12 Human (Anthropogenic) Effects on Animal Behavior
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12 Human (Anthropogenic) Effects on Animal Behavior HUMANS ARE HERE, there, and everywhere. We are a curious lot, and our intrusions, intentional and inadvertent, have significant impacts on a wide variety of animals and plants, as well as water, the atmosphere, and inanimate landscapes. When humans influence the behavior of animals the effects are referred to as being “anthropogenic” in origin. Often our influence on the behavior of animals and the unbalancing of nature is very subtle and longterm . Often we become at odds with the very animals with whom we choose to live when they become nuisances, dangerous to us or to our pets, or destroy our gardens and other landscapes. Many of the animals whom we want to study, protect, and conserve experience deep emotions, and when we step into their worlds we can harm them mentally as well as physically. They are sentient beings with rich emotional lives. Just because psychological harm is not always apparent, this does not mean we do not do harm when we interfere in animals’ lives. It is important to keep in mind that, when we intrude on animals we are influencing not only what they do but also how they feel. In my home state of Colorado, many people enjoy the outdoors and many people also work to protect a wide variety of animals. Many of us live in one place and travel elsewhere to experience nature. Our understanding and appreciation of wildlife result from various types of research and “just being out there.” Some examples of behavior patterns influenced by various research methods and other forms of human intrusion include nesting and other reproductive activities (abandonment of nests. increased egg loss, disruption of pair bonds), mate choice, dominance relationships, the use of space, vulnerability to predators, patterns of vigilance, foraging, resting, and feeding and caregiving behaviors. Often animals are so stressed that they are unable to acquire the energy they need to thrive and to survive. Intrusions include such activities as using various devices and instruments to study behavior, marking and handling animals, censuring animal populations, visiting nests, urbanization (urban development and sprawl, the development of bodies of water, changes in vegetation, installing power lines, the need for more electric power) and recreational activities, including the use of snowmobiles and other off-road vehicles, environmental pollution including oil spills, photography, travel, and ecotourism. In November 2003 it was reported that only two years after a new Reprinted from Bekoff, M. (ed.) 2004. Human (Anthropogenic) Effects on Animal Behavior. In M. Bekoff (ed.), Encyclopedia of Animal Behavior, 669–678. Copyright © 2004 by Greenwood Publishing Group. Reproduced with permission of Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc., Westport, Connecticut. finch-like bird, the Carrizal blue-black seedeater, was discovered in Venezuela, its habitat was destroyed so that a hydroelectric dam could be built! Models that are generated from these studies can be misleading because of human intrusions that appear to be neutral. It is ironic that often our intrusions preclude collecting the data we need to answer specific questions. I have picked representative studies to show how wide-spread human influences can be and the diversity of species that are affected. Many of these findings apply to other situations and species. The topic of human-animal interactions is relevant to studies of applied ethology. Detailed ethological studies are needed because we need to take into account just how our research influences the behavior of other animals, otherwise we risk drawing the wrong conclusions. Also, it is increasingly important to conservation efforts to understand how humans influence and change the behavior of animals. RESEARCH EFFECTS Patterns of finding food can be affected by human intrusions. The foraging behavior of Little penguins (average mass of 1,100 grams) is influenced by their carrying a small device (about 60 grams) that measures the speed and depth of their dives. The small attachments result in decreased foraging efficiency . Changes in behavior such as these are called the “instrument effect.” In another example of the influence of humans on penguins, researchers discovered that tourism and nest site visitation caused behavioral and hormonal changes. Marking animals also influences their behavior. Placing a tag on the wing of ruddy ducks leads to decreased rates of courtship and more time sleeping and preening. In this case, data on mating patterns, activity rhythms, and maintenance behaviors would be misleading. Mate choice in zebra finches is influenced by the color of the leg band used to mark individuals, and there may be all sorts of...


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