Human Impact on Animal Behaviour

© Elephant in the Traffic
Animal Behaviour changes over time to adapt to changing climatic and situational changes and today the human impact is felt mostly when it comes to animal behaviour changes.

By Leigh Kemp

Animal behaviour changes constantly! Or should it rather be said animal behaviour is constantly adapting. The dramatic changes in the environment due to climatic occurrences and human impact - in particular over the past three hundred years - has meant that species have had to adapt faster than ever before.

Population growth and the clamour for land

Africa is a continent with one of the highest human population growth rates in the world and due to this more land is needed each year to provide for this rapid growth, resulting in the shrinking of ranges of natural areas for wildlife. Historically African people lived in communion with the wilderness but with colonialism came western influences and new ethics, the most dangerous being materialism.Today it is believed that the wilderness must pay to stay. With over-population and hunger as constant threats in Africa, many people subscribe to this philosophy. On the negative side putting a value on wildlife has opened up the illegal trade in animal products, hereby putting some species in danger of extinction.

With the clamour for land in Africa increasing the wilderness areas are shrinking. Animals traditionally moved unhindered by fences and human settlements but today the movements have been restricted to conserved areas. Game reserves and national parks have set up wildlife management policies to protect these preserved areas.

As part of the management plan artificial waterholes are set up to provide water during the dry season, a season where game would historically have moved vast distances in search of water. This has tempered part of the animals' survival instinct as water is now permanent throughout the year.

Veterinary Fences and Migration

Fences have stopped the migrations of many species thus changing the behaviour of animals dramatically. Veterinary control fences set up to adhere to foreign export laws have played havoc with the wild herds of Botswana. The laws are to stop wildlife moving into areas of domestic stock to prevent the transferring of diseases.Until thirty years ago large herds of Wildebeest migrated between the Central Kalahari region and the Okavango Delta before a fence was erected on the northern boundary of the central Kalahari region. The fence was erected whilst the animals were in the drier south and with the first movement north the animals were caught against the fence.Faced with thirst and starvation hundreds of thousands of Wildebeest died and today the population in Botswana has dropped by 90%. The remaining 10% have adapted to a new non-migratory existence and the numbers have remained stable since the die-off.

Adapting to the human impact

Animals adapt quickly to changing situations and with the increase in human impact on the environment certain species benefit from human involvement. Hyenas, Monkeys and Baboons are known to become pests around lodges and campsites by raiding kitchens, dustbins and even breaking into vehicles in search of food.

A garbage dump is easy pickings and this often leads to some animals becoming reliant on humans for their survival which in turn often leads to the animal been destroyed. They also learn survival skills when humans retaliate.

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