Things That Matter

With Humans Indoors Because Of The Pandemic, Animals Are Going Wild Around The Globe

As many of us struggle with the new reality of staying indoors to stay safe, the Earth seems to be enjoying this new found human-free existence. Most of us are connecting with friends and family online; those of us lucky enough to work from home aren’t stuck in traffic anymore; and often overcrowded tourist destinations are free from crowds.

These empty streets, parks, and beaches have resulted in decreased air pollution around the world and animals are returning to habitats they abandoned long ago. Despite the ongoing health crisis and uncertainty we all face, the idea that the Earth is getting a chance to heal itself a bit during all this craziness is a small sliver of hope.

Air pollution is down by record numbers across the globe.

The Coronavirus pandemic has had a major impact on the global environment. Satellite images from regions across the world show a dramatic decrease in pollution. For the first time in more than 30 years, towns and villages across India have a panoramic view of the Himalaya Mountains.

The last time that cities in the state of Punjab, like Jalandhar, saw the Himalayan Mountains was about 30 years ago.

National Public Radio (NPR) reported that the concentration of fine particulate matter in the air had dramatically dropped since Modi first imposed the countrywide lockdown in March. The Air Quality Index fell as low as 45 late in the month, when a normal value in late March is around 160. India’s central pollution control board reported that a total of 85 cities in India showed improvement just one week after the lockdown.

In China, lockdowns and other measures resulted in a 25 percent reduction in carbon emissions, which one Earth systems scientist estimated may have saved at least 77,000 lives over two months.

Even LA, a city notorious for air pollution, has benefited from the state’s stay-at-home order.

Credit: Reddit / KnowNothingWiseGuy

The mental image many people have of the Los Angeles skyline is one obscured by smog, with thick air pollution hanging over its downtown buildings. But with the city – and the entire state of California – under stay-at-home orders to stem the deadly outbreak of coronavirus, something dramatic has happened to the air in LA.

On Tuesday, LA saw some of the cleanest air of any major city in the world, according to IQAir, a Swiss air quality technology company which also monitors pollution levels in cities around the globe. And beginning in early March of this year, EPA air quality data shows that the city of Angels experienced its longest stretch of “good” air quality since at least 1995.

Meanwhile, wild animals are starting to take advantage of the lack of humans overcrowding their habitats.

Mexico’s Oaxacan coastline is home to La Ventanilla Beach, a popular tourist spot. The ecotourism destination is home to a lagoon in which the crocodiles normally spend most of their time, avoiding visitors who come from nearby Mazunte, Zipolite, Puerto Escondido and other destinations to snap photos of them from tour boats.

But when the tourists are away, the crocs will play, and a photo of five large reptiles enjoying the otherwise empty beach made the rounds on social media.

Mexico’s federal government closed all beaches in early April to prevent people from gathering in groups and further spreading the coronavirus. Since then there have been a number of observations of wildlife reclaiming spaces they previously avoided due to human presence.

There have also been reports of jaguars and leatherback sea turtles re-entering spaces in Cancún from which human activity had kept them away for decades.

Videos have captured the animals in Quintana Roo, where the popular resorts of Cancun and Riviera Maya are located. One video, which has been watched 120,000 times on Facebook, shows a huge crocodile swimming along a canal between balconies. The people filming express their shock at the animal as he swims past without stopping for the people watching him.

Another video captured a jaguar roaming the streets of Tulum. According to local media, the big cat was spotted near the Grand Sirenis Riviera Maya Resort & Spa.

A leatherback sea turtle was even caught laying 112 eggs on the beach in front of a luxury hotel in Cancun. Alfredo Arellano, secretary of ecology and environment of the state of Quintana Roo, said the turtle sighting was “very unusual”.

He explained: “On an average, we only have one leatherback turtle nesting per year in the entire state and the nesting season doesn’t start until May.”

Meanwhile, in California, wild animals are being seen in record numbers across the state’s national parks.

According to SFGate, an employee from Yosemite National Park claims that since the park closed to the public in late March, the sightings of large animals including bears, bobcats, and coyotes have gone up fourfold. 

“It’s not like [bears] aren’t usually here,” Yosemite employee Dane Peterson tells SFGate, “it’s that they usually hang back at the edges, or move in the shadows.”

Meanwhile, in the UK, the Washington Post reports that a tribe of goats overtook the streets of Wales. Video taken by resident Andrew Stuart shows the animals nonchalantly roaming the empty streets and helping themselves to a meal of hedges and flower gardens.

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