「ST」は紙名を新たに「Alpha」として2018年6月29日より新創刊しました。 Alpha以降の英文記事はこちら
「ST」は紙名を新たに「Alpha」として2018年6月29日より新創刊しました。 Alpha以降の英文記事はこちら


The gatecrasher

By Mike Dwane


Have you been up close with a wild animal? I have. I was towelling down my legs on the beach when I felt something land on my back. Something light and — I was pretty certain — with four legs!

I shot a glance back at the rocks behind me. Nothing. Perhaps I had just imagined it. Besides, I was distracted in trying to keep the baby from shovelling sand into his mouth.

I returned to my business when almost immediately I felt it again. There was no mistaking it this time. I saw him before he could make good his escape. A chipmunk with full, fat cheeks and a big, bushy tail.

I had never seen one in the wild before as we don't have chipmunks in Ireland. I was on a family holiday in the Canaries, a chain of islands off the African coast but a territory of Spain. The islands are a favourite holiday destination for northern Europeans drawn by the sun, sand and sea, with temperatures in the high 20s guaranteed year-round. The islands are also popular with the Spanish themselves, who go there to cool down once summer temperatures on the mainland head towards 40!

The islands are barren and volcanic, incapable of supporting much beyond cactus and scrub. And that makes the humble chipmunk pretty much the biggest wild animal around. Only, they are not that wild. So used to people are the chipmunks that they gather at the beaches to be fed by tourists. And this one seemed determined to gatecrash our family picnic.

I have a friend who claims to have once been evicted from an onsen in Nagano by a particularly truculent troop of Japanese macaques. I don't believe all of his story but I have seen photos of the snow monkeys enjoying a nice soak. I sometimes wonder who discovered the pleasures of a hot spring bath first: the monkeys or their human cousins. But in English, "to ape" means "to imitate." I am not sure if they enjoy onsen tamago but I have heard that Japanese macaques vandalise parked cars to get at the food inside.

Wild bears in the U.S.A. have also adapted their behaviour by wandering into towns to forage in rubbish bins. Unfortunately, many are shot as "problem bears." Those who fed the bears in the first place are never described as "problem people."

Contact with humans can change animal behaviour, often to their cost. The contact also changed my three-year-old boy, who was much happier to share his potato chips with a chipmunk than with his dad. He sulked when I interrupted the feeding session. I might be a spoilsport for now but I hope to one day explain why it's often better to keep a safe distance from animals.



The Japan Times ST: October 9, 2015

The Japan Times ST 読者アンケート




2018年6月29日号    試読・購読   デジタル版