Urban Wildlife

Urban and Wildlife seem from the start a contradiction, same as any other antonym words. Well, not really! As per Wikipedia, Urban wildlife is wildlife that can live or thrive in Urban environments! Different types of urban areas support different kinds of Wildlife (North America is famous for its coyotes, opossums of Virginia, moose in Anchorage, alligators in Florida, India and Africa for its urban monkeys, in Australia thrive more species of urban birds and insects), whereas some urban species have a cosmopolitan distribution, in some cases almost global. They include house mice, cockroachessilverfishblack ratsbrown ratshouse sparrowsrock doves, and feral populations of domestic species.

Urban areas range from fully urban – areas having little green space and mostly covered by paving, tarmac, or buildings – to suburban areas with gardens and parks. Pigeons are found scavenging on scraps of food left by humans and nesting on buildings, even in the most urban areas, as the tall buildings resemble their natural rocky homes in the mountains. Rats can also be found scavenging on food. Gulls of various types also breed and scavenge in various coastal cities. With an endless supply of food, more city chicks survive each year, and become accustomed to urban living. They in turn breed even more birds, with less reason to undertake a winter migration. The advent of these animals has also drawn a predator, as Peregrine falcons have also been known to nest in urban areas, nesting on tall buildings and preying on pigeons. The peregrine falcon is becoming more nocturnal in urban environments, using urban lighting to spot its prey. This has provided them with new opportunities to hunt night-flying birds and bats. Numerous animals can also live within buildings. Insects that sometimes inhabit buildings include various species of small beetles such as ladybirds, which often seek refuge inside buildings during the winter months, as well as cockroaches. Bigger mammal species like the moose seem to favor vicinity of people, especially when they have small calves, as they learned the predators won’t follow them in proximity of humans!

These animals living in urban areas sometimes come into conflict with humans, as some of them will open garbage bags in search of food, eat food left out for pets, prey on unattended pets, feed on prized garden plants, dig up lawns or become traffic hazards when they run out into the road. However one thing seems to be sure, these Urban species are here to stay, thanks to their very adaptive skills, and may be around long time after people are gone!

Europe’s big cat, the Lynx

Europe’s biggest wild cat, the Lynx, is weighing anywhere between 30 Kg (the Eurasian Lynx) and 9 Kg (the Iberian Lynx) and up to 70 cm height. It is considered a national animal in the Republic of Macedonia and is displayed on the reverse of the 5 dinars coin. It is also the national animal of Romania.

The Lynx (FB profile) is native to European, Central Asian, and Siberian forests. While its conservation status has been classified as “least concern”, populations of Eurasian lynx have been reduced or extirpated from Western Europe, where it is now being reintroduced. Lynx in Britain were wiped out in the 17th century, but currently the efforts of conservation groups have intensified, to persuade locals and government to re-introduce the lynx in the wild, to naturally curb the numbers of deer and hares.

In Spain starting 2004, a government survey showed just two isolated breeding populations of Iberian lynx in southern Spain, totaling about 100 lynxes. Since then, through massive effort and protection, the population has increased today to count over 400 individuals! However this effort must continue, to assure this sub-specie survives!

The Lynx is a strict carnivore, consuming about one or two kilograms of meat every day. It feeds on a wide range of animals from white-tailed deer, reindeer, roe deer, small red deer, and chamois, to smaller, more usual prey: snowshoe hares, fish, foxes, squirrels, mice, turkeys and other birds ( Video of lynx feeding in the wild).

Do animals have feelings or emotions?

More than half of world population lives in cities today. In the developed world, the percentage is much higher! And the urbanization trend will continue and accelerate in future, as cities give more opportunities for a higher living standard, to an increasing number of people. It means also that contact with nature and other species will be limited to sporadic country-side visits, exceptional contact with urban smaller wildlife or vacations visits to shrinking national parks, for most urban people. It is not surprising that younger generation today may have lived their entire life without constant basic contact with natural state of things, with nature itself, with wildlife and even with domestic animals, on which we ultimately feed.

A book I recently read and I think it might bridge the gap (as a starting point before real nature exploration) and would like to recommend is “The Inner Life of Animals“, which based on life-long observations of author and practical science easy for anyone to understand, presents animals (both domestic and wild) as beings capable of human-like emotions and feelings (e.g. pain, grief, gratitude, courage, happiness, empathy, altruism, fear,…), to help people better understand the subject through empathy, starting to see animals not as simply food or at best “creatures that experience only pale imitations of our rich range of sensations”, but as evolutionary complex beings, each very special in each own way, deserving human protection and a place in an unaltered nature, which they have earned along millions of years of evolution, a peer we should respect and learn from!

Author’s hope, which I share, is that humans which evolved in a world full of species (first human like ape, Lucy, is aprox. 3 Mil years old), and “had to survive despite them and with them”, by learning to read the intentions of predator species, or of animals we eventually domesticated, can quickly recover those traits and re-start the way we see the nature, and ecosystem, and the other species before they disappear, and to be able to take daily educated decisions on what we eat, how we treat animals, what negatively impacts nature and ultimately us, what to consume, and why bond with nature needs to be kept, which will assure preservation of a natural state of planet with its biodiversity, support healthy and moral humanity evolution and will ultimately make us humans happier!

Enjoy the reading!

The Inner Life of Animals Amazon hyperlink

Exclusive interview with the “Big Bad” Wolf

Wildlife-Reporter: If we would have a “TIME” magazine type of nomination, you would definitely be on the cover of the 2017 edition. Not once you made the headline in Europe, you made a remarkable comeback in Greece, France, Italy, Germany and even Belgium (article example), you have been subject of conflict between wildlife protection NGOs and government in Norway, and it is 3rd year in a row when the famous Yellowstone National Park in U.S. exceeds 4 Mil tourists, where you are the main attraction!

Mr. Wolf: Usually for us attracting human attention means troubles, that is how you would explain our nocturnal habits, shy nature and illusive appearance! Nevertheless is true and there is hope, that with support of NGOs, we may take back our place in the ecosystem in Europe! But our recent comeback is rather due to abundant wild prey (after an extended period without predators) and our survival and adaptability skills, but future is far from secured, under threat by hunting, poaching, loss of habitat (including lack of natural corridors to unite our wild populations) and human transport networks, more and more developed and wildlife un-friendly! Without human society understanding and acceptance, we may lose this survival battle and we may be bound to limited spaces within ZOOs or national parks, as element of tourism industry and not as an essential part of a healthy ecosystem!

W-R: How the nick-name “Big Bad” Wolf was attributed to you and sticked for such log time?

Mr. W: Personally I prefer the nick-name “Guardian of the forest”, as it is closer to our role in the ecosystem, being on the nature’s top of the food chain, regulating the number of herbivores, which would otherwise multiply too much and would exhaust the food resources! It is a typical natural predator-prey relationship, assuring the ecosystem balance and long-term survival of predator, prey and plants! The term “Big” is rather subjective of human imagination, we are not bigger than some dogs for example, our size is perfectly suited to environment and size of wild prey we rely on, and the term “Bad” does not even find a place in nature, where as I mentioned, we all live in a balanced dependency, this is the natural state of a healthy eco-system, there is no such thing as good or bad wild animal, each has its role in the ecosystem!

W-R: Tell us more about yourself, what people should learn?

Mr. W: Our relationship with humans goes back more than 40.000 years ago, and has not always been bad. Some early humans were benefiting from our hunting skills and were often taking our prey but also some of our ancestors found in people a source of security, and they left the wilderness to be now part of human societies, these are modern day dogs, also called “human’s best friend”! But most of us continued our way in the wilderness, as we did for millions of years. We are not so different from people in certain regards, we have a complex family structure around an Alpha pair, we communicate between each-other, we defend a territory, we compete with our kind as well as other predators for food, to be able to raise our families, which, same as with humans, is our top priority, human parents can understand this!

W-R: How does a typical day in your life look like?

Mr. W: Depends really on the season! In winter we live in an extended pack format, we are more sociable and very mobile, we could easily cover 40 to 60 km in one night, as we are not bound to one place since our babies have grown and they can keep up with us. Most activity is focused on hunting, where tasks are split between team members. In a pack, as well as with help of deeper snow, it should be easier for us to make a successful hunt, but not all wild animals we encounter are being turned into food, we rely on our senses to detect certain weaknesses in our prey, mainly old age and possible diseases. With this, we may have the chance to catch our food once per week, that is a 1 in 10 chance of success! In summer, in a light pack format, we are bound to our nursery place, where we have to return after every meal we find, to feed our youngsters as well the dedicated nurse wolf assigned to take care of the cubs! And regardless of season, we are also busy protecting from other predators, or marking the boundaries of our territory to keep other packs at distance!

W-R: Did you eat the Red Riding Hood or not?

Mr. W: Continuously hunted and persecuted by people during centuries, we learned to associate the smell of people with danger, from early age, even if we never saw a human before. Therefore we run away at first human scent, normally never get close to humans. In rare case, when a wolf catches rabies, it may than get closer and bite people, or anything that comes across! Otherwise, humans have nothing to fear, wolves do not bite nor eat humans! On the contrary, it is our kind being hunted, trapped, poisoned, cursed, blamed and driven to extinction by humans! However folklore has its role in influencing humans, what is interesting is that at an early age children rather like wolves and other wild animals and nature, it is later on that their opinion changes in the opposite direction, and here people need to work more on education and keeping touch with nature in order to avoid this derail.

W-R: What about the ubiquitous accusations from part of farmers and killing of their livestock?

Mr. W: These accusations are surely over-exaggerated! Studies proved that a cow is statistically more likely to be hit by thunder, ran by a car or die from diseases, rather than being killed by a wolf. Sheep can also be easily protected by guarding dogs, very old and efficient method! Exceptions happen, and this is also human’s fault, when live-stock is left to graze in wild areas without guarding dogs, and wild prey is exceptionally rare, and when young wolves, potentially orphaned by hunters, may have to attack live-stock or face starvation!

W-R: Any wishes for 2018 and beyond?

Mr. W: Our biggest existential threat today is human misunderstanding! If people would understand our role in the ecosystem, and how the ecosystem and planet really work, we would all be able to live side by side, in harmony, as we did for millions of years! I wish therefore more understanding, peace, more wisdom and a healthy ecosystem for all to share and enjoy! And to all people fans, wishing you an excellent holiday time, together with dear ones, Merry Christmas and a Happy 2018 Year, full of good news from wilderness!

Mr W

Impact of today’s industrialized agriculture on Wildlife

“Together we’re growing more from less for generations to come”,
“Efficiently protect the environment and in same time make your farm more profitable”,
“We work on increasing world’s major crops by 20% by 2020, without using more land, water or inputs”,
“The more people that get involved, the better we can feed a fast-growing population”

 

The above slogans are copy-pasted from a marketing campaign of one of world’s largest crop chemical producers. Sounds like a good cause, right? Well, lets review the  Facts  together! This is a blog for wildlife, but we need to look at issues impacting wildlife in context, to better understand!

Firstly, we need to understand a bit the economics that is driving today’s society, I try to do this in simplified language. This is a free market system (with some arguments over protectionism applied by certain countries to protect their national interests), meaning market players (Businesses) competing for same consumers (you)! Business decisions, simply put, are driven by profit (Revenues from Sales towards consumers minus costs to produce the service/product)! You, the consumer, don’t get tricked, the Big Businesses (Corporations) are not charities, fighting for better world (as it may sound in above slogans), they are profit driven organizations, owned by shareholders, these are normally investors (people or other organizations e.g. investment funds, pension funds, etc) purchasing shares and building a stock portfolio which are supposed to maximize their profits at shortest term possible!

Secondly, we need to understand another stakeholder in today society, the government! They are the ones managing public money with scope of assuring welfare of its citizens , but lately being ever more influenced by the more and more powerful shadow sovereigns, the Corporations! Unfortunately governments, in context of capitalism and free market, use mainly one standard measure, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), to asses wealth of a nation, but which has nothing to do with welfare/happiness/health of citizens! As per the GDP formula, the bigger the consumption of households, the higher the GDP! What is missing however in GDP formula is the real cost for destroying the nature, for polluting the rivers, burn the forests and exterminate all the other species!

And so, governments and corporations seem to going along just fine in their financial objectives and ignorance towards environment and ecologically sustainable practices!

When it comes to agricultural sector, this is also run today mostly by big private Corporations! I recommend reading below 3 books, to leverage from extensive research in the field and observations of the respectable authors!

51fXtS1vyaL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_Project Animal Farm lynk Amazon online storeWildlife friendly Vegetable Gardener lynk Amazon

First book, DEAD ZONE, explain how industrialized agriculture today is surely and rapidly destroying bio-diversity and ecosystems the humanity is relaying upon! Around the world, through mono-cultures (either soya crops in Brazil, or palm oil in Indonesia, or corn plantations in United States) destroying wildlife natural habitats to make space for plantations, or its fertilizers and pesticides to boost productivity which are entering soil, rivers and oceans and create so called Dead zones by killing earth warms or plankton so useful in a healthy ecosystem, or over-fishing practices even with purpose of feeding salmon farms in case of smaller fishes captured, the planet resources and wildlife are being destroyed at an outstanding and unsustainable speed, under slogans of feeding the world, where in fact author calculates we could feed more than 2 planets with what we produce today, if we could only change today practices, by replacing industrialized farms of animals fed on crops which have a 3% yield of converting the crop in beef protein, and instead letting them graze naturally, and by removing all chemicals and rely instead or organic produces to feed directly people, without the need to remove wildlife in the process!

More arguments are provided in second book, Project Animal Farm, which is a MUST READ for consumers all over the world, to understand the misery in which industrialized farm animals are raised, how more loosely regulated “free range farms” are cheating consumer under slogans like “We work with Mother Nature, not against her”, and to convince you even more to turn to organic, strictly regulated, food products!

And because it is always safer to grow your own food, and you can do that in a wildlife friendly manner if you have your own garden, I recommend a third book Wildlife-Friendly Vegetable Gardener, whose practices should become your own, if you believe in a sustainable natural ecosystem is the way forward, where people will be more happy!

To conclude with, today industrialized agriculture is inefficient and dangerous, while there are sustainable alternatives to this! As consumers, if we want to preserve bio-diversity and protect this planet for our future generations, stay informed, read labels of the products you buy, act responsibly! Buy organic, don’t consume more than you need, don’t waste, favor organic products and those companies certified for producing responsibly, recycle as much as possible and more! We have no excuse for not doing so!

About hunting of Wildlife for trophies

Hunting is the practice of killing or trapping animals, or pursuing or tracking them with the intent of doing so”, as per Wikipedia definition (here). Evidence is showing that hunting was essential in survival and development of human species, our closest relatives the chimpanzees are displaying today troop hunting behavior and tools to hunt smaller species of monkeys and feed (Dr Jane Goodall dedicated her life studying chimps in Tanzania in early 1960’s, documenting for first time such behavior, essential in understanding our own human evolution). Also in some of the greatest civilizations, in Greek and Roman mythology there are assigned Gods to Hunting (Artemis in Greek mythology, or its Roman counterpart Diana as Goddess of the Hunt, or Greek God Pan, God of the wild, shepherds and flocks, nature of mountain), highlighting how ever-present and valued this practice has been during our society evolution, and how wildlife, nature and hunting have been interconnected in human evolution.

Today hunting is claimed to give resource managers an important tool in managing wildlife populations that might exceed the carrying capacity of their habitat. However, in most circumstances carrying capacity is determined by a combination habitat and food availability. Hunting advocates assert that hunting reduces intraspecific competition for food and shelter, reducing mortality among the remaining animals. Environmentalists assert that (re)introducing predators would achieve the same end with greater efficiency and less negative effect, such as introducing significant amounts of free land into the environment. In fact, the nature has been re-balancing itself for millions of years, without any 3rd party involvement. Moreover, through our interference in nature through hunting, we are disrupting the laws of nature, negatively impacting the process of natural selection (trophy hunting is notorious for killing the fittest males for reproduction and passing on the winning genes to the next generations).

The fact that we are destroying anyway our planet through our current economic system and our actions, doesn’t give an excuse to hunters to continue killing other species with which we share this planet (morally unacceptable), even if giving in the process the incentive to hunters to assure the long term survival of some species preferred for hunting, or governments the incentive to assure wildlife survival for assuring a constant flow of income through hunting taxes, sales of hunting equipment etc. We like to think that we “progressed” since we were no more than chimps hunting for food, today society no longer justifies any need whatsoever for killing other species, for any other reason than someone sick pleasure or some commercially not viable and corrupt and immoral income.

Anyone today having a pet at home can confirm that animals have feelings same as humans do, and they can equally feel pain and stress (if in doubt, I recommend reading “The Inner Life of Animals“, by Peter Wohlleben, a comprehensive life-time observation study and practical science into the hidden world of animals, both wild and domestic). Wild animals are also having complex social behaviors, killing an alpha pair of wolves can lead to dismantling or starving the whole pack of wolves, or hunting of a male lion leads to killing of all its cubs by the newly taking over male etc…Even national parks are a kind of joke today, as invisible boundaries allow hunters to lure animals just few meters outside park and legally shoot the animals, or even if not lured, animals migrating to seasonal feeding grounds are also target to legal hunting, as it is the case of bison from Yellowstone National Park in United States.

Today technology also doesn’t give any fair chance to hunted animals, as it did in the time of our ancestors. Luring wildlife and killing it from distance and safety of a tree, or from safety of helicopter, the only limit to how many animals you can kill being the size of your bank account, this is not even “sport” or “game”. In a game, all parties should know the rules and give them a fair chance of winning.

Wildlife is not a commodity to satisfy today consumerism, to be priced and sold on the market! Its survival should not depend on human’s greed, consumerism preferences and obsolete and immoral preference for spending free time, in activities like hunting. As dominant species of this planet, humans have a responsibility of protecting other species and assure their survival, in a balanced ecosystem as they did for millions of years. We lost already too many valuable species and we harm too much this planet in the name of “progress”, and we should stop continuing doing so until it is too late!