Wildlife, including foxes, coyotes and deer, may be more likely to invade human spaces as people stay inside for self-isolation. (Photo: Rene Fisher/Can Geo Photo Club)
As reported by The New York Times, animals in tourist areas are going hungry, having lost a significant source of food: humans. Animals who have become dependent on humans for food can become hyper-aggressive when that food source dries up.
However there might be a benefit for wildlife as a result of the pandemic.
“It’s a bit of an opportunity,” says James Page, biodiversity and species at risk expert with the Canadian Wildlife Federation.
People isolating at home and limiting their travels to their own neighbourhoods have an opportunity to slow down, observe and appreciate what’s around them.
“People are observing what’s around their homes, appreciating nature, taking time to think about our impact and our relationship with nature,” says Page. “Maybe that will ultimately lead to rethinking how we go about our daily activities as things at some point get back to some sense of normalcy.”
Page says even more beneficial is the timing of the COVID-19 pandemic: spring is when many species come out of hibernation or begin migrating or breeding and are therefore more vulnerable to disturbance from human activity.
“Cars, trains, ships — inevitably all three of those have an impact on wildlife through direct collision, sound or disturbance,” notes Page. Fewer vehicles on the road during the pandemic could mean less wildlife mortality.
Lasting impact on the global economy
Pollution and wildlife reactions aren’t the only second-order impacts COVID-19 is likely to have on the globe. Economists are using the 2003 SARS epidemic to try to contextualize the lasting economic impact of the pandemic, but there are a few key differences, including how much the global economy now relies on China.
In 2020, China’s economy accounts for 16.3 per cent of the world’s GDP, compared with just four per cent in 2003. Other factors, like the near-complete shutdown of global tourism, will also play a huge role in the likely upcoming recession.
According to United Overseas Bank, a global economics research group, the real concern for second-order impacts will come if the outbreak lasts longer than six months. To mitigate some of these impacts, government authorities can make adjustments to fiscal budgets and policies.
Applying lessons to climate change
While COVID-19 has shaken the world, some experts are offering a stark reminder that the pandemic is critically connected to another emergency — climate change.
“The two emergencies are in fact quite similar. Both have their roots in the world’s current economic model — that of the pursuit of infinite growth at the expense of the environment on which our survival depends — and both are deadly and disruptive,” wrote Vijay Kolinjivadi, an ecological researcher from McGill University, in an op-ed.