Wednesday, February 8, 2017

A Meditation on Urban Wildlife

Sam Kriss remembers the foxes of London:
It used to happen a lot: Teetering home drunk and disconsolate late at night through the shadowy semi-suburbs of north London, I would turn a corner and find, staring placidly at me on the street, the silhouette of a fox. . . .

London foxes are smart, irreverent, and have little fear of humans; even when they do run away from us it’s slowly and mockingly, turning back to fix you with a sneer over their shoulders. Often they’d just simply watch, half-distracted, curious but not too interested in this strange creature briefly interrupting their territory. Foxes don’t care.

I was young, unhappy, and unfree, set half-adrift on a rolling and indifferent city, but the foxes were entirely at home. Humans build cities, shape and reshape them according to their wishes and fantasies, and then find themselves deeply alienated by the result; wild animals move in and are completely at ease with themselves.

Not every city has foxes. When I lived, briefly, in Los Angeles, people were astounded to hear that I used to share my streets with the creatures, but not as surprised as I was when I first saw a coyote padding insouciantly down Sunset Boulevard in the pink and bleary dawn. Crows are the same: While other birds preen and warble and beg for crumbs from our hands, crows don’t seem to care for us at all; they’re in the city to wait for us to all die out, and then they’ll take over. A city with wild animals in it is always one just on the conceptual edge of being without humans.
Did you know that the biggest population of wild leopards in the world is in Mumbai?

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