Animals have their own behavioral patterns concerning every aspect of their life, like finding foods, wooing mates, or fighting with their counterparts. Their behaviors are either innate or developed through observation. It is through such traits, animals act on the information they obtain and ensure their survival and reproductive success. Animal behavior is never the same. Animal behavior changes with time to adapt to climatic and situational changes. However, the dramatic changes in the environment due to climatic occurrences and human involvement, in particular, have altered their behavior to a considerable extent. According to some recent studies, animals that eat human food scraps are vulnerable to behavior change and human-borne illnesses like tuberculosis.
Some 18 billion pounds of wastes flow into our oceans every year. And, we know that animals are eating it.
Human Impact on Wildlife
We can measure human impact on animals through animals’ behavioral patterns. Human encroachment into wildlife habitation makes human-wildlife interactions more frequent, and thereby alter their behavior. However, with the expansion of human populations and climate changes, the intensity of behavior change has doubled, and conservation efforts have become a necessity.
Behavioral changes are the first and foremost response of animals to the human-altered environment. Such behavioral changes can probably improve an organism’s surviving and reproducing capability. For instance, with urbanization, several animals have changed their grazing patterns to avoid humans, while others have modified their vocal gestures so that they can get attention in loud surroundings.
Undoubtedly, environmental changes can also hinder physiological development and further deteriorate the capability of the organism’s behavioral response. For instance, male beetles get confused with the shiny brown surfaces of empty beer bottles for females. And, chemical contaminants are disturbing social recognition and shoaling activities in certain fishes. These are some of the examples of how human interference can cause animal behavior change.
Animals change their behavior: Dependents on Garbage get tuberculosis
Evidently, environmental modification is occurring everywhere where certain animal species are becoming more reliant on food wastes. In this context, appropriate waste management stratagems around ecological sites and forest regions can have a notable, positive impact on wildlife. A recent research found out fatal tuberculosis in a free-ranging African Elephant (Miller et al, 2019). According to the researchers, the elephant in the very case might have become infected through contaminated food or domestic waste from an Mtb-infected human. This is possible because elephants frequently use their trunk to investigate their environment.
According to new scientific studies, Animals and birds at various places in Uttarakhand are becoming dependent on food waste. The researchers, through direct surveillance and infrared camera, observed animal visits and food intake behavior at two chosen sites in the Nainital district of Uttarakhand. As the study published in the Journal Current Science, a sum of 32 species of animals and birds feed on the trash, and the average time spent by an animal or a bird on garbage piles is roughly 2.8 minutes.
The team conducted the research in Uttarakhand, where tourists deposit bundles of garbage in and around such natural habitats. The location gets important because of the existence of 200 bird species and 75 mammals in the region. The dumping site was differentiated by leftover foodstuff along with non-biodegradable wastes.
Garbage has both bodily and hazardous effects on animal life. Wild animals that consume plastics garbage confront toxic effects and harm their digestive tracts. The results include malnourishment, stomach ulcers, development problems, and early death.
Garbage dumps, full of detrimental products and chemicals, are rising as a grave risk to animal and plant life. Plastic waste causes health problems and unruly reproductive patterns in animals that accidentally digest it. It also causes ecological contamination through chemicals discharged from it.
Ocean Animals and Plastic
A ten-year-old whale found dead in Scotland had 220 pounds of plastic and other wastes in his digestive system. Why would an ocean marauder eat plastics? Animals eat plastic as it’s there and they don’t know better. To some, like anchovies, plastic may smell like food. Whales use echo-location to trace their food, and plastic trash may seem to them as food to eat. Plastic pollution is one of the potential threats to the ocean. To be specific, plastic is the most critical thing that disturbs ocean life.
human foods may lack species-specific nutritional requirements and include lethal components or transfer diseases.
Dumping grounds in India: A harsh reality
Landscapes all over India have become plastic garbage dump grounds. The primary factor for this is reckless tourism that is aggressive in the country. There have been reports of wildlife perils due to plastic garbage in Wildlife-rich areas. Nine deer at the Guindy National Park (GNP) in Chennai died after purportedly consuming 6kg of plastic bags. Similarly, human foods may lack species-specific nutritional requirements and include lethal components or transfer diseases. Consuming human food could also alter animal behavior, mounting the risk of damage or death of animals and birds in human-predominant landscapes. In addition to human-intervened behavior change, human-sponsored contagious diseases like tuberculosis also pose potential threats to animals.
Miller, M. A., Buss, P., Roos, E. O., Hausler, G., Dippenaar, A., Mitchell, E., van Schalkwyk, L., Robbe-Austerman, S., Waters, W. R., Sikar-Gang, A., Lyashchenko, K. P., Parsons, S., Warren, R., & van Helden, P. (2019). Fatal Tuberculosis in a Free-Ranging African Elephant and One Health Implications of Human Pathogens in Wildlife. Frontiers in veterinary science, 6, 18. https://doi.org/10.3389/fvets.2019.00018