Born in a semi-desert country (Kuwait), I grew up sharing my space on this planet with only a few creatures from the animal kingdom. Small ones like black ants, cockroaches, and geckos, and bigger ones like cats, dogs, goats and sometimes camels. Unfortunately the famous Arabian horses were not a daily sight. There were also a few bird species trying to survive the Arabian heat, and I remember very well that falcons were the most liked birds among the Bedouin people who used them for hunting in the desert.
Apart from the animals which directly benefit their owners such as goats and camels, the rest did not get any consideration. Ants were squashed under the feet; stones were thrown at cats as snakes were hit with sticks.
When I moved residence to Europe, it was such a drastic change. In that part of the world animals are treated with kindness and compassion, sometimes in such a way that one thinks it’s exaggerated. Dogs win the first position if one is to rank caring for animals in Europe. Many dogs are allowed to share the bed with their owners; they eat specialised food, get regular visits to vets and are groomed at dog salons. But the outcome is also great for the owners, in return they get a lot of love and faithfulness from the dogs, especially the elderly who, most of the time feel lonely and left out.
The dog tale
I remember a doctor friend telling us that he had an elderly lady neighbour who lived alone in the same building they stayed in. She had two sons who only visited her once a year. One day she suffered a heart attack and he was urgently called to her flat. Unfortunately, she had passed away. He then noticed that her dog remained on her bed and declined to leave it. After three days, the dog who refused to eat and drink also died on the same bed. Now who would not care for such a loving animal?
Apart from becoming our pets or turned into food on our tables, animals are being used as great tourist attractions, and they have been a big part of most trips I have taken around the world. Africa gets the biggest attention when it comes to game drives and national parks. The word Safari has become synonymous with African adventures, and I know so many children who are dreaming of visiting Africa just to go on Safaris and rub shoulders with the big five.
When you are not as lucky to be so close to animals in their natural habitat, then you get to see them in the Zoo. I dislike the Zoo, I cannot stand seeing animals in cages, but it seems for all those who cannot travel far and away, it is the only way to be close to wild animals. It is sad that not all Zoos follow rules and regulations regarding the welfare of these animals. We have seen so many documentaries about the mistreatment in zoos and circuses especially when they age and are out of shape. A friend told who lived in Kuwait during the Iraqi invasion told me an sad story.
She said that the animals in the zoo were looted and taken away to Iraq, but a few monkeys and baboons managed to get away. One day, she woke up to noises in her garden, and you can only imagine the look on her face when she saw monkeys ‘ransacking’ her garden.
Paying to ride on some animals is also another way of using animals and making money from tourists. Throughout my years of travel, I had a lot of rides, the best and most fun was on a donkey’s back. The most uncomfortable was on an elephant’s back and the scariest was a Camel!