Saturday, 8 May 2010
LANZAROTE: ENCOUNTERS WITH ANIMALS PART 1
Lanzarote doesn't actually have much in the way of indigenous wildlife because it's a volcanic island and much of it looks like this-
The volcano erupted last in the 18th century destroying much of the vegetation along with hundreds of the islanders. Rainfall is low and winds are blowy and plants have a hard time getting established which explains why cacti are among the most numerous of plants. There are no native mammals, only those introduced by Europeans such as rabbits and cats. There may well be mice and rats but I've neither heard of nor seen any. Because of the lack of plantlife, birds, other than seabirds, are few. There are lizards but I've only just seen some on this visit and I've been here about five times and I only saw them this time in the grounds of the Guinate Wildlife Park which is located in the less arid northern region.
With the rise of tourism over the last forty years, local authorities have made efforts to transform the landscape from something which looks like, in my own words when I first arrived about fourteen years ago, "a fucking pit heap!" into something less arid. But it's a long slow process. Tourism has also brought another problem which is people coming to Lanzarote to find jobs in the tourist industry. No doubt they intend to stay for a long time but, in practise, this rarely happens and, as a direct result, cats mostly get abandoned to roam the tourist centres and holiday complexes; many aren't neutered, they breed and their offspring are feral.
Some cats get caught by Sara, the island's animal rescue charity (of which more later), where they are neutered, an ear clipped so that female don't have to go through an unneccessary second operation, and put back on the streets. I made friends with two cats which had been abandoned and neutered -one so recently as to still have stitches in its ear.
Both look as if they've been in the wars but aren't under-nourished in any way and it's obvious that they've been pets because, once they realised that I was friendly, let me stroke them, pick them up and even rub their tummies. True ferals won't let you get near them and will even hiss at you when you're putting down food for them.
Dogs are a different matter as, if left to roam around, they can be dangerous. So Sara takes them in and tries to get them rehomed. I paid a quick visit to the place on Wednesday morning to leave some books for their fund-raising sale and to leave a donation, and to have a look round the place.
To be honest, I expected to find it in the grounds of someone's house. Instead it's a large purpose-built (I assume) place away from residential and commercial housing. It's a well-organised and very busy charity and didn't get much of a chance to talk to any of the volunteers but I did get a good look round. Mostly its dogs, dozens of them and all of them barking incredibly loudly that it was literally deafening and all of them wanting homes. Here are just a few of the photos I took.
Heart-breaking, isn't it? But at least they are being looked after
Lastly, a few cats.
I'll add a link to their website in the near future.