McConaghy’s novel imagines reintroducing wolves to the Scottish Highlands

0


Once common in North America and Eurasia, wolves now live in a fraction of their former territory. Charlotte McConaghy, author of the internationally bestselling novel ‘Migrations’, uses the ongoing battle to rebuild wolf populations to tell the story of a woman who works to reintroduce wolves to the Scottish Highlands. The novel is called “Once upon a time there were wolves”.

McConaghy says she started learning more about wolves when she read an article about Pando, the trembling giant, a forest that is one of the oldest and largest living organisms in the world. The Shaking Giant’s trees are connected to a huge root system under the ground.

“That beautiful old thing that’s there – some scientists think it could be almost a million years old – is starting to die off from the human impact,” says McConaghy. “At the bottom of this article it is stated that the perfect solution to save this organism would be to reintroduce the wolves to the region, as they have incredible power over their environment; but that, too, would never happen because of the local community of farmers and hunters. ”

“It occurred to me very quickly, in a tremendous rush, that I wanted to write the story of the woman who was trying to bring these creatures back in order to save a forest, much to the horror of the local community.”

Charlotte McConaghy, author

“It occurred to me very quickly, in a tremendous rush, that I wanted to write the story of the woman who was trying to bring these creatures back in order to save a forest, much to the horror of the local community,” McConaghy continues. . “And so I started to take an interest in wolves and found out that they are the most extraordinary creatures. “

Wolves can help protect trees or an entire environment, as ecosystems need predators to control herbivore populations, McConaghy explains. All over the world, growing populations of deer, for example, eat small shoots and plants and prevent many things from growing. When wolves return to an environment they once inhabited, deer leave, allowing plant life to thrive and encouraging the return of other mammals, insects and birds. This renewal can even modify the water tables in a region. “That’s why we say wolves have the power to change rivers,” McConaghy says.

Related: Images of Canada’s Coastal Wolves Help Promote Ocean Conservation Efforts

No wolf has roamed England and Scotland for almost 500 years. As in many other places, local people set out to destroy them, as they are considered dangerous. But, in fact, they are not, says McConaghy, not to humans.

“[Wolves are] incredibly shy, family-oriented creatures who are terrified of humans, and they will do whatever they can to avoid human contact. The cases of wolves attacking or killing humans are so tiny… it’s not even worth talking about. “

Charlotte McConaghy, author

“[W]We all tend to think of them that way, but it’s one of the amazing things I’ve learned from my research, ”she explains. “In fact, they are incredibly shy, family-oriented creatures who are terrified of humans, and they will do whatever they can to avoid human contact. The cases of wolves attacking or killing humans are so tiny… it’s not even worth talking about. Deer are killing more humans.

For some reason, wolves tend to “bring up these extreme feelings in people,” on both ends of the spectrum, McConaghy says. They generate a lot of fear or a lot of love.

McConaghy says what surprised and fascinated her the most while researching the book was “the incredible uniqueness of their personalities.”

“In a sense, [wolves are] sort of really human in their behavior, but in another way, they’re sort of really unknowable. So, I think I fell in love with this uniqueness.

Charlotte McConaghy, author

“They have an extraordinarily distinct and mysterious behavior that is very difficult for us as humans to perceive and understand,” she says. “In a way, they’re kind of very human in their behavior, but in another way, they’re kind of really unknowable. So, I think I fell in love with this uniqueness.

“Each of them has their own kind of life, adventures, stories and personalities, and you just have to follow one to fall in love with them and see that they have this incredible sense of loyalty to each other. others, [and] courage, ”she continues. “There’s a part of the novel, which I kind of took from a real Yellowstone wolf, when she loses her mate, she howls for him endlessly, which is her mourning method. And it just felt… so human in a way, but also so animal. And I think there’s something we can really learn from wolves about the way they love.

“Barry Lopez, who was an incredible nature writer, wrote that… we projected onto the wolf the qualities that we most despise and fear in ourselves, and I think that’s very true,” McConaghy says. “I wanted to explore that idea in this book, and I guess, maybe reverse the idea that wolves are monsters, and kind of say it’s us. We are the monsters.

Related: How Washington Herders Learn to Cope with Wolves, with Lessons from Uganda

In fact, McConaghy’s novel also explores a dark and monstrous side of humanity: domestic violence. While writing the book, McConaghy grappled with a great deal of anger, both at the slaughter of wolves and the “domestic violence emergency” that she sees all over the world.

“Inti [the protagonist of the novel] in a sense, he’s sort of become the mouthpiece for this fury about how humans treat, not just the natural world, but each other as well. She becomes someone who is very aware of the damage people can do to each other. “

Charlotte McConaghy, author

“One woman a week is murdered by her romantic partner in Australia,” she notes. “And that doesn’t include all of the women who… survive their continued violence. I was writing this novel from a very angry place. And so, Inti [the protagonist of the novel], in a sense, has become somewhat of a mouthpiece for this fury about the way humans treat, not just the natural world, but each other as well. She becomes someone who is very aware of the damage people can do to each other. … She has lost all confidence in people. And the book is kind of about a journey, I guess, to let go of that anger or find a way to leave it, rather than let it poison you.

The reintroduction of wolves is causing a lot of debate in Scotland, McConaghy says. She would like to believe that this is more likely than it probably is.

“Scotland is a very progressive country in terms of rewilding efforts, so I don’t think that’s impossible,” she says. “But there is also a very strong reluctance on the part of the agricultural population, because it is very densely cultivated. And there is much less land than there is in America, for example.

While it hasn’t been that easy to reintroduce wolves to the Lower 48 of the United States, overall it seems to be working reasonably well.

“I think it worked because the wolves are supposed to be there,” McConaghy says. “They were there and they should never have left, basically. It worked because nature intended it to.

This article is written by Adam Wernick, based on an interview broadcast on PRX’s Living on Earth.


Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.