Proof That the Presence of Humans Is Bad for Wild Animals
“When humans are removed nature flourishes, even in the aftermath of the world’s worst nuclear accident.”-Prof Smith (Prof of environmental science at the University of Portsmouth)
I have possibly over generalised in the title to this article but the point is being made. The point is this: that, in the long term, where there are humans there is a detrimental effect upon nature and nature of course includes animals. Therefore humans have a detrimental effect upon wild animals, in general terms.
This has been clearly proved at the site of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 when there was the meltdown of a nuclear reactor in an area of Ukraine and Belarus the size of Hampshire in the UK (3769 km²).
A recent survey of the area where the disaster occurred and which has been barred to human beings for 30 years indicates that nature has flourished. The area has the appearance of being a well-maintained nature reserve with populations of elk, roe deer, wild boar and red deer at similar levels to those in nearby nature reserves. Even the Lynx, a medium-sized wildcat species, has returned to the area.
You would have thought that the radiation would hurt the animals but clearly the animals have decided that any risk from radiation is far less of a risk than from humans and that is an accurate assessment.
There is some human activity inside the exclusion zone but very little compared to a normal nature reserve. It is almost empty of humans in comparison. This area is turning the clock back to a time when the world’s human population was far less than it is today; when there was room for wild animals to live within areas where humans had never been. Under those circumstances wild animals thrive.
It is ironic that Chernobyl, one of the world’s most horrendous man-made disasters which killed thousands of people has proved to be supremely beneficial to wild animals. It indicates quite clearly that the only true conservation of wild animals on the planet is that which removes the human from the planet. We can only scratch the surface of conservation and almost pretend that we are involved in it while human population growth on the planet remains at the level it is currently. It is also impossible, in the long term, to protect wildlife and nature under the current levels of human population growth.
P.S. Humans construct nature reserves where wild animals thrive. This would seem to be counter to my argument. It isn’t. Nature reserves are ultimately eroded by commercial activity as is evidenced in India where tiger reserves are consistently being undermined by commercial activity on their borders and inside the reserves. Nature reserves are vulnerable to human population growth and therefore economic growth which ultimately leads to destruction of habitat and in the very long-term the destruction of the reserve itself. Nature reserves are a gift to wild animals. An enclave and a safe haven. But these are nowhere near as permanent a solution to conservation as the non-existence of humans in an area. That’s all wild animals need to thrive.
PBS had a documentary not long ago about the wolves of Chernobyl. It was eerie and beautiful.