Following the remarkably heavy rains of the end of last week, the weekend has been bright and sunny here in Jersey. Many delegates have been able to escape from their various co-ordination meetings and joined the bustling streets of St Helier. The town boasts all the usual chain stores found in European cities but also some speciality retail outlets for the produce of the Channel Islands. There are also many art galleries and alongside the pastoral views and seascapes, the Jersey cow with its friendly and expressive face features strongly.
Sunday will be busier for everyone, with many high-level preparatory and co-ordination meetings happening ahead of the IWC opening tomorrow. But this has been an IWC of two parts this year and let us look a few weeks back, when the IWC’s Scientific Committee held its annual meeting (for the first time for many years this was not back-to-back with the main Commission meetings). At the invitation of the Norwegian government it was held in Tromso in the Arctic north. The report of the Scientific Committee remains confidential until the opening of the main meeting (another of the IWC’s old fashioned and secret procedures); but we can report that Tromso was a pleasant venue –a friendly town on a small island nestled amongst many fjords, snow capped mountains (even in June) and so far north that night never comes!
It is a beautiful part of the world stunning in its detail – a thousand waterfalls and a burst of Spring time flowers and amongst them the reindeer and elk wander freely.
Meanwhile, back to Jersey. For comparison, here we have the famous eponymous local cow and an indigenous bank vole. The locals also have some sort of unusual preoccupation with their local toad (referred to using the French word ‘crapaud’). Monsieur Crapaud is so revered here that there no less than two statues of him in St Helier’s main squares. In one the crapaud is flanked by several life-sized jersey cows in the other a huge toad is mounted on top of a column. We shall be further investigating the significance of this in due course.
There are also some less appealing wildlife. A late morning survey of the somewhat suspiciously sticky streets sees the slow and shy emergence of some very strange creatures indeed. Red-eyed and big of belly, they appear to be primates of some sort. Are they perhaps escapees from the local Durrell institute for Conservation menagerie? Certainly they have some primate features and possibly even a rudimentary form of language – high in expletives and low in general vocabulary. They appear to be mainly nocturnal. In the daylight, odd specimens can be found propped up in coffee shops around the town gently re-hydrating and going bright red in the sun.
They belong to the family of lower primates more frequently seen in Mediterranean resorts where alcohol is cheap. They are the fabled British Booze Hounds.
The wildlife in and around the immediate vicinity of the meeting hotel is otherwise quite limited. Here we find severe warning notes about the “aggressive” local gulls and the terrace of the hotel onto which in fine weather the hotel’s one café extends, has a fine network of nylon lines strung high overhead to try to keep them off. The gulls appear to have worked out ways through these nearly invisible lines and parade shamelessly amongst the delegates eyeing with interest their soups and salads. Indeed the obvious puzzle-solving abilities of the gulls, combined with the intelligent glint in their eyes, raises a question as to whether or not they might be included in the group of animals that are regarded as sentient. There has been much interesting and important discussion about which animals qualify as having this attribute in recent years. From a casual study of the behaviour of the local wildlife, this observer at least feels that the case is appreciably stronger for the herring gull than the British Booze Hound.