43. What Do Animals Eat? Part 2

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The herd of buffalo charged away across the paddock then gathered nervously on the far side. Walter found them impressive creatures, with their powerful bodies and thick brown fur. Some did look rather thin though.

That’s your fault, Bob, said Howl as he sat on the grass.

Why me? replied Bob, nosing the timbers of the paddock fence. Many animals are scared of wolves. And eagles.

Athena landed on a fence post and puffed out her chest indignantly. Little old me? Look at the size of those things!

Perhaps they’re frightened of me, said Walter.

Howl gave a bark of amusement.

Bob sat on his backside and waved his metallic paw. A chimp in a t-shirt? Confused, maybe, but not frightened.

Walter didn’t mind the others mocking him. He didn’t want to be frightening, even though many things in the city frightened him – especially the strange, violent humans. He looked towards the huge bridge nearby that crossed the mouth of the bay. He wondered if everything was as chaotic on the other side. And he wondered, not for the first time, how long the animals would stay at the zoo. For now, it was still their home, but many of them could remember a very different life. Would they eventually return to the wild?   

Howl had different matters on his mind. There are some smaller ones. If I could get one on its own …

You’d have to be very careful, said Athena. The first strike is always the most dangerous. When your prey is still strong.

Walter found her words chilling. Chimpanzees did sometimes kill other animals for food but he didn’t like to think of it.

Bob was gazing across the paddock. The buffalo still looked nervous, especially on the edges of the small herd. Howl, maybe you can chase them towards me. If I get one, I promise I’ll give you a leg.

A leg? said the wolf, blue eyes gleaming. Why not a half?

You’re a lot smaller than me. I need more.

The bear and the wolf were both salivating.

Athena turned her sleek, white-feathered head towards Walter. Not enjoying this much, are you?

There’s plenty of greenery here. Some fruit trees too.

Not like meat, said Bob. There’s nothing like meat.

What’s the problem, Walter? asked Howl. We ate the fish from the tank back home.

Yes, but they were going to die.

Look at the grass, said Athena. Most of it has gone. Without human help, the buffalo will die too.

Then maybe we should let them out, said Walter, pointing at a gate.

Yes, said Bob. Let them out. And then eat them.

They’re not like us, Walter, added Howl. If they were, we would hear their voices. They’re dumb, like the other animals.

Does that mean they’re worthless? replied Walter, waving his arms to make his point. Are we better than them? We were the same before the Awakening.

Walter wasn’t really sure of the answers himself. But when he looked at the buffalo, he didn’t like the thought of his friends attacking them.

What about the strange humans? he continued. They’re our enemies and you’ve killed quite a lot. Why not eat them?

Never! bellowed Bob, while thumping the ground with his paws. I’d rather starve.

Me too! answered Howl.

Walter shared the others’ intense hatred for the violent humans that now roamed the city. It was apparently so strong that the meat-eaters couldn’t even consider them as food.

Howl was still looking at the buffalo. What do you say, Bob, shall we try for a small one?

Walter looked around and spied a large building next to a lake. It looked similar to one back home; a place where he had found lots of food.

See that place over there? I’m sure we’ll find something. If not, you can always come back.

Bob and Howl didn’t seem too keen.

Walter might be right, said Athena. If you want, I can fly back here every day or so and keep an eye on the buffalo. When they start dropping dead, I’ll let you know.

Not a bad idea, said Bob, rolling onto all fours so he was ready to move.

Howl barked with approval.

Let’s take a look then, said Walter, happy and already on his way towards the lake.

They hadn’t gone far when Athena swooped down and pinned a speeding rat. One peck with her beak was enough to kill it.

Wish I was that quick, said Bob.

You three go on, said Athena, proudly flapping her wings. I’ll catch up when I’ve eaten.

As they continued across the park, Walter said, I’m sure we can do better than that.

Rat’s actually not that bad, observed Howl.

Quite tasty, agreed Bob.