Behavioral data from areas of low disturbance can serve as a baseline of comparison for behaviors in disturbed areas and as standards for individuals in captive breeding programs. For example, an understanding of how wild animals select habitats in undisturbed areas allows conservationists to effectively create protected areas and release individuals in captive breeding programs in preferred habitats, thus increasing the chances of species survival Swaisgood ; Indermaur and Schmidt Protected areas such as national parks become integral for observing the species, processes, and interactions that are otherwise altered, unobservable, or nonexistent in areas manipulated by humans Davis, Graber, and Acker Alternatively, in areas of moderate to high disturbance, behavioral studies can help assess the degree and complexity of anthropogenic impacts as well as aid in designing management decisions.
An understanding of animal ranging across large areas, for instance, informs preserve design and possible optimization of connectivity between preserves Reed Along these lines, protected areas with high levels of human disturbance offer unique opportunities for research to directly influence management policies within focal preserves or parks, as well as in similar ecosystems outside the protected areas Parsons ; Ramirez For instance, the effects of recreation and tourism on wildlife have become a concern in many protected areas.
How understanding animal behavior can support wildlife conservation - British Ecological Society
Thus, researchers are now performing studies to quantify these effects, such as observing the minimum distance from humans tolerated by large ungulates Malo, Acebes, and Traba ; Stankowich , or the maximum number of boats tolerated by marine animals Williams and Ashe These studies are highly informative in the creation of park regulations that protect animals from behavioral disturbances, while allowing visitors to observe the animals they have come to see. My research falls at this intersection of animal behavior and conservation. In particular, I study the impacts of human presence on the gelada Theropithecus gelada , a primate species, in the Simien Mountains National Park, Ethiopia.
The park encompasses 23, ha of prime gelada habitat: steep cliffs and mountaintop plateaus ranging from 2, to 4, m in elevation.
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Many of the species found in the park are endemic, or especially adapted to this high-altitude environment, and are found only in the Ethiopian highlands Harmsen, Spence, and MaHaney ; Debonnet, Melamari, and Bomhard In fact, Ethiopia first established the park in to protect the only remaining population of the Walia ibex Capra walie , a mountain goat on the brink of extinction Debonnet, Melamari, and Bomhard Other notable wildlife species endemic to the Ethiopian highlands found in the park include the most endangered canid in the world, the Simien wolf Canis simiensis Yihune, Bekele, and Tefera , and the only officially protected population of geladas.
Geladas are unique primates in that they are terrestrial, eat grass, and travel in groups of up to individuals across the mountaintop plateaus Kawai ; Iwamoto , making them the easiest wildlife species to track and follow in the park.
These traits and others, such as a large vocal repertoire and a conspicuous patch of bare skin on its chest that may indicate fertility or status, make the gelada a prime study species. My research was conducted in conjunction with the University of Michigan Gelada Research Project and complements other ongoing studies on gelada behavior Roberts et al.
The Simien Mountains National Park is one of the aforementioned preserved areas with high levels of human disturbance, with a resident human population that relies on subsistence farming and pastoralism. As of , the park supported an estimated 4, people within its boundaries, an additional 30, people just outside the park, and the crops grown and livestock raised by the local people Debonnet, Melamari, and Bomhard The human population in and around the park was expected to increase by 1.
Tourism within the park has more than tripled from to , with over 17, people visiting in Berhanu Gebre, Regional Director, Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority, personal communication, November 17, In addition, a road built through the park in the late s has increased access to, and vehicular travel through, the park Hurni and Ludi This increased overlap in land use by native species, local residents, and tourists inevitably leads to more direct and indirect interactions between humans and wildlife, such as geladas.
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It is important to address the nature and frequency of these interactions, and whether they affect the very wildlife that aid in making the park so unique and attractive. Some species in the park have clearly been affected, and UNESCO placed the park on the list of World Heritage in Danger in , citing human land use that had degraded the land, depleted resources, and negatively impacted the Walia ibex population Debonnet, Melamari, and Bomhard In order to assess the effect of human presence on geladas, I spent the summer of in the Simien Mountains National Park addressing three specific levels of interaction Fig.
First, the overlap in resource use grass consumption between geladas and livestock may reduce the amount of that resource available in areas where both graze Dunbar I quantified the degree of this resource use overlap by measuring the aboveground grass available in areas grazed by both livestock and geladas and comparing it to that available in areas grazed only by geladas.
Second, human cultivation of land within gelada ranging areas both reduces the amount of grass present and increases human presence, and thus geladas may change their ranging movements in cultivated areas Fahrig I addressed this potential effect by mapping croplands and using hourly gelada movement data acquired through direct observation to determine whether geladas avoid these areas or move through these areas quickly. Finally, direct encounters between geladas and humans or human commensals such as livestock and companion animals may change gelada behavior, for example, by causing flight from the encounter Beale In order to understand these encounters, I followed groups of geladas and recorded all such encounters, noting whether the interaction was with a person, domesticated animal, or vehicle; the reaction of the gelada; and when the encounter occurred.
The goal of my research was to determine the nature of the above interactions and use that knowledge to aid the park in conservation efforts. Park policies, such as rules specifying the minimum distance a person should maintain from animals, regulations on foot and vehicular traffic, or restrictions on further development in the park, will be far more effective if based on relevant empirical data.
A concluding chapter considers possible future contributions of research in animal behavior to wildlife conservation. Will do much to encourage more conservation biologists to take a greater interest in better considering animal behavior patterns as an essential element in making better management decisions.
General Introduction Chapter 2. Wildlife Management Chapter 8. Genetic Diversity and Individual Differences Chapter Conclusion Chapter Where Do We Go from Here?https://iratsinwhirl.tk
Animal Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation
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