Blown off course by a fearsome tempest Captain Strong and his men were overjoyed to find the raggedy islands that they would come to christen the Falklands. A boat was put out and as they drove the schooner to the shore, they quickly had to put about for fear of the savage beasts that waded out to feast on their salty flesh.
Later the weary men braved the shore and made camp, setting fire to the grassy tussocks around them to keep the slathering beasts at bay. The country was ablaze for days, as far as the eye could see, and these monstrous foxes ‘the size of a mastiff’ were always close by, darting away from the flickering flames.
It wasn’t until later that they realised it had all been a terrible mistake, the fox from the Falklands was simply being friendly; wondering what the blazes was going on, what the devil these new big things were on the islands and how on earth they were managing to stand on two feet. Still the good Captain John Strong realised the error of his ways and took one of the convivial canines aboard for the return journey, where it would affably bimble around the boat. Sadly for the amiable chap it was in the mid-Atlantic that he discovered his indifference for loud noises. In a skirmish with the French a loud cannon cracked and the fox promptly hoiked himself overboard never to be seen again.
On many an island there has been found these cosiest of curiosities; creatures unflustered by a sudden influx of famished sailors driven half mad by swigging their own urine. The dodos were said to be delightfully welcoming when man first popped by, going rather well with potatoes and a passable claret didn’t damage their charisma either. In the Galapagos islands a young Charles Darwin was rather put out by a Galapagos hawk, who instead of having to blast the bugger out of a tree with his gun (as was the style of naturalism of the times) simply had to meander up to the arrogant sod and push it out of the tree with the nozzle of said rifle. Time and again man has met these affable island creatures that have evolved with no real need to be afraid of anything.
It took many years to work out how this big friendly dog had got to these rocky dots way off the coast of Argentina. Had it been brought there as a pet by the infrequent visits of sealers from the mainland? Or perhaps it was a relative of the fox-like culpeo of the mainland? Learned types have since figured out that in fact it’s a relative of the maned wolf, and had diverged from them 6.7million years ago, perhaps arriving on the islands on some sort of land bridge… across a frozen ocean in some icy past. Though it is this foxes more immediate neighbours that perhaps we owe a lot more than we realise. The difference between East and West Island wolves was the first creature Darwin noticed that there was a minute difference between the species, and perhaps that species weren’t stable after all… and one thinks we know where that line of thinking ended up.
Indeed it was Mr Darwin who later talked of the beginning of the end for the Falkland Island Fox who remarked that it would soon go the way of the dodo. This ‘foolish dog of the south’ as the locals called it, was gunned down and poisoned in its droves. The natives favoured method of disposing of the poor sods was to hold some meat out in a hand so that the warmhearted wolf would wander up for his meaty treat, only to be stuck with a knife… which is hardly friendly now is it?
There is perhaps one animal we can doff our caps to as quite simply the most depraved, sociopathic, genocidal, xenophobic, maniacal bastard on the planet… in this case its name was Tibbles.
Yes quite, one is sure you have guessed that we are talking about the common housecat, Felis catus as learned types call them… git as it’s referred to by pretty much every animal small enough to fit into the sod’s mouth… mice and birds in particular are not surprisingly really rather vociferous in this matter…. even more so the Stephens Island wren, a bird that had evolved into a mouse.
We’ve heard in previous evenings at The Proceedings about how New Zealand’s birds have evolved flightlessness, taken the ecological niche of pigs and indeed been right royally buggered every time something new moved into the neighbourhood. Similar to that tubby lump the kakapo the Stephens Island wren has taken up the ecological niche of a mouse. As there were no mammals in New Zealand the wee bird had a marvellous idea, it would take advantage of the huge gap in the market and scamper around the forest floors eating nuts and berries and generally being all mouse like.
Until the late 1800’s that is. The problem was that the lump of rock that is Stephens Island kept on getting in the way of boats, and rather than ask it politely to move, it was thought some sort of lighthouse prudent. Within fifteen years they had finished the big shiner, about the same time as someone thought having a cat around the place would brighten things up a bit too. A rather fat looking cat.
Though it seems Tibbles wasn’t in need of a bit of exercise and was in fact full of wee sweet depraved, sociopathic, genocidal, xenophobic, maniacal bastards. Within years the islands were swarming with feral cats, not the best news for a defenseless mousey bird… and indeed within years the Stephens Island wren had been eaten off the planet.
While it seems that it is just an enduring myth; the decimation of an entire species by a single lighthouse keeper’s cat called Tibbles. Rather it was a whole bally army of the most depraved, sociopathic, genocidal, xenophobic, maniacal bastards the planet has ever known… What’s that? Yes quite, a slur indeed, though it’s nowhere near as bad as what the Stephens Island wren would call them.