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When endangered species recover, humans may need to make room for them – and it’s not always easy

When endangered species recover, humans may need to make room for them – and it’s not always easy

Two people examine an annotated map of the Falkland Islands

Imagine meeting a sealion in the wild. The middle of the woodsMore than a mile inland of the beach. You might even meet one of these curious creatures face-to-face in a Local swimming poolOr On your front porch.

These encounters are taking place in New Zealand after the return of the New Zealand sea lions are endangered, the world’s rarest sea lion species. The females usually You can go up to a mile (about 1,5 kilometers) inland with your pups during the breeding season to protect them from rougher conditions at the coast – but now there are a lot more humans in the way.

Humans and wild animals can encounter each other in dangerous situations. Sea lions have been accidentally shot, stabbed, and clubbed. Hit by cars. Roads, fences, and residential development are all possible. Block their movement inland. Some females and some pups have Adapted for commercial pine forestson private lands that could be cleared or developed one day.

As an EcologistI study species from all over the globe that are recovering from decades or centuries of human pressures and exploitation. The world is now ready for a landmark U.N. conference on protecting Earth’s biodiversityIt will be held in China from April 25 through May 8, 2022. The important question is how humans and recovering species like sea lions and sharks can reach a new equilibrium and allow these resilient creatures the chance to thrive.

Conservation managers identify New Zealand sea lion pups inland and alert the surrounding community that they are there.

Sea lions are on the way

New Zealand sea lions, like many other animals valued for their fur or meat, were hunted to near extinction in the past. The past 150 year’s, remnant populations could only be found on New Zealand’s undeveloped subantarctic islands, more than 300 miles from the nation’s mainland. Their population is currently estimated at 12,000.

These animals usually return to the same place they were born. In 1993, however, a female sealion was added to their breeding group. For the first time in centuries, the mainland was home to the birth of a child. Her offspring have been able to mate for five generations. Many more females followed her lead, and each year, around 20 pups are born on the mainland.

Scientists can make an impact when wild species recolonize and shift their ranges in this manner. predictive modelsTo help determine where the animals might settle in the future, and to take steps to protect them. But These models are also available in traditional versions can’t account for when and where the recovering species may interact with humans, because these encounters are new developments and may occur under conditions that differ from the past.

My team and me addressed this issue in a study that was published in November 2021. Creating an integrated species distribution model databaseIt combines expert knowledge with algorithmic models to highlight habitats and flag zones of concern. It allowed us to map 395 potential breeding areas for sea lions across the New Zealand mainland. We identified human-related obstacles for the animals, such roads and fences that could hinder their inland movement.

Our research can be used to assist wildlife managers and local officials in searching for sea lions, posting signs on roads for crossing, verifying or restoring breeding sites, and determining where to work with landowners. This type of tool can also be used to assist in similar efforts for other species, which are either recovering or endangered. Climate change is forcing people to move into new areas and habitats..

Welcome whales back

Of course, humans are more happy to give space to wild species than to others.

I conducted research in the Falkland Islands between 2015 and 2016 and found that local residents were happy to see sei, fin, minke and southern right return to their waters. These species were all intensively hunted in the 1800s, but began to make a noticeable comeback after countries adopted the laws. 1982 moratorium on commercial whaling.

Local residents found it a unique experience to see whales offshore while tending sheep or taking the ferry or flying between islands. We used residents’ historical knowledge and Thousands of whale observations made from the 1940s up to 2015to inform scientific surveys of the islands. This work has helped others Analyze sei whale distribution on the islands and resulted in the creation of the world’s First Key Biodiversity Area to support sei whales – a place that is considered globally significant for the rare, unique, or many species it contains.

Our findings that Falkland residents enjoyed watching whales offshore suggested that they would support these processes. Marine spatial planningThey are to be protected. Marine spatial planning refers to a public process of coordinating human uses in the ocean, such shipping, tourism, oil exploration, and commercial fishing in ways that are balanced with environmental protection.

Two people examine an annotated map of the Falkland Islands

Doctoral student Veronica Frans collaborates with a Falkland Island resident to map and detail the sei whale recovery.
Veronica Frans, CC BY ND

When predators rebound

The coexistence of some recovering species with others can be more difficult and controversial, especially if they are perceived to pose a threat to property or public safety.

White sharks were once found along the northeast coast of the United States and Canada. Extremely overfishedBut Are now reboundingAs a result of climate change, there are increasing populations of seals and protection efforts. As top predatorsSharks help to control other species of ocean animals Increase ocean carbon storage. They are also one the few shark species currently known. attack humans.

Lifeguards have been around for many years. Popular beaches have been repeatedly closedWhen white sharks are present, they can be found on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. After white sharks were detected, restrictions and warnings were increased. A swimmer was killed when a shark attacked him2018 In 2018, It is slowly becoming a popular attraction.

However, white sharks are on the rise. Divisive. Scientists and local officials are trying to reduce shark sightings and increase shark numbers. Educate the public and raise awareness about them. Drones allow for monitoring of shark movementsThese and other equipment can be used to warn beachgoers of sharks in advance.

Cyclists in front of a shark warning sign at a beach in Wellfleet, Mass.

The return of white-sharks to Cape Cod has caused beach closures, alarms, and has also boosted tourist in some towns.
AP Photo/Charles Krupa

Know who’s moving in

Scientists are unanimous in their belief that the Earth has a habitable surface. losing speciesAt a rapid pace, it could potentially represent the sixth mass extinctionIts history. These ongoing stories of species conservation take on a new urgency when conflicts arise.

Science can help. Predictive models and maps can help to identify potential future locations for species. Monitoring species’ movements can reveal their number, behavior, habitat preferences, and interactions with humans.

Wild species are bound to adapt to new environments and will often have new interactions with humans. These encounters won’t always be easy to manage, but I believe that when communities understand the changes and are involved in planning for them, they can prepare for the unexpected, with coexistence in mind.

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