For the past few months, many of us were under quarantine to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Due to this, human activity beyond our homes has ground somewhat to a halt, leading to some unintended consequences.
In fact, a recent study found that our lack of mobility directly links to changes in animal behaviors. Whether the observations are positive or negative, this research has devised different ways for humans and wildlife to peacefully coexist on this crowded planet.
While some of the U.S. reopens, it’s imperative to understand the ripples we make in over environment, including how interdependent animals and humans are.
Surprising shifts in wildlife behavior due to reduced human behavior
With lockdown in place, there have been surprising shifts in wildlife behavior. In some areas, we’ve even seen the return of wildlife in urban cities. For example, people reported dolphins in harbors of Italy, jackals in urban parks of Tel Aviv, Israel, and pumas in downtown Santiago, Chile.
Yet for some species, Covid-19 has brought upon new challenges. Many animals, like rats, gulls, and monkeys, have become heavily reliant on food waste discarded by humans, which is reduced due to our limited activity.
To make matters worse, people started to migrate outside of metropolitan areas to avoid the spread of Covid-19. Researchers found that this may negatively affect wildlife because local animals aren’t used to human interaction—which is becoming more common as we try to socially distance ourselves.
However, while people are going more remote and avoiding travel, decreased tourism leaves places like Africa more susceptible to poaching. This raises many concerns for red-listed animals, such as the pangolin, because scientists are finding that their numbers are rapidly dwindling due to their potential links to the pandemic.
As the human population continues to expand, we will continue to be interdependent with animals. Learning more about how we affect them will be crucial for sustainability in the future.
How does Covid-19 illustrate species interdependency?
Humans are transforming animal environments at unprecedented rates. Therefore, understanding how human activity affects wildlife will benefit us in many ways. It helps us preserve global biodiversity, maintain ecosystems, and predict future zoonotic diseases.
So, recently, bio-logging teams have formed to collect animal’s movements, behavior, activity, psychology, and environment.
Using this data, author of the study state they “will be able to investigate if the movements of animals in modern landscapes are predominantly affected by built structures, or by the presence of humans.”
This can reveal which species are most affected by human interaction, and to what degree human disturbance will cause detrimental effects on animals. Modifications in transportation networks could reduce disruption in animal movement, which would save us from future diseases being spread.
The need for more studies on how human activity drives species interdependency
Ultimately, we cannot predict when the next global pandemic will occur. Thus, by using this opportunity, researchers can see how animals respond when human activity is at its lowest.
By comparing the presence of wildlife before and after Covid-19, we can better understand the human impact on the environment. And with this information, we have the chance to protect ourselves and other Earthly creatures.
Covid-19 gave us a serious wake-up call in terms of reforms for a healthy environment. We must use this opportunity to reflect on our actions to preserve the planet, one relationship at a time.
Jalen Xing is a Writer at theRising and the co-founder of Students For Hospitals. You can pitch him stories at jalen.xing [at] gmail [dot] com.