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Wildlife has existed in urban areas since records began. However, the discipline of urban ecology is relatively new and one that is undergoing rapid growth. All wildlife in urban areas will interact with humans to some degree. With rates of urbanisation increasing globally, there is a pressing need to understand the type and nature of human–wildlife interactions within urban environments, to help manage, mitigate or even promote these interactions. Much research attention has focussed on the core topic of human–wildlife conflict. This inherent bias in the literature is probably driven by the ease with which it can be quantified and assessed. Human–wildlife conflicts in terms of disease transmission, physical attack and property damage are important topics to understand. Equally, the benefits of human–wildlife interactions are becoming increasingly recognised, despite being harder to quantify and generalise. Wildlife may contribute to the provision of ecosystem services in urban areas, and some recent work has shown how interactions with wildlife can provide a range of benefits to health and wellbeing. More research is needed to improve understanding in this area, requiring wildlife biologists to work with other disciplines including economics, public health, sociology, ethics, psychology and planning. There will always be a need to control wildlife populations in certain urban situations to reduce human–wildlife conflict. However, in an increasingly urbanised and resource-constrained world, we need to learn how to manage the risks from wildlife in new ways, and to understand how to maximise the diverse benefits that living with wildlife can bring.
Context. As humans become increasingly urban, the need for conservation of nature in cities increases and requires an understanding of the patterns and processes of urban ecosystems. In particular, because humans are the most dominant species in urban areas, understanding the role humans play in these ecosystems (direct and indirect) will be of primary importance.
Aims. We examine the diversity and composition of bird species across an urbanisation gradient in two cities (Berlin, Germany, and Seattle, Washington, USA). We determine the degrees of species urban tolerance and examine how certain biological traits of species, namely, diet, whether or not species use bird feeders, nest sites and innovation rate, characterise species urban tolerance. Finally, we determine whether human provisioning (bird feeders and nest boxes) influences what types of species persist across the urbanisation gradient.
Methods. We surveyed bird abundance and species richness using point counts and surveyed human provisioning by conducting door-to-door interviews of residents across an urbanisation gradient in Berlin and Seattle.
Key results. We found that patterns of species richness were similar in both cities, but that species composition in Berlin changed less across the urbanisation gradient than it did in Seattle. The majority of birds in Berlin were urban tolerant, whereas in Seattle, they were moderately urban tolerant and intolerant. A cluster analysis revealed that, in general, in Berlin, omnivorous, open-nesting birds that use bird feeders and have relatively high innovation rates tended to be urban tolerant. In Seattle, birds that were mostly omnivorous, nested in open cups, and used bird feeders tended to be moderately urban tolerant and they were influenced by provisioning of food by humans.
Conclusion. Urbanisation and human interactions with birds can act as ecological filters, favouring certain bird species that can lead to varying species compositions across an urban gradient. These differences in species composition across the gradient may be more noticeable in younger cities than in older cities where the filtering process has been occurring for longer time.
Implications. By providing a variety of habitats and supplementing natural foods and nesting places, urban planners and residents can help conserve bird diversity in urban areas.
Context. The spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) lives in remarkably close proximity to humans in the degraded and prey-depleted landscapes in Tigray in northern Ethiopia, predominantly feeding on human organic waste.
Aims. We sought to provide an estimate of spotted hyena abundance at garbage dumps and open agricultural areas across Tigray.
Methods. We used 28 calling stations, including 12 at garbage dumps and 16 in open agricultural areas located in nine randomly selected urban districts across Tigray. We also used 65 randomly placed calling stations in three districts to establish spotted hyena abundance in Tigray. We also collected 610 scat samples during wet (n = 134) and dry season (n = 476) so as to identify diet.
Key results. A total of 398 hyenas responded, including 356 hyenas at garbage dumps and 42 hyenas in open agricultural areas. The response at the garbage dumps was significantly higher. Approximately 2525 hyenas were estimated from 65 calling stations in three districts. There was no statistically significant difference in the diet of hyena between wet and dry seasons for any food item. Frequency occurrence of prey remains of donkeys and cattle were dominant, followed by human, goat and sheep, respectively.
Key conclusions. We infer that a very large hyena population persists in unprotected areas of Tigray in northern Ethiopia, where they concentrate around urban waste dumps at night for scavengeable food resources, mainly originating from slaughterhouse waste of livestock.
Implications. We suggest promotion of nature-based ecotourism of this exceptional coexistence of hyenas and humans in Ethiopia. We raise questions about local hyena social structure, movement, home-range, activity pattern and the implications for human–hyena coexistence.
Context. Reptiles, especially snakes, can cause a fear reaction in the public and are, therefore, a good model to examine human–wildlife conflicts. Human city dwellers often respond to the presence of snakes or other reptiles by calling out the responsible agency for animal control, which has to mediate the situation.
Aims. To determine how the temporal and spatial occurrence of human–reptile conflicts were associated with environmental conditions and socio-economic factors in a large Brazilian city (Belo Horizonte).
Methods. The callout reports of the Environmental Police of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, over a 7-year period from 2002 to 2008 to mediate reptile conflicts were analysed. Densities of callouts were determined by kernel-density estimator and matched with the vegetation cover and land use, to determine how the environment affected reptile callout distribution. The study area was divided into nine regions with different socio-economic and demographic characteristics to evaluate the possible effects of human factors in the conflict.
Key results. Reptile callouts were almost exclusively about snakes or freshwater turtles, despite a large population of wild lizards. In general, the difference in callout distribution of snakes and freshwater turtles was the result of different attitudes from city dwellers on the basis of socio-economic characteristics. Snakes were less frequent as urbanisation increased, whereas freshwater turtles were associated with water or open areas. Significantly, more conflicts occurred during the rainy season. People in areas of high per capita income used the Environmental Police as mediators more often than did those in poorer areas, but callouts were not related to human population density.
Conclusions. Habitat type and climate were significantly predictive of human–reptile conflicts. Human populations with higher salaries and education levels tended to resolve their conflicts with reptiles using official mediators whether the reptile was venomous or not.
Implications. The environmental and climatic data show that it is possible to predict when and where human–reptile conflicts are most likely. Thus, official mediators can use this information for targeted education programs. Such education programs should emphasise, at all levels of society, how to deal with such conflicts sensibly, so as to ensure the best outcomes for people and reptiles.
Context. Primates are one of the most charismatic and widely studied vertebrate groups. However, the study of new world primates in green patches within urban areas has been neglected. Such primates have been viewed as a source of human–animal conflict; however, their ecological importance to urban ecosystems and their role in human well being is poorly understood.
Aims. To increase understanding of both ecological and socioeconomical factors affecting the distribution, density and group sizes of urban marmosets in a large Brazilian city (Belo Horizonte).
Methods. A map of vegetation cover and land use was produced and employed to investigate the distribution of marmosets. An online questionnaire was extensively publicised, which permitted the public to report the occurrence or not of marmosets near their residences. For sites with low salary levels and low internet availability, face-to-face interviews were conducted. Additionally, field surveys were conducted in 120 green areas identified by spatial analysis as potential areas of occurrence. The human population density, salary levels and green areas were posteriorly correlated with marmoset distribution.
Key results. Despite the urbanisation and high human population density, green fragments within the city still housed marmoset groups. However, the presence of green areas did not always indicate primate presence. Group presence was significantly related to the size of parks or green areas and negatively related to built-up areas, and human density. Salary levels were related to more forested streets and possibly tolerance. Marmosets were classified as urban utilisers.
Conclusions. The human–wildlife conflict with marmoset species was relatively low, owing to marmoset avoidance of built-up areas. The interaction of marmoset species and city dwellers was mainly limited to borders of forest fragments and inside city parks, and appeared to be human motivated.
Implications. This study showed the importance of public involvement in wildlife studies in urban environments; clarifying the interaction between city dwellers and wild species is essential to mitigate negative interactions.
Context. To successfully inhabit urban environments, birds must cope with the presence of people and vehicles at high densities. One hypothesised component of such coping is a high level of boldness, which may be inherent in all, or a particular subset of, species’ members as the result of natural selection or achieved through phenotypic plasticity allowing rapid behavioural adjustment to human disturbance.
Aims. To determine how much bolder urban little ravens (Corvus mellori) are than exurban conspecifics. To determine whether urban little ravens vary in their boldness as a function of local pedestrian and vehicular traffic volume, an important issue with respect to adjusting to the urban environment that has received little attention.
Methods. We assessed the relative boldness of free-living urban and exurban little ravens using the Flight Initiation Distance (FID) paradigm. The boldness of urban little ravens was also tested by measuring the reaction of individuals in areas with varying traffic volumes to a potentially startling sound stimulus (PSS).
Key results. On average, exurban ravens approached by a researcher had FIDs nearly 6-fold longer, escaped 1.4 times more by flying and fled >10 m 3.4 times more than urban conspecifics. Urban ravens in areas with varying pedestrian and vehicular traffic volumes had similar FIDs and mostly reacted similarly to a PSS, although retreat behaviour from a human and the PSS was influenced by traffic volume.
Conclusions. Boldness seems to be important in facilitating urban dwelling by little ravens. Antipredator behaviour did not appear to be strongly adjusted to local variation in traffic volume within the urban environment, but the reason for this is unknown. Further research with more extensive traffic surveying could help to answer this question.
Implications. The results are consistent with little ravens’ urban boldness occurring through initial urban settlement by a bolder subset of individuals. The importance of boldness in coping with traffic should feature more prominently in urban boldness research.
Context. Urbanisation is often regarded as a major threat to global biodiversity. Although wildlife is frequently affected by urbanisation, some species may actually benefit from it. Bats are among the commonest wild mammals in human-modified areas, and some species seem particularly well suited to exploit urban habitats where they find roosting and foraging opportunities.
Aims. We investigated habitat selection around roosts of synurbic Kuhl’s pipistrelles, Pipistrellus kuhlii, in Italy.
Methods. We measured the effects of the amount of urban habitat on bat reproductive timing and success in human-modified environments.
Key results. We found that P. kuhlii selects roosts surrounded by areas featuring urban habitats, especially those subject to urban development. Colonies in cities and suburbs advanced parturition time and produced more pups than those in rural areas. Permanent water sources and artificial lights in the surrounding habitats also seemed to favour the species reproductive success, particularly in developing urban areas.
Conclusions. Our results showed that this bat benefits from urbanisation and provided new insights on the effects of this major process on animal ecology and conservation in urban environments.
Implications. Although the ecological flexibility and positive response to urbanisation of P. kuhlii may help explain its recent range expansion, the role of climate change as a potential driver of this process has yet to be tested.
Context. As urbanisation continues to increase on a global scale, people are becoming increasingly distanced from nature. Fewer opportunities to encounter nature mean that the benefits of engaging with nature are often not realised by urban residents. In response to this, there is a growing number of initiatives that aim to connect people with nature, for the benefit of individuals, communities and nature conservation. However, in order to maximise these benefits, it is important to understand the potential transformative effects for participants, both on a personal level and in terms of wider impacts.
Aims. In this study, we evaluate the social outcomes of a participatory wildlife conservation project in an urban area in north-east England, using hedgehogs as the focal species.
Methods. Based on an approach of community volunteers working alongside scientific researchers in an evaluation of hedgehog urban habitat use, we examine the transformative effects of this involvement at the individual and community levels via qualitative semi-structured interviews with community volunteers.
Key results. Participants were motivated by personal wellbeing factors such as enjoying proximity to the study species, learning and social factors. Participation in the study itself indicates a degree of motivation for engaging with a study of this sort. Nevertheless, involvement in the study was a successful vehicle for increasing participants’ engagement with nature both during the study and potentially into the future, particularly in terms of biological recording and gardening for wildlife.
Conclusions. Participation in a wildlife study is a positive experience for many volunteers, leading to actual and potential changes in both personal and wider social outcomes.
Implications. Participatory initiatives such as the one described have an important role to play in signposting and supporting volunteers to follow future environmental aspirations and maximise the personal and social benefits associated with participation. This could be enhanced by ensuring that volunteering opportunities are linked in with pre-existing community-based networks that can act as advocates for environmental and wildlife conservation.