Friday, January 18, 2013

District Monkey

After such an amazing month of fieldwork through the summer solstice, the pace and focus has changed dramatically. If there is ever a time to be office bound than the Pietermaritzburg summer isnt such a bad time.  My office remains in the cool 20's while its a humid 34 degrees (or more) outside.

I have been wading knee deep in literature and reference material while attempting to write my introductory chapters.  And this is set to continue for a few more weeks yet. This project has turned my attention to urban ecology. And moreso, the significance of urban wildlife as a source for the majority of the human-wildlife experience - as of 2008 more than half of the seven billion people on earth are urbanites.

The most highly modified places, the urban core is such an unfamiliar place for wildlife.  The concrete jungle, tarred and sealed surfaces, and buildings of brick and glass - yet pigeons and peregrines have no trouble making use of these human made analogs to their natural cliff habitats. There are just a small range of these urban exploiting species, but they can occur in great numbers.

Towards the suburban and peri-urban areas the structures decrease and the landscape is tending towards a mosaic of green-spaces (parks, reserves and buffers) and residential areas with gardens trees and lawns. Much more acceptable for animals of more typical forest and woodland areas, and these areas have the riches variety of urban adapting species.

Hazards abound in the form of speeding vehicles, electrical networks, fences and of course people.  It is actually surprising at how many species are able to adapt to urban environments, and Durban is blessed with variety. Thats for sure.

As the biology of the Crowned Eagle is viewed through the lens of urban ecology, there is much to consider about the eagles impacts and effects on the local communities; both wildlife and human.  And I am now looking at a number of complex interrelationships, predator and prey, the preys prey, disease transmission, and human dimensions of percieved relationships.  A few species thriving in the urban areas, hadeda ibis, dassies, and monkeys to name a hattrick of eagle favorites  All have their particular conflict issues.  Hadeda's are those flying vuvuzela's, forming rowdy roosts, and picking open garbage bags on collection day.  Dassies, well those little rock rabbits are apparently pretty benign, I dont hear people complain about dassies.  They seems to do well, forming colonies in storm drains, culverts, and rock banks. But monkeys...


Monkeys tend to polarize communities. Their intelligence and character can work in their favour, but their ability to use that intelligence for mischief is the origin of a lot of animosity.

I like monkeys, they are inquisitive and adaptable, and they provide valuable protien for the most magnificent predator around here.  But I have also been the victim of monkey burglary.  And I have a particular sore memory of having a delicious moist christmas cake, prepared as a thankyou gift for our December house-sitting in westville, devoured in minutes, right there on the kitchen bench, while Patrick and I were watching our eagle trap out in the lounge.  Cheeky sods.

Before I harp on about what they do, and what they dont do.  I would just say that I was doing a web search for more information on issues around 'the urban monkey'.  I found this.  I haven't had a chance to watch the series but the trailer gives you an idea of some of these urban wildlife conflict issues.

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