The generational fear of wild animals

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The generational fear of wild animals

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The owl is a bad omen. I have heard this so many times. Whenever I mention the owl or even state how many species there are in Kenya, I am faced with silence. Speaking about owls is a no go zone. In fact, it is a very sensitive and negative topic of discussion unless you are having a conversation with a birder, biologist or naturalist. The owl is not the only species which many people fear. Snakes are also on the list. Fear means they will be killed on sight. Evil stories are also told of them not to mention the sense of loss many people have towards snakes. Even mentioning the name sends chills down one’s spine.

Other animals that rake high on the fear index are sharks and big cats. Sharks have been known to kill many people. However, you will be surprised to know many sharks have been killed more than humans have died of shark attacks. There is an upsurge of shark fin trade in Asian countries resulting in a decline in a majority of shark species.

The fear of these animals may, in fact, be an inherited defence mechanism laid down in a families genes by an ancestors’ frightening encounter with either of the species. Maybe a family member was attacked by a lion or a shark or even a buffalo. In some instances, a snake has caused more than enough deaths in a family. Sometimes the fear may result in anger and rage.

Science has proven phobias may be memories passed down from previous generations. The fear of animals could then be a generational problem. The fear of wild animals in our culture could make us not resort to asking questions when they disappear because we are okay when we do not get to see them. We feel safer knowing we will not encounter them in our lives.

What happens when this fear continues to be passed from one generation to another only leads us to not see the value in them. Owls, for example, are great predators. They feed on rats and other vermin. They prevent our grains from being eaten by rats. Some owls even eat snakes. It a whole food chain that ensures we can live in harmony with wildlife. Snakes feed on rats as well. They, together with owls ensure the rat population is always kept in check. Imagine if we did not have owls or snakes. Our rat population could be out of control. Even when we use pesticides to exterminate the rats, biological extermination is very affordable.

Can we defeat this generational problem?

We can begin with ourselves. We can begin to notice what we fear, especially animals, from insects to sharks. We should not let fear rise into our minds and control our thought process. The thought process could raise negative emotions. For example, owls are feared because the sight of them signifies the death of a person. Therefore, the fear of an owl strikes the emotion of losing a loved one. Thus, it would be better to actually ensure the species is eliminated in any way possible.

Fear is always of something that might happen, not of something that is happening now. We can decide to thus recognize the now. Do you see an owl? When was the last time you saw an owl and someone died? Have you seen a snake? At that particular moment have you been bitten by a snake.

The fear of wild animals when annihilated can ensure we respect wildlife. This can be done by ensuring children are not forced to fear what their parents or guardians fear. We should also be careful not to develop any fear which may affect the future generation.

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Vicki Wangui
Vicki Wangui
Vicki Wangui is a believer in all things beautiful. A believer in spreading information in regards to environmental awareness. A believer in sharing all that is good in Kenya's natural world. A believer in speaking truth with no boundaries. Do you have a story, photo, experience or message you need to share? Send your work to or

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