x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

When you least expect it, there's nature in all its glory

I would, I promised myself, get up at five to avoid the heat and actually go for a jog.

Teenagers are not completely oblivious to the wonders of nature.

As a sweltering summer approaches, teenagers are increasingly being driven indoors. Any form of outdoor activity that we may have sporadically taken a fancy to is difficult to pursue under a blazing hot sun. Mall trawling, which cuts calories because of all the running around in the shoe stores and carrying bursting shopping bags, has also become forbidden territory nowadays. The end of the school year is almost upon us, which means we're stuck trying to frantically catch up on a year's worth of revision for forthcoming exams while downing endless cappuccinos for a caffeine boost. When I struggled to fit into a pair of old jeans, I finally decided to take drastic action.

I would, I promised myself, get up at five to avoid the heat and actually go for a jog. Every morning. OK, the last bit didn't work out. But the first, and only, time I ventured out to the sprawling tree-lined lake in our compound at the crack of dawn, it was a rewarding experience. We teenagers may be unappreciative of the finer aspects of life, but there was one of those pretty sunrises that are just demanding to be captured in poetry, and the whole getting-in-touch-with-nature stuff hit me then.

Nikes firmly laced up, iPod blasting a strident Shostakovich overture that was meant to get the adrenalin pumping and inspire me into working out properly (that bit didn't work out either), I set out. I had barely completed a round of the lake when I was stopped by an indignant quack. I started and looked down. A plump duck was gazing reproachfully at me. Six ducklings, tiny little things, were lined up behind their mother in a neat queue on the footpath.

As I stared, open mouthed, they began waddling in unison, with the precision of the Royal Guard, from the surrounding lawns to the water. One by one, they clambered on to the rocks precariously, six fluffballs with bright, alert eyes. They splashed into the water and began paddling furiously. There was something about the scene that made it impossible to tear my eyes away; I could have watched them all day. The sweaty human gazing stupidly at them didn't exist, for all they cared. None of the other joggers did, either. At that moment, the six little ducklings following their mother were the stars of the show, each one a minute miracle and a tribute to the wonders of the natural world.

On May 14, The National reported, in a story by Preeti Kannan, "Dubai Zoo animals will be relocated to open safari", that the inhabitants of the Dubai Zoo would be transferred to a 400-hectare safari park as part of an ambitious new project. It's time we fully appreciated the gloriously diverse species we share the world with and provide them with suitable living conditions. It took just six ducklings to reduce an admittedly selfish, unbothered teen to a quivering emotional jelly. A whole safari park of animals in their natural habitat can work wonders to inculcate empathy among young people.