Animals and humans have coexisted in nature through millions of years. From the cocker spaniel in your neighbourhood to the wild boar in the marshy Amazon rainforest, animals form a significant part of the ecosystem. How this cohabitation has existed for so many years, despite the differences, is a matter of wonder.
The five big cats – lions, tigers, jaguars, leopard, and snow leopard – collectively called the Panthera genus, along with cheetah and puma have always been feared and admired in equal measures. The agile predators have defied humans for long with the latter left with no choice but to not interfere with the wild.
Leopards have had a historical conflict with India with two haunting cases of man-eating. The leopard of Rudraprayag killed 125 people, while the Panar leopard killed 400. Both were, in turn, killed by Jim Corbett, the British-Indian hunter and conservationist, whose ‘Man-eaters of Kumaon’ became a famous record of his experiences with the beasts.
Animals have the anatomy to survive the wild, their physical attributes overpower humans’ in a lot of ways. The echolocation of bats in complete darkness, wherein they emit ultrasonic sounds which echo and let them know about their immediate surroundings; the physical mass of elephants and rhinoceros, snakes that take flight or lizards that can walk on water, the dexterity and predatory nature of wild animals are astonishing and unnerving.
Humans have limitations to what they can achieve with their physiognomy, and to counter that they have built things externally. Because they could not travel 800kms for food like bats, humans shaped alternative modes of transportation – a lack of speed or the ability to fly were compensated by bullet trains and jet airplanes.
Earlier our ancestors had better physical strength, much like apes and chimps. That has been replaced by a much evolved human brain and, in turn, weak muscles. Our physical strength does not match up to most of the tame animals, even. To counter that humans make use of the brain, whose size is one of the largest among all species. While humans do not have a fur like shield to protect the skin from extreme weathers, clothes can alter that.
Left with just themselves in the wilderness, humans, devoid of any exceptional physical strength to protect them, would rely on the brain. This is what happened millions of years ago when the early humans made weapons by attaching stones to sticks, or to counter extreme weather, used animal fur or foliage. The human mind is the single most important thing that has carried forward the species, coexisting with some of the most ferocious animals in existence.
A flipside to this is speciesism, a belief that humans are superior to any other species, thus leading to widespread exploitation of animals. Because humans can now alter their environment with machines, they also exploit it through deforestation, pollution, global warming – making it unfit, if not extremely dangerous, for other animals as well. Hunting and poaching of animals has driven them into extinction.
Are humans then a separate species, reveling in and blinded by their own achievements, or are they a part of a whole, a balanced ecological setup? Humans may feel they are self-sufficient but they do need the presence of animals to survive. The dairy that comes from farm animals, to the honey produced by the bees – humans rely on animals for food. They are also important in farming practices, and have been used for transportation and hunting expeditions. The agility of horses and the companionship of dogs and wolves have helped the humans through centuries. Animals might survive without humans, but the reverse is not quite true.