A couple of nights ago Jack and I were watching a video of our last trip to Sri Lanka (sad I know, but until you’ve lived with Spanish TV for 6 years, don’t knock it) and we were reminded of the incredible variety of birds and animals that you find on that island paradise. Kingfishers, cormorants, weaver birds, parakeets, fireflies, monitor lizards, elephants – and that was just in the space of one trip down the Mahweli River in Kandy.
By comparison, the island of Tenerife is rather thin on the ground when it comes to wildlife – Whiskas being the exception of course.
We once had a bizarre conversation with a Brit ‘swallow’ on his last winter sojourn when he casually informed us that wild deer roamed the pine forests around the edge of Teide National Park. When pressed, he had to admit that his information was based solely on the existence of several traffic warning signs which clearly showed the outline of a deer within the red triangular framework. We assured him that there had undoubtedly been a cheap job lot of deer warning signs for sale and the Tinerfeños were using them to advise drivers to watch out for ‘mouflon’, in their typically mas o menos way (which incidentally is the reason why bends only ever occur at 3 kilometre intervals on Tenerife…there was a sale of ‘bends for 3 kilometres’ signs – okay that’s completely unsubstantiated, but I reckon it’s true).
Mouflon are in fact wild sheep with incredibly impressive long, curled horns like some sort of mythological creature. Which is quite appropriate really as we’ve never, ever seen one. Jack thought he saw some on a ridge in the Anaga Mountains once but they were too far away to be sure and to be honest, I thought they looked more like goats. The mouflon allegedly inhabit parts of the Teide National Park and graze on rare species of plant life so they’re considered pests and apparently are killed if spotted by rangers.
Still, the point is that in six years of travelling the island and never having seen one, it seems highly unlikely that they should warrant the use of warning signs to alert drivers to their presence.
Other than the illusive mouflon, we’re pretty much restricted to lizards or run-of-the-mill rabbits, rats, bats and assorted domestic animals. Even the birds, although some are clearly spectacular, pale into insignificance alongside Sri Lanka’s 400 plus species.
But then yesterday afternoon, just as I was leaving the car park to drive to a meeting in the south west of the island, I had to brake hard to avoid hitting a kestrel which swooped down right in front of the car, grabbed a large lizard in both claws and then struggled to achieve height with the weight, flying low in front of the bonnet until it adjusted its carrion and finally flew over the banana plantation wall.
The wildlife might not come up to Sri Lanka standards, but it can still put on a show for you when you least expect it.