Why would these animals choose our concrete jungles over their natural environments?

All over the world, animals of all different shapes and sizes are moving to the city. There are wild boars taking over the streets of Berlin, peregrine falcons nesting atop city skyscrapers, and monkeys causing chaos in India. But why would these animals choose our concrete jungles over their natural environments?

Just like humans, these creatures come to the city looking for opportunity, just a different kind. For these animals, the city provides an endless buffet of food to scavenge, and protection from their natural predators.

Some species, like the raccoon, don’t just survive in the city, they thrive in it! And some are evolving at an astonishing pace to make the new environment work for them. What brings these animals to the city in the first place? How can they survive outside of their natural element? And what’s their relationship like with humans?

As our cities expand, more and more species are becoming urbanized. In some cases, they enrich the lives of their human counterparts, but in others, they cause nothing but trouble. Meet the monkeys of urban India and Thailand. In the city of New Delhi, approximately 30,000 monkeys call the streets home, and they terrorize local humans. They steal food, break into parliament buildings, and have even pushed people off balconies!

Yes, it’s a big problem, but it’s a problem that was created by humans. As India’s cities expand into the wilderness, they are invading the monkeys’ natural habitats, leaving them no choice but to adapt to city life.

On top of that, it’s Hindu tradition to feed the sacred monkeys, and as long as there’s a continuous supply of food, they’re not going anywhere. On the other side of the world, in North America, a different kind of furry creature thrives within the city limits. Raccoons live 10 times more densely in cities than they do in their rural habitats. They’re very versatile; they can eat just about anything and can find shelter in any of the countless buildings or garbage piles scattered throughout a metropolis.

With basically no predators in the city, the raccoon population is continually growing and becoming smarter. Their hand-like front paws allow them to break into complicated garbage bins and sheds, giving them access to a whole buffet of discarded snacks.

Another city dweller who lives off scavenging human meals is the wild boar. But instead of targeting the humans’ garbage, boars go for something a little more classy: their gardens. In Berlin, there are about 3000 wild boars who have arrived through the forests and green spaces surrounding the city. Without any natural predators or hunting dangers, the boars are free to gobble up natural resources from parks and people’s gardens.

Some residents say they’re getting a little too comfortable. They ransack carefully grown flowers and veggies, they cause car accidents, and they’ve even been known to attack other animals and humans.
But not every creature that moves into the city is despised by its human counterparts. To see one that’s being embraced by the city, all you have to do is look up.

Peregrine falcons were once on the brink of extinction, but they’ve made a comeback, thanks in part to city living. Residents have welcomed the increasing population by installing nest boxes and trays to buildings, encouraging them to nest.

What brought them to the city in the first place? Well, for one thing, there’s a lot more real estate. Tall buildings mimic their natural cliff- face habitats, providing good vantage points and a flat ledge to nest on.

As is the case with most people moving to an urban center, the peregrines did have to adapt to less personal space. While most rural falcons have a territory of 4 km (2.5 miles,) that shrinks to just over 2 km (1.5 miles) in the city. But, with the plethora of prey at their disposals and the protection from hunters, that sacrifice seems to be more than worth it.

So the next time someone complains there’s not enough nature in the city, tell them to look harder. Urban animals are all around us, constantly adapting and evolving to our creations.


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