Wildlife

Animal Behavior Could Yield Key Clues for Conservation Efforts

May 30, 2019
animal behavior

Human impact on wildlife stretches wide, but studying the behavior of animals allows conservationists to better target efforts to protect potentially endangered species for future generations. It’s vital to better educate the public about how to change what we’re doing so we can live in harmony with the world around us.

Because of the many changes humans bring to natural habitat, plants and animals disappear about a thousand times faster than they ever have before, meaning around 100 species a day go extinct — both plants and animals. Many factors contribute to some animals becoming endangered. People can’t control everything, such as unfair competition for resources, but they can manage a number of factors leading to potential loss of a species.

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A Moral Conundrum

Diversity of wildlife is an important aspect of conservation efforts, but researchers must also figure out how to keep some populations from going extinct while making minimal impact on the other plants and animals in the area. For example, introducing a non-native species to a location may result in a different animal becoming endangered due to fighting over resources or the introduction of predators.

One example of this type of issue is the Burmese pythons that have taken over Florida’s Everglades. Pythons were released by humans who had them as pets or escaped during hurricanes. They have few natural enemies and they grow to 6 feet or longer. The pythons eat local birds, such as white ibis and limpkin. In one analysis of the stomach contents of captured snakes, researchers found the remains of about 25 bird species — and four of them were endangered.

They also compete with alligators for food supply. It’s impossible to predict how the invasive species will impact the delicate balance of the Everglades in the future.

Animals Have Social Lives

Conservation efforts don’t always take into account the social lives of animals, but different creatures have a variety of ways to relate to the world around them. It’s important for them to feel comfortable enough to proliferate, raise their young and keep populations high. Conservationists must study not only the natural habitat of animals, but also the ways in which they interact with their surrounding environment.

Using cameras is one method of tracking animal behavior, so conservationists utilize smarter methods for helping local wildlife. The more humans understand the behaviors of animals, the better we can ensure their habitat remains as they need it to thrive alongside human growth on this planet we all share.

New Biomechanical Research

In the past, researchers might track the movements of an animal population through sensors, but the results were difficult to decipher. Did motion mean the animal was hunting or burrowing into a nest? However, more advanced tools now allow researchers to better discern the specific activity of a tracked animal. Biometric research, combined with advanced cameras and monitoring through social media, yield clues never before known about some species. This allows conservationists to adapt their approach to the prevention of an animal going extinct and better educate the public on ways to protect the environment.

Consider the manatees in Florida as an example of human expansion impacting a population of animals. As the manatees move into warmer waters over the winter, they also encounter pollution. People boating in the waters with power motors also harm the manatees. They are now an endangered species, but through educating the public through conservancy locations such as the Manatee Viewing Center in Tampa, Florida, the public is more aware of their plight.

The center is run by Tampa Electric at the Big Bend Power Station. The energy company ensures it is not putting waste into the bay where the manatees come to warm themselves, and it shows how humans and nature can live in harmony with a bit of planning and effort.

Over the last two centuries, scientists have studied different species and how they adapt to their surroundings. There is already a wealth of knowledge available to draw upon about animals. Current research simply expands on that information and allows researchers to fine-tune the efforts they’re already making.

You Can Make a Difference

Some conservation issues are simply common sense. Don’t put pollutants into local streams and waterways, because it harms the water the animals drink. If you cut down a tree, plant a new one in its place. Use less of everything and think about how each item you throw away impacts wildlife. Do you really need to buy the soda cans with plastic rings around them when you know they present a danger to birds and other creatures?

Think about what you want the planet to be like for your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. What legacy do you want to leave behind for those who come after you?

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