Rewilding’s Great Rewards

Otters near Shieldaig Island, Loch Shieldaig, Scotland. Photograph: Steve Carter

Otters near Shieldaig Island, Loch Shieldaig, Scotland. Photograph: Steve Carter

Although he may not use the term, George Monbiot believes in biophilia. His devotion to the concept of rewilding is evident in both his actions and his words, and his expressive writing about nature’s resilience and the richness of “ecological interactions” prove the point. His description of a recent trip to the Scottish highlands exemplifies both the draw of nature and his response to it:

As I came over a low ridge, I noticed a disturbance in the water below me, a few metres from the shore. I dropped into the heather and watched. A moment later, two small heads broke from the sea, then the creatures arced over and disappeared again.

After another moment, the larger one – the dog otter – scrambled out of the water with something thrashing in its mouth. He dropped it on to the rocks, gripped it again, then chewed it up. Then the bitch emerged from the sea beside him, also carrying something, that she dispatched just as quickly. They plunged in again, and I watched the trails of bubbles they made as they rummaged round the roots of the kelp that filled the shallow bay.

When they emerged once more, each with a fish in its mouth, I was able to identify the quarry. They were catching rocklings: small, very slippery fish of the same olive-brown as the kelp. Over the next half hour, each of them caught about 15. I marvelled at their ability to grab such difficult prey. I loved the slick, swift movements with which they dived and dolphined and twisted underwater. It looked to me like an expression of pure joy.

Hiding among the rocks and heath, I could keep ahead of the otters without being seen, as they foraged round the coast. As the cliffs became lower, I found myself coming ever closer to them. Then, though I don’t know why, the otters emerged from the water without fish, shook themselves out, and climbed up the rocks, long low bodies undulating, towards me. The dog grunted and huffed while his mate made a high whickering noise. They kept raising their heads and staring in my direction. But as I was buried in the heather and they have weak eyesight, I doubt they could have seen me. Soon they were standing about 20 or 30 feet away, raising their bristly little faces to smell the air. I could hear them panting.

Then they turned and rippled back down the rocks, slipped into the water with scarcely a splash and started hunting round the coast once more. Soon they disappeared around a cliff I couldn’t negotiate.

I walked back elated, recharged with wonder and enchantment. A week later, the feeling still buoys me up.

Read the entire Guardian post here.

2 thoughts on “Rewilding’s Great Rewards

  1. Pingback: Big Picture Rewilding | Raxa Collective

  2. Pingback: Thank You, Oxford! | Raxa Collective

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