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Can Wild Animals and Humans Coexist in an Urban World?

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The pandemic has created what scientists call the anthropause, which is a large slowdown in human activity. That’s allowed all sorts of wild animals to get comfortable in and around cities, from boar in Rome to wild turkeys in Oakland, California. As we humans keep expanding and taking up more space, sharing our cities with wild animals might be our best chance to protect them. So, can we learn to coexist with animals in an urban world?

TEACHERS: Get your students in the discussion on KQED Learn, a safe place for middle and high school students to investigate controversial topics and share their voices. Click to see this video and lesson plan on KQED Learn.

What are wild animals even doing in cities?

Often, they don’t have much of a choice. In 2007, the world hit a major tipping point. For the first time, more people lived in urban areas than in rural areas. And by 2050, two-thirds of the world’s population will live in or near cities. On top of that, the sheer amount of people on the planet just keeps growing. Right now, there are over 7.5 billion people. By 2050, that number is going to be around 9.8 billion. That means more construction to house all those people. More land to grow food to feed all those people. And more pushing into forests and fields and rivers.

What impact are animals having on cities?

When we picture wild animals in cities, it’s easy to think about the problems that can cause, like a coyote attacking a person, for example. But the reality is that reports of any kind of attack or injury are super rare. It’s way more common for urban animals to be a nuisance or a pest, knocking over trash cans and stuff like that. But these animals still have important roles to play in cities, and removing them can actually disrupt ecosystems and wreak havoc on other animals down the food chain.


So how CAN animals and humans live together in urban areas?

One way is the concept of urban rewilding. It’s a growing trend of transforming urban areas from wildlife dead spots into something more attractive so nature and animals can move back in. For example, Washington D.C. has more green space per capita than nearly any city in the country. It’s planting around 11,000 trees EVERY year. And the city has passed some pretty strict pollution laws to improve the surrounding water quality. All of that is bringing back more birds, fish, and reptiles. Some animal experts in the know even refer to our nation’s capital as an urban paradise for wild animals.


Living Planet Report from the World Wildlife Fund

2020 Pew Research report on urban wildlife

Research paper on human-wildlife interactions in urban areas

KQED Do Now: Should We Make Cities More Inviting to Wildlife?

How animals change in response to cities

Urban rewilding as a strategy

How urban habitats can foster biodiversity

#rewilding #biodiversity #urbanwildlife

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