Wild Animals & The Fear of Humans

Intentionally or not, humans are currently considered a super predator [1] to other animals and are considered an unsustainable threat to the ecosystem. It would make sense for other animals to fear us. We have adopted the theory that animals should stay fearful of humans, in hope to protect and promote conservation of their species. I decided to ask some friends on Facebook a question:

Here are some of the comments I got…




The Benefits of Wild Animals Fearing Humans.
Animals have expressed an intense fear of humans, in comparison to other animal predators. This fear resulted in wild animals hiding, a decline in forage intake and a reduction in reproductive success for animals such as elk or badgers [1]. Obviously, not all animals have this intense fear. However, measuring this disturbance is the highest priority to achieving conservation for the species [2].

Charles Darwin said it was a result of the instinctive tightening of muscles triggered by an evolved response to fear. He stood close to the outer glass of one of the largest vipers in the world. When the viper lunged toward him, on the other side, he expressed fear and jumped back. Writing, “My will and reason were powerless against the imagination of a danger which had never been experienced.” Later concluding that the fear response is an ancient instinct that has not been disturbed by modern civilization and is a method to promote survival [3].

So what I am getting from this is if an animal has an intense fear of you, it is for a reason, and we must acknowledge and respect this fact. Ideally, it seems to be in the animals best interest if we avoided disturbing them and their ecosystem when possible.

Building a Relationship with Other Species.
It makes sense to want animals to fear us, but we have to admit that it is not completely honest or authentic. Some of the human population is actively protecting animals, while others are causing direct harm. While the tactic of labeling all humans as dangerous to other animals is supported for good reason, should animals see the good side of humans too? Humans are populating the earth quickly and therefore our chances of coming across other animals are likely to increase as a result. For example, cities have been expanding where I live and we often take over areas of land that raccoons, bears, deer and other animals occupy. If we are intentionally giving animals the idea that all humans should be feared, and are not a friend, it is only half true. An animal can fight or flight in response to meeting a human. Potentially resulting in a fearful and aggressive behavior between humans and another species, because their understanding of our species could be misunderstood. Additionally, we must acknowledge that this method is lying to the animals. Our intention is that this method is in their best interest, however, we may want to consider adjusting this method in the future. This would evolve the method and encourage keeping a sustainable and peaceful earth in our constantly changing world.

“We are part of and not separate from the animal kingdom. We have to learn to live in greater harmony with the natural world because we are in the process of creating so much destruction that the point will come when mother nature can’t restore herself.” -Dr. Jane Goodall

If you believe we should lie to animals in an attempt to protect them, is that fair to the animals? If you believe in equality, should we provide them with the respect of honesty? Society has labeled all non-human animals as less superior and typically as vulnerable. This can seem to oppress and exerts control over other species. Is it still in their best interest? Is there a time when it may not be? The animals are aware of what we do; sometimes very bad and sometimes very good. They observe and acknowledge our species, they are intelligent, but are we over-stepping the boundaries in this perspective?

If the human population is increasing rapidly, we may not be able to remain divided from other animals. In this case, a strong relationship and clear understanding of each other could be very beneficial. Do we want to have an evil reputation? Or an authentic one? When we meet a stranger, of another species, we usually have a natural instinct to be cautious. We do not know this animal and do not know the consequence of interacting with them on an individual level. If we recognize that all animals (including humans) have unique personalities and are individual sentient beings. If we treat all animals as equals. Would that not be the desire?

In the present moment, until all animals have adapted this understanding, some may die due to trusting the wrong individual. Remembering that this happens within a human community too. The human community is based on trust: innocent until proven guilty. Excluding our species from another species divides us, which can be an attempt at conserving their natural life. However, should we be more considerate in including other species in our community and treat them as the individuals that they are?

It is not just humans who struggle with this decision of how to handle relationships between two, respectively, different species. In Figure 2, a group of lions is deciding how to handle an encounter with an injured fox. The lions may argue that helping this species would give it the wrong idea about lions and that the of should fear the lion since it is a predator. This situation is unique because the fox is injured and vulnerable and the lioness has sympathy for it. This resulted in breaking the law of nature in order to liberate the fox and treating it as an individual. This is not the only time that two species have been observed helping one another and ignoring the food chain law of nature.

Figure 2.

It is also interesting to observe how we have domesticated and merged with some species of dogs, cats, birds, horses, and many animals on sanctuaries. Proving that having a peaceful relationship with another species, which was once wild, has been possible.

I think considering more options is important for survival and our ability to adapt to the unpredictable events that occur in the world during evolution. Let me know your thoughts on the matter. Thanks for reading!

References:
[1] https://www.treehugger.com/animals/animals-are-more-afraid-humans-bears-wolves-and-dogs.html
Originally introduced: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/349/6250/858.full

[2] http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0050611

[3] http://www.theage.com.au/news/Reviews/Fear-a-cultural-history/2005/05/06/1115092634475.html?oneclick

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