Researchers found that the taming vibe that eco-tourism promotes may be detrimental rather than helpful to wildlife creatures. In a new study, it was discovered that being way too friendly to the animals may leave it to be too comfortable with humans, even with its predators.
Vacationing in the wildlife is increasingly becoming popular in the recent times. Animals are given more and more chances for human interaction. While it may look all friendly and positive, researchers warned that it may pose hazardous threats too.
The primary point of the report is that the presence of humans in nature alters the manner with which animals behave and act. The said changes may affect other aspects of their lives in ways that are not initially apparent.
"When animals interact in 'benign' ways with humans, they may let down their guard," said study author Daniel Blumstein of the University of California, Los Angeles. He added that as animals start to feel more comfortable with humans, it may be ignited to heighten its adventurous side. If the developed boldness is practiced by the animals when the real predators come, then it may exhibit higher death cases.
Eco-tourism may be compared to urbanization or domestication in terms of resulting to habituation, which is a type of taming. Proofs have shown that silver foxes that have been domesticated were found to be more compliant and less scared primarily due to evolutionary development, but also because of frequent human contact. In the same way, domesticated fish also exhibit dangerous behaviors, such that it reacts less to simulated attacks from predators. In the suburbs, birds and fox squirrels have also been observed to be bolder as it takes longer time for it to take off.
Human in wildlife may also drive away natural predators from attacking prey. With this, small animals are given that safe feeling, urging them to become more audacious. For example, vervet monkeys have lesser encounters with leopards. Pronghorn and elks exposed to tourists are also found to have limited guarding behaviors and more feeding activities.
Blumstein said that the team is looking forward to encouraging more research about wildlife and human contact. At present, it is crucial to have in-depth knowledge about how different species in diverse situations react to human presence, as well as under what exact states human interaction may place them at risk.
The study was published in Trends in Ecology & Evolution on Friday, Oct. 9.