Arts & Entertainment

Naked City: When animals attack!


Okay, it was probably a slow news day but did we really need a recent tabloid story about Hollywood pop singer, Hilary Duff, being ‘attacked’ by a flock of ravenous seagulls whilst eating lunch at Sydney’s Opera Bar? Admittedly it was part of a larger story, whereby management is trialling a giant robot bird to keep the pesky gulls at bay – at a cost of $6,500.

It does, however, raise the question as to just how safe Sydneysiders are from the multitude of fauna that currently infest our fine city. It seems nobody is taking this potential problem seriously and nowhere on the Sydney City Council website could we find a contact to report a citizen being mauled by a Hyde Park possum or having their eyes ripped out by an ibis. Unlike countries such as America, where a young hiker was recently killed by a black bear, and India, where the dwindling tiger population still pose a lethal threat, Australians at large have little to fear from our prolific wildlife – crocs, feral camels and dingoes excepted.

Yet it’s in our more urbanised areas where that complacency is being challenged and some animals are starting to behave in a manner previously unimaginable. American writer Mike Davis has foreshadowed this phenomenon in his book Ecology Of Fear whereby wild species are invading urban areas and reclaiming a territory that was very much theirs to begin with. Could it be that the seagulls that spooked Hilary Duff are but a portent of more sinister events to come?

Certainly the ‘attack’ was Hitchcockian in both its conception and sheer audacity, and like his 1963 classic The Birds, the real agenda of the gulls is open to question. They were supposedly swooping on Hilary’s lunch but could it be they also exhibited a kind of avian xenophobia with her subtle but alien Hollywood posturing striking a real note of discord? To put it simply, they were just pissed off that yet another interloper had arrived to steal their territory.

In recent months we have noted an increased aggression amongst the city’s ever burgeoning ibis population. Branded as grubby garbage scavengers and scorned by the al fresco sandwich brigade, their resentment is now palpable. Surely it’s only time before they too pay homage to Hitchcock and unleash their wrath and black pointy beaks upon a group of lunchtime diners at the Opera Bar or elsewhere.

Feral cats, cockatoos, the few remaining fruit bats and even those slimy eels in the duck pond in the Botanic Gardens – they are all capable of inflicting injury. Treat them with respect and, as a vital part of the new urban environment, there should not be a problem. Cull them, demonise them or attempt to scare them away with giant mechanical robots and baby, it could be Hitch’s Bodega Bay all over again!

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