Wildlife and Humans

When we think about cities or farmlands, we think about man made infrastructures and human activities. Yet, across the world, more and more people observe some unexpected neighbors and a growing number of studies report wildlife exploiting human-altered landscapes; Gulls, foxes, even bears or hyenas.

How do they make it?
Which species are the more likely to adapt?
What are the consequences on their ecology?

For wildlife, going out for dinner downtown is not a given. Some are better than others are. When human altered landscapes offer similar opportunities than natural habitats, the species are likely to colonize man made environments. The more the species have a large spectrum of habitat and food they can live on, the more likely they are to recognize potential risks and exploit opportunities in new environments.

Within a species, variations exist too. Some individuals are not able to alter their behaviour to adjust to new environments, but certain just make it right. For the others, it is a matter of flexibility. Individuals, which change their behavior to develop novel foraging strategies, will be selected for (where this results in net benefits).

Foraging in human-modified landscapes not only results in a rapid dietary change but presents a novel selective pressure that may lead to important changes in key behavioral traits such as movement patterns, activity and energy budgets to social dynamics within groups and life history traits. Many of human altered food items are richer in terms of energy and more predictable in time and space than in the natural environment. For wildlife, integrating such resources in the diet can reduce the need of ranging in the environment to find food, and more time can be allocated to other activities. Increased food quality may also speed growth and maturation, and increase reproduction rates.

Consequences extend to all neighboring species that are part of the original or the new community. As species move away from their natural range, it can reduce ecosystem services, such as seed dissemination for example. Close human contact may also drive higher parasite prevalence in wildlife and diseases can spread between species, which were not originally living side by side. Together, these changes may pose a significant conservation risk particularly to wildlife populations living on the urban edge and more especially to nonhuman primate populations. With higher population density, which is of central importance to infection rates, the risks are multiplied.

A change of societal values in developed countries has led to a greater tolerance toward wildlife and desire for coexistence. This may explain why biodiversity is recolonizing human altered landscapes today. Human–wildlife interactions can bring positive effects for both humans and wildlife, enhancing human well-being. Yet conflicts between wildlife and people can emerge too. This can affect people’s perception of biodiversity, hinder conservation goals and ultimately create tensions among people themselves.

Devising novel approaches and methods to ensuring that more wildlife has better welfare and conservation status within and adjacent to urban and rural landscapes is as a critical goal. To achieve this, we must continue to innovate when seeking to understand the drivers of human–wildlife conflict and its mitigation while continuing to develop a theoretical frame­work for understanding responses of wildlife to diverse global human-modified landscapes.

Behavioral Causes, Ecological Consequences, and Management Challenges Associated with Wildlife Foraging in Human-Modified Landscapes

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