The Sixth Mass Extinction. What of the Creatures?

Public rage that no western governments were taking the environmental emergency seriously was suddenly yanked into technicolour by the fervent Swedish Greta Thunberg. At only 16 years old and in the full glare of the international press, she formally confronted the UN Climate Conference in 2019 with the now famous ‘How dare you’ speech in which her extraordinarily articulated anger spoken in perfect English shot through the global airwaves to dramatic effect. Suddenly international public outrage over political lethargy had a passionate spokesperson.

Because Covid lockdowns tied us so closely to our locality, sensitivity to the environment further increased. We learnt that silent city centres were enjoying wild animals wandering down streets, that mating cries could be heard in the absence of the traffic, zoo animals could canoodle without a forever audience. Inversely, the countryside filled with human activity as travel abroad was limited or prohibited, so the lockdown effect wasn’t all positive for wildlife. But the groundswell was of dismay and the pre Covid clarion call was now gathering public momentum.

The Stag Beetle.

There was a tree opposite my suburban, childhood home that seemed such a draw for whizzing stag beetles that I’d watch on balmy evenings in the summer holidays. Then, the world seemed full of these very large, shiny and intimidating wonders. They apparently like the Suffolk life, but I rarely see them now.


I always nod to the Peruvian fox in Robert and Lisa Sainsbury’s outstanding collections at the Sainsbury Centre in Norwich. What a character! Made of bronze, whiskery, and jangling with jewels hanging from the jaw & ears, there are certainly cunning tricks afoot here... Lock those chooks up or they’ll be snuffled in a blink.

The Rook.

There is a rookery nearby that becomes a cacophony of noise and endeavour early every spring when nesting commences. High wire nests appear twig by twig and wide open to the skies. They cling precariously, but defiantly onto a maze of leafless, swaying limbs. A packed neonatal ward in the sky. They’re a noisy, festive and sociable lot; communal and clever. As one goes shopping, others keeps watch. Woe betide any hawk that gets too close.


Frogs are extremely sensitive barometers of the health of their environment. So, should the enormous numbers of immature ones that almost appear like rain each year, and later the numerous mature ones I find in my garden be reassuring?

I cannot think of painting a frog without reference to Matsumoto Hoji’s wonderful prints that are sometimes on display at the British Museum. NB. British Museum collections don’t show picture of this frog,

The Disappearing Hedgehog.

Global warming and our love affair with meat and dairy.

Loads of cows = loads of methane. Some estimates reckon that cows produce 15% of all greenhouse emissions globally.

‘Is this cave painting humanity’s oldest story?’ (from ‘Nature’) The uplifting news in December 2019 that possibly the oldest dated painting in the world had been discovered was joyful news, but had probably been buried under the weight of Covid.

In a cave on the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia, a dynamic five-metre-long image depicts a huge anoa (a type of buffalo endemic to the island) being hunted by a group of tiny figures with spears, as well as some wild pigs- The figures are human-animals hybrids, so loosely human, but with beaks and tails.

My question is: will the innocent anoa be granted another 44,000 years in the sad scheme of things?