a gator for this very reason; wildlife officials don't want to have to kill an animal for no fault of its own. I've had a couple of chances to talk to wild animal trappers. They say the most common reason for needing their services is environmental encroachment. When people and animals live in close proximity there are going to be incidents. It's almost unavoidable. The perceived danger is usually greater than the actual danger, but I support keeping the situation under control. The next most common one is dealing with animals that have become a problem after getting food near people. Sometimes its because they dig through unsecured garbage containers. Sometimes its because people feed them directly. These are the easiest to avoid. If people would only think about this a little, I think they would realize the animal's behavior is fairly predictable.

Scorpions, stingrays, bears, and alligators are not evil. I don't like calls for increased hunting of a particular animal following an incident where someone is hurt. Sharks are famously on the receiving end of that one. If you do something dangerous, do not be surprised when something bad happens. Occasionally something bad will happen even if you don't do anything particularly dangerous. These events are spectacular because of their rarity. It is unfortunate when they occur, but some of the blame should go to the humans. Sometimes, like lightning, no amount of precaution will stop it from happening. In most cases I think a small amount of common sense will go a long way though. For those that go against all reasonable advice, there's a group interested in you. Hopefully the damage will be limited to yourself. Like as not, however, innocent bystanders will take the brunt of it and that's the real tragedy.


Blogger Drek said...

Well said, Cruffler.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006 9:21:00 AM  

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