As humans grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, some surprising things have been happening in the natural world. For one, there is less pollution. The air has cleared up from Los Angeles to Wuhan, China.
Wild animals are also finding they are more free to walk wherever they want. Goats have been meandering wherever they please in the Welsh town of Llandudno; buffalo are roaming the streets of India, deer are wandering the roads of Nara, Japan; and packs of jackals have overtaken a park in Tel Aviv.
The Washington Post’s Terrence McCoy, in his report on this resurgence of wildlife, said: “For centuries, humans have pushed wildlife into smaller and smaller corners of the planet. But now, with billions in isolation and city streets emptied, nature is pushing back.”
Let’s go back to the jackals in Tel Aviv. Associated Press photographer Oded Balilty has been documenting them as they gather in the city’s Hayarkon Park. Around this time of year, the park is usually populated by people jogging, children playing on jungle gyms, and families and friends picnicking. These days, however, the park belongs to packs of jackals.
Zvi Galin, director of Tel Aviv’s veterinary department, told Balilty that the jackals are in the park because they are desperately looking for food. According to Galin, jackals are scavengers that normally hang out on the edges of the park. But because people are staying at home because of the pandemic, the park is empty and that is encouraging the jackals to venture farther than they normally would in search of food.
Galin also told Balilty that jackals are usually afraid of people, but Balilty has observed people bringing plates of dog food to feed the animals. Galin notes that this is a big no-no because if people continue to feed the jackals, the animals could become comfortable in the presence of humans and then aggressive if they are not fed
I’ve seen other photos, as I’m sure most of us have, of animals exploring their newfound freedom during this global pandemic. But I was more struck by Balilty’s photos. Maybe it’s because jackals conjure up something more wild and sinister for me than goats or deer. But also, somewhere in the back of my head, scenes from Terry Gilliam’s post-apocalyptic movie “12 Monkeys” are reeling.
No doubt, all of this social isolation is creating a landscape in which animals are free to roam, but it’s also cultivating feelings of fear and anxiety for many of us. This is playing out in several ways. We are having more vivid dreams, and people have taken to the streets in multiple states demanding an end to the restrictions on going out. It’s kind of like those scenes from “12 Monkeys” aren’t that far-fetched.
This pandemic is clearly starting to take a wider toll on us, whether we’re infected or not.
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