Let’s be honest, there haven’t been many benefits to this whole Covid-19 pandemic apart from the seemingly positive impact on the environment that weeks of strict lockdown has delivered. Here in Gibraltar, we are blessed to be surrounded by such awesome beauty. This tiny corner of the globe that we claim as our own is teeming with wildlife, unique ecosystems and a rich biodiversity. The Rock itself is a natural wonder.
Nature intrigues us. When we’re touched by nature, something magical happens. We all remember the excitement of coming across a caterpillar or a ladybird when we were playing outside when we were young or being mesmerised by a busy bee delicately collecting pollen from the anthers of a flower.
Nature is awe-inspiring. We are fascinated by it when we come across it but are we truly appreciative of its role and contribution to our own existence and that of the planet? Sir David Attenborough has certainly done his best to educate us on the importance of the natural world and locally, we have many of our own organisations, businesses and NGOs that are passionately making a difference. They educate, inspire and entertain but all carry a very serious message. We should care more and we should do more.
Lockdown has given us time to think, time to reflect and it has given Gibraltar time to breathe and time to heal. We have a real chance now, collectively, to make a big difference to our environment by evaluating the way we live our lives. Will we take that chance?
We have so much to be proud of from a nature and wildlife perspective. We have our world-famous resident macaques that draw so many tourists. We have wild dolphins inhabiting the Bay of Gibraltar and numerous species of birds including swifts, petrels and shearwaters, herons, gannets and cormorants as well as owls and falcons (both resident and migrant)
Other unique types of flora and fauna that we can boast include different species of amphibians and reptiles, butterflies and land-dwelling mammals such as bats, shrews and rabbits. Gibraltar’s flora is currently in stunning bloom and a trip to the upper Rock Nature Reserve or a trek up the Med Steps will provide you with vibrant scenes of our native flowers bursting with colour.
The waters around Gibraltar are a marine protected area and serve as a critical habitat for feeding and breeding for many species of marine mammals as well as being the home to an abundance of other marine life.
Right now is peak time for spotting transient fin whales on their migratory path from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic Ocean. There have been numerous sightings of these magnificent creatures over the last few weeks as they grace Gibraltar’s shoreline. They are the second biggest animal ever to exist reaching up to 27m in length and weighing over 70 tonnes. Due to their vast size and their proximity to the coast, these gentle giants can be easily spotted from land, especially from the eastern or south side of the Rock. Europa Point on a clear day and the balcony by the Gorham’s Cave Complex provide a great elevated platform for a bit of whale spotting. Look out for the 6m high plumes of spray on the surface as they exhale.
Given our affection for nature and the fact that we know how important it is to preserve it, why is it seemingly so difficult to get enough people to care about something that is so vital to our own existence?
Perhaps individually we feel powerless and believe that our actions can’t affect change. We convince ourselves that our efforts are just a tiny drop in a small bucket but collectively we can be the whole ocean. With such a small territory, we have a greater level of control than we appreciate and we are solely responsible for taking good care of our own corner. This is not just a job for a few scientists or activists, we all have a vested interest in the preservation of wildlife and the environment of Gibraltar.
There’s lots of talk of a return to the “new normal.” Musings about how this pandemic has changed our perspective on our lives, what we want to achieve, how we want to live and what matters to us most. This is the perfect time to not only embrace the new but to firmly commit to it and not lapse back to the old. It seems we are all too eager to revert to our old ways that bring us the comfort and convenience that we think we need just because it’s what we are used to.
We are merely humble guests of our majestic host and the riches and beauty she provides us with should be honoured and respected. It’s time to make a pledge. A firm commitment to Gibraltar’s nature and wildlife – to conserve and to protect. Nature should be our very best friend and it’s time to fall in love with it all over again.