Currently I live in the Northeast of Thailand, in a ruralish place at the edge of a local village, squeezed between a local road and some wildly exciting rice fields. Sigh.
If I would go on a nightly stroll in America or good old Europe, I might expect to have some interesting encounters with medium sized mammals like maybe a fox, a skunk, a foraging raccoon, or a hedgehog who, thanks to his protective needles, isn’t too shy and can be easily approached.
Not here in ruralish Thailand. I never did spot any exciting medium sized wild life on a nocturnal walk.
I was wondering for a while why not, I mean, it is a tropical country, ain’t there supposed to be tons of wild animals here?
Then it struck me.
In the west we sharply divide animals into groups. Domesticated animals like pigs, cows, and chickens, we eat. Other domesticated animals like cats and dogs we keep as companion animal. Eating those is frowned upon in our western society, so much that it is very popular for western meat eaters to emotionally get all choked up when they are confronted with a media piece about, sensitive readers and young children please stop reading now, them yellow people eating dogs! The Horror! Eating a d…og! Gasp.
We in the west, we view wild animals in the wild, as highly interesting, as living beings that in general should be allowed to live in their natural habitat, and that deserve to be protected and allowed to live their natural life.
Even when people in the west hunt, they cannot do indiscriminately, they need permits, and hunting is often allowed only in certain seasons and only for certain animals. And now get this, “hunting” is not free from controversy in our western society either. “Hunting”, just like eating dogs, although a little less emotional, is also frowned upon in our society by many ordinary (omnivore!) people, who view hunting as killing animals for fun. CEO’s getting caught trophy hunting have been the subject of a social outrage and consequently their businesses have been boycotted.
So we eat pigs, we love dogs, and we enjoy and respect animals in the wild. We visit nature with binoculars and our family to enjoy the trees and wild life, and we like to watch them on TV in a nature documentary (Pigs on the other hand end up in cooking programs, see the difference, hm?)
At night we might go for a stroll to get excited encountering local nocturnal mammals like flying bats and opossums. In general we DON’T kill and eat the wild life, rather we ENJOY it and feel good about letting them live.
In rural Thailand it is different. Local people hardly see the beauty of nature and it’s animals. A tree is there to be cut down, an animal is there to be eaten. If it can be caught and if it is not e.g. poisonous, it makes a potential meal for a rural family. Crabs, small iguanas, birds, fish, turtles, frogs, big insects. And as far as I see, there are no laws nor social rules that protect any wild animal from being caught for the next meal. That would be viewed as sentimental nonsense.
And that is why rural Thailand, contrary to America and the west, offers surprisingly little medium sized wild life.