by Freddie Bruhin-Price
Chimpanzees, elephants and wolves are finding new ways to survive as their habitats increasingly become hives of human industry, new studies have shown. Scientists observing animal communities in Africa have found that the creatures have adapted to their habitat being used as farmland in a number of ways. Cheeky chimps have been found foraging at night to steal crops and planting their own secret gardens with helped from farmed cocoa beans.
As globalization and population increase continue uninhibited, wild animals have begun to see their natural surroundings altered beyond recognition. Some habitats are now road sites, others small settlements, with large areas of previously untouched land being used to house people and farm crops such as fruit and wheat.
In response to these changes, according to the findings of Dr Kimberley Brockings of Oxford Brookes University, chimpanzees in Guinea have adopted some rather surprising tactics in order to increase their chances of survival. The dastardly scamps have been observed stealing mango, papaya, orange, maize and cassava, as well as a variety of other fruit and grain crops. Though it was previously assumed that they only resorted to theft when food was scarce, these chimps have repeatedly been caught stealing. The exotic fruits have even been used by the more gregarious males to attract and impress mating partners!
The animals were spotted going to extreme lengths to sustain their communities. Some chimpanzees had to cross roads to reach crop fields. To ensure safety in perilous situations, their convoy was organised so that males were at the front and rear, leaving the women and children sandwiched in safety.
Chimpanzees are not the only animals to have displayed traits which suggests conscious efforts to adapt to human presence in order to sustain themselves. Wolves have been seen using roads as shortcuts, a Scandinavian study has announced. However, these wolves have displayed sagacious traits such as avoiding the busier roads where humans might be found in greater numbers, and foraging during hours of darkness, a tactic which they shared with chimps and elephants who live closely with human settlers.
According to the BBC, however, “Scientists agree that the adaptation of some species’ behaviour to human pressures is not an indicator that they can survive in human-dominated habitats long-term.” In fact, there could be a number of factors which, in the long run, result in these ingenious creatures becoming at even greater risk from human aggressors and man-made dangers thanks to their ingenuity. Poachers may now have greater access to settlements of wolves thanks to their presence on roads. Farmers may even employ crop protection methods to prevent animals from affecting their yield.
What’s more, humans may resort to killing the animals in defiance of their mischievous escapades amongst fields of crops. Horror stories of this ilk include one cited by Dr Hockings about a chimpanzee who was killed in Uganda for eating sugar cane, despite chimpanzees being a protected species. Surely we ought to be aware of the disruption we are causing to these animals and to celebrate their intelligence, for they are adapting admirably, despite being forced to do so through no fault of their own.