One thing we hear often, especially when we have Lady Di (our American kestrel that is missing part of her wing) or one of our other birds that has been captive since they were babies out in public is, “poor thing, I prefer to see them wild” and then when we explain why she isn’t wild, “well, she fell out of her nest as a baby and lost half of her wing and two of her toes” many people will still say, “oh, the poor thing” and then we often hear something along the lines of, “I bet she wishes she was free” and simply walk away without finding out anything about her, why she's with us, or her species.
While I absolutely agree that it is sad that she had an accident, the rest of this sentiment simply escapes me. Her accident happened seven years ago, when she was a white, fluffy baby; and it must have been incredibly scary for such a tiny creature to be alone and so helpless . I do not follow the logic on how she, Lady Di, wishes she was free. For one thing, Lady Di is quite a happy, spunky little bird who has no issues whatsoever expressing her likes and dislikes (just talk to anybody that has held her without her full and complete approval, it doesn’t go well). She knows exactly how to get exactly what she wants. Facts that the people making these statements never seem to notice or even bother to ask about. It would be nice, just once, to have one of these people ask a question, like maybe, “well, how has she adjusted to captivity”, instead of jumping to a conclusion simply because it is in vogue.
These people are missing out on so much, like learning about Lady Di in particular, or learning about her species as a whole, and all because they feel it is their sacred duty to point out that we, as her "captors" are bad and wrong.
But the bigger reason that I am always taken aback by this assumption, made by people who obviously don’t know her, is WHY do they believe she misses being free? If she remembers “the wild” (and I’m not really sure how much she would remember, because my own memory of myself as a baby just doesn’t exist, so I’m not sure how much memory birds have of their time as a nestling), what is she missing about what she remembers? Falling from a tree; breaking very important parts of her body; which had to hurt; laying on the ground, helpless and terrified until a huge predator picked her up and walked off with her. All of this, from her perspective sounds painful and terrifying, not something that I myself would miss.
Of course, what these people most likely mean is that she misses being able to fly. And that would make tons of sense to me if Lady Di had ever flown, even once in her entire life, but she hasn’t. Sadly, because these people don't spend the time to learn her story, they don't realize this.
Just as I do not miss living in Paris, because I never have lived in Paris, I highly doubt that Lady Di misses something she’s never done in her life.
For those who might say that flying is instinctual and living in Paris is not, well, yes, that is a valid point. But there are humans that lose the ability to walk, like soldiers in war, and some people are born unable to walk. They adjust just as Lady Di has done. Sure, her life is not what humans believe it was meant to be, but she has adjusted and changed due to her injuries, just as many humans do. Instead of being wild and helping to control the bird population, she now educates humans about her species. And thankfully, nobody has shown her the handbook on how to be a kestrel in the wild.
To be brutally honest, if you were to ask Lady Di if she has any complaints about her new life, she would tell you yes, she surely does. She wants to live in the house with the humans but due to the laws she is not allowed to. She voices this complaint often and very loudly.
It seems to be in vogue these days to believe that every animal that is living captive is miserable about it and misses the wild. The sad part about this new view is that nobody seems to be keeping in mind how the animals might feel, or what life in this mythical nirvana place would really be like for that individual animal. Could they even feed themselves?
Not that I, in any way, condone simply removing animals from the wild for no reason, or for any reason other than the safety and survival of that animal, but those that are captive aren’t all miserable and pining for this mythical “the wild” that people seem to believe exists.
Honestly, if we think of this from Lady Di’s perspective, “the wild” is quite a terrifying place, that, were I her, I’d be quite pleased to be away from.
Just as I do not “miss” living as humans were originally meant to live (remember, we didn’t start out with electricity and indoor plumbing, or even houses), I don’t understand how humans can look at an animal that is obviously quite well adjusted and cared for and assume that they miss something that it was not able to survive. Given a choice between living in a house with running water and electricity and living out of a cave or hut, keeping warm by covering myself with leaves and maybe dirt, scavenging for every bite of food just to survive, I will pick the house living any day. And I would venture to bet large sums of money that the people making these statements would as well. So why do we humans assume that these animals’ choices would be different?
Yes, I truly believe that any animal that can survive wild and free and on their own should be given every opportunity to do so. But those who cannot should not be forced to do so because of some ideological belief that some human that has built up this mythical nirvana called “the wild” in their head (or in a kids movie).
Had Lady Di remained in the wild, she would be long since dead and food for some other creature. I just cannot believe that, given the choice, that would be hers. So, rather than feeling sorry for something she doesn’t either remember or miss, how about we all be happy that she was found and saved and now lives a happy and pampered life?
Maybe a better use of people's time would be to focus on making “the wild” a safe place for wildlife to survive instead of continuing to destroy it and still expecting animals to survive in the mess we have created?