Did we bring COVID-19 on us?

Ranjit Lal

The animal kingdom reacts to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the dreaded COVID-19 rampages through the world, ‘Down in Jungleland’ (DIJ) interviewed a leading animal kingdom representative (AKR), considering the virus is thought to have spread from certain members of that kingdom to us. The location of this interview and the identity of the AKR is confidential.
DIJ: So, what’s your take on this whole appalling situation? Do you guys feel in the least bit responsible?
AKR: What appalling situation?
DIJ: Come, come, the economy of the entire world has been hamstrung and lies in tatters. Stock markets are jumping off skyscrapers. Not to mention millions of ordinary god-fearing people being locked up in their own homes. No one’s traveling anywhere, cruise ships have become floating Petri dishes. You can rob a bank by sneezing at the cashier.
AKR: Well, frankly, you had it coming, don't you think?
DIJ: What?
AKR: Well, it’s poetic justice, isn’t it? Think of the country of origin: it’s considered the world’s leading power, and, yet, they believe that if they eat a tiger’s private parts, they’ll become supermen. And that bear bile can make their pimples go away. We get it that all living creatures must eat other living creatures in order to survive. Those are the laws of nature — kill or be killed, eat or be eaten. We even accept that your species specially rear us in millions for that purpose. But you guys come after us for no good reason — how do you explain that?
DIJ: What do you mean?
AKR: You come after us in SUVs, armed with powerful rifles, so that you can mount our heads on your drawing room walls and think you’ve been very brave. You wear our pelts. You make and sell ‘medicines’ from our body parts. You rip out our tusks so you can make trinkets and ornaments out of them. For God’s sake, if you must hunt us, come after us with your bare hands: see where that gets you. Even a mosquito or worm can take you down.
DIJ: But most of these activities have been declared illegal. Also, we have national parks and sanctuaries where you guys can live safely.
AKR: Gimme a break! Sure, you can put a poor sod in jail for seven years for accidentally running over a peafowl, but you have no issues with ramming a 16-lane expressway through our prime habitats or drowning millions of acres of rainforest, so you can construct a stupid dam which is going to clog up even before you finish building it. Protected areas barely cover five per cent of the country — and even these you can’t leave alone.
DIJ: But we’ve also brought several species back from the brink of extinction. The Californian condor, the pygmy hog, the giant panda, the Asiatic lion, the tiger…
AKR: And who took them to the brink of extinction in the first place? Besides, haven’t you heard about the Sixth Great Extinction that is now under way, and, for which, your species is entirely responsible? We, in the animal kingdom, have come to the conclusion that the only species that justifiably needs to be made extinct is you: Homo sapiens. The planet would get on just fine without you guys — in fact, much better.
DIJ: So, you think you’re justified in spreading this terrible virus all over the world?
AKR: Hey, hey, don’t blame us for everything. We just gave it to one person — and after that, well, you guys did the rest. Our work was done. That’s the beauty of it.
DIJ: This is mass bio-terrorism. And don’t forget, we’re the smartest species on earth — we’ll find a vaccine soon.
AKR: Do your worst. You think we’re not working on improved and more potent versions? Viruses love proving their immunity to vaccines; they think it’s macho.
DIJ: If there was to be a truce, what would your demands be?
AKR: Leave us and our habitats alone. Stay out of our forests: they are sacrosanct. Stop pumping noxious gases into the air. Clean up every toxic water body on the planet. Take the plastic out of the oceans. Stop hunting for ‘trophies’ because it is an ‘ancient tradition’. If there had been a tradition of cutting off the head of your firstborn that was practised thousands of years ago, would you continue with it today? And remember, we are really running the planet. Not you. You are dispensable. You mess with bees, for example, and see where that gets you. You kill off microscopic fig wasps and you’ll bring down entire forests — and, with them, yourselves. You may like to believe otherwise, but willy-nilly, you depend on us. Destroy us and destroy yourself. It’s what you like to call MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction). You have been warned.