Sunday, April 03, 2005

Meeting New Faces

Hedgehog 3.25.JPG
Hedgehog 3.25.JPG, originally uploaded by Miloflamingo.
Molly, the little blonde dog in the photo, was a rescue from a mountain in Greece where she'd been abandoned by owners who were not happy with her for whatever reason. My daughter and I were on holiday there, driving rather randomly around the southern mountains when we spotted her sitting forlornly by the side of the road near the office of a cave that we wanted to visit the next day. We asked the people in the office about the dog and were told that she'd been sitting there for a couple of days. Not really needing another dog since we had two already in Cairo, we decided to open the car door and if she jumped in, she would go with us. No fool Molly, she hopped right in and has been a family member for the past 10 or so years. Her abused past left her with psychological scars that will never heal and she's blind in one eye with limited vision in the other, so she and my daughter's cat share a back garden where they live in peace and quiet. Molly comes in to join a selection of the terrier pack at night, however.

A week ago a friend of mine brought by a hedgehog that her daughter had rescued from a pet shop. Hedgehogs are native here and occasionally caught and sold to people as pets. Despite the fact that hedgehogs are terrific insect predators, it was felt that having one wandering the house wasn't a good idea so Phredd lived in a cage where he really wasn't so happy, so he ended up in Molly's garden for a brief stay. He was invited for a longer one, but made his getaway after only a day. He was adorable with a long pointed snout, soft facial fur, button eyes and nose and big soft ears, but I'm sure that he's much happier catching the grubs in my neighbour's fields.

The Nile Valley is a rich environment for animals with the crops year round and we have a lot of visitors among the migratory birds that pass from Europe and Asia to southern Africa in the spring and fall. Like all parts of our damaged world, the valley was home to many species that no longer survive here. Many have been hunted to extinction, others have been sold as pets like Phredd the Hedgehog and the many Egyptian tortoises who are on the brink of extinction and almost never found in the wild. There is very little education of the public, however, on the need to protect our fellow inhabitants.

One of the ideas that I've been playing with for my land is to have a center where children from schools in the city can come to visit and to be introduced to the farm animals of the countryside. A few ducks, geese, chickens, turkeys, a couple of goats and sheep, a water buffalo, a cow, and some donkeys (some of whom are already in residence) will be the visual aids and I'm sure that I will collect a variety of individuals like Phredd to help teach the children about the diversity of life in our environment. Many people don't realise that foxes and weasels are common inhabitants of Cairo along with less desirable creatures like rats and mice and the ubiquitous feral dogs and cats. They all have a place in the ecosystem, however, and this place should be understood. Geckos, small delicate lizards with sticky feet that can walk about on ceilings and walls, are common in Egypt but they are often hunted by people who mistakenly think that they poison food with their saliva. I treasure the two or three that live in my house feasting on flies and mosquitos.

My sister in law in California runs the Ojai Raptor Center where she helps to mend injured hawks, eagles, and owls to be returned to the wild. She also has some that for whatever reason cannot be returned to wild living who accompany her on visits to parks and schools for educational talks about the raptors of the area. A similar sort of center would be a useful addition here, I think. And with all the animals I have already, who would notice a few more?

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

So your sister cares for raptors and you have your own menagerie. Animal loving is in your genes. What extraordinary women, the both of you.

I love the idea for a wildlife center in Egypt. Here in the East Bay of San Francisco we like to visit the Lindsey Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creek to see all the rescued birds - owls and big raptors. Then in the city (San Francisco) there's the Randall Children's Museum, which also keeps all manner of native animals rescued from trouble. They bring out toads, turtles, hawks etc. to show the children. You can also go into an enclosure to hang out with rabbits. My kids like the see-through bee-hive.

I'm not a big animal fan but my children lead me to these adventures. I do know about the importance of all these creatures to the cycle of life, however. It's crucial that more of us humans come to understand this, before we wipe out all our fellows, and then ourselves...

Leila at Dove's eye View

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lynn wilson said...

Maryanne
What a great idea, for an animal centre for kids. I think it's important for kids to know where the food they eat comes from - some kids from wealthier egyptian families have no idea what raw ingredients like eggs and veg and meat look like, never mind where they originated. Their food is prepared and presented by domestic staff. In parts of the UK kids know little about food, but for different reasons - majority of people here use ready-made meals which are popped in a microwave and eaten in front of the TV!

I live in innercity London and across the railway track is a gem of a place, which endeavours to teach children about animals and other growing things. www.spitalfieldscityfarm.org is their site. We grownups also benefit - that's where I get my hen and duck eggs, and delicious they are! There's a vast veggie and herb garden for us to buy from too. Cultures and worlds apart but a similar ethos to yours.
regards, Lynn in London...

Clara said...

I think it's a wonderful idea! I hope you do it.

rowena said...

What a cute photo! I've seen them on few occasions in Italy, and in the region of March there is a warning sign to alert drivers for 'Crossing Hedgehogs'! Adorable creatures and I'm glad Phredd got it in his head to make the getaway.