Monday, July 27, 2009

Urban Wildlife Watch: Marine Mammals

Living in the middle of the United States, I often forget that major coastal cities experience a variety of urban wildlife that seems exotic to me. I am especially thinking of marine life such as dolphins, whales, sharks, sea turtles, seals, crabs, sea birds, and the like. I image it must be a very beautiful site to see these creatures while enjoying a day at the beach or strolling along the boardwalk.

photo credit: The website -the Biz Levity files

However, I am also reminded that anywhere people and thriving natural ecosystems meet, human-animal conflicts are also likely to occur. Observing urban wildlife can be wonderful, but some animals we only ever really notice them after they have died. I think of how commonly I come across dead opossums and raccoons as opposed to living ones. **Warning, previous link includes a real pictures of road kill.** Roadkill can be disgusting, but for hard to observe animals it's the best way for scientists and naturalists to prove an animal lives in a certain area. It also presents us with a chance to study the animal, learn more about it's anatomy and physiology, eating habits, and what diseases, parasites, and microbes it is vulneable to and successful against. We can use this information to create policy and make recommendations to government and non-government agencies. Plus, it presents the general public a chance to see an animal close-up. Recently, a fin whale was discovered dead beneath the bow of a cruise ship preparing to dock in Vancouver, Canada. Ship Docks With Dead Fin Whale on Bow. (Check it out the link includes a short video from an observer at the scene.)

photo credit: The Greenlight Show blog - an Environmental Radio show aimed at young audiences in Melbourne, Australia

Though many of us may not think of whales are urban wildlife, they indeed can be (There's college text book about them). Think about all of the urban areas along the northern coasts of the east and west sides of the North American continent. Sightings of whales and orkas were recorded there for a few hundred years. And think about the fishing and whaling towns in the same areas. However, this is the largest case of roadkill imagineable, but if you checked out the National Geographic special on the Blue Whale, it discussed this very problem. Much bigger ships - like cargo ships and cruise ships - are travelling along routes in the sea that intersect with the traditional swimming routes of these fantastic creatures, including threatened species like the fin whale.

At the very least, I hope we gain some important insight into the biology of the species and continue a dialogue about how we humans might successfully coexist with our beautiful wild cousins - both marine and terrestrial.


Miriam Goldstein said...

Yay urban ocean! You might also be interested in the legal war over some harbor seals that have taken up residence in one of San Diego's richest neighborhoods. Tourists and nonresident locals enjoy viewing the seals but neighborhood residents hate the extra traffic and admittedly unappealing smell.

christina m. chia said...

Thanks for this post - it's a fascinating way of looking at something I, for one, have taken for granted (i.e. ocean = "wild" = out there).

Anonymous said...

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