While the pandemic was a catastrophe for humans, many wild animal populations flourished without us around. Of course, this wasn’t always ideal for their ecosystems, but scientists are still trying to understand that. Nearly all researchers who were in the middle of field research on animal populations (or even those displayed in zoos and aquariums) are in the process of studying the precise nature of pandemic influences on animals.
Scientists have suggested that the period at the height of the pandemic be called the “anthropause.” That’s because at the height of the pandemic, humans weren’t around in many places to disturb animal populations.
Researchers are interested in studying this moment in time to see how wildlife adapted to our absence. The COVID pandemic provided a unique opportunity to see how the absence of things like noise, pollution from traffic, and tourism affect animal populations.
What were some pandemic influences on animals?
We don’t yet know the full effects of the pandemic and its “anthropause” on animals, since the world is only recently revving up again. But researchers can look at data from tracking devices, cameras, and sensors to see how things were different in 2020 and 2021.
Accoring to Science Magazing (cited below): “The International Bio-Logging Society, for example, is coordinating a large effort to assess how reduced vehicle, ship, and aircraft traffic is affecting animal behavior. More than 300 researchers have indicated they have relevant animal tracking data from 180 species of birds, mammals, reptiles, fish, and sharks across almost 300 study populations from all continents and oceans.”
It’s data that one researcher called “a gold mine.”
But other scientists that had to halt their research during the pandemic need to completely rethink their approaches. The pandemic pause needs to be factored into any historical data that included the pandemic years.
What did wildlife do during the pandemic?
As for the data collected during the pandemic, scientists are seeing some interesting things. More animals wandered around in the daytime. Some are now less active than they were before the pandemic. Cities saw some rare animals wander into their limits.
It all leaves more questions than answers.
But some new studies have popped up in response to the lack of humans around wildlife. For example, animal experts are looking at the effects of a lack of tourism on the diet and health of animals that were once fed by human visitors.
In the end, it may help us figure out how to regulate tourism in order to best help vulnerable species. — WTF fun facts