Gulf states have tightened lockdown measures in large cities, and with Dubai’s shops closed and almost no people on the streets, peacocks that normally live in nearby gardens ventured out to explore other areas of the Middle Eastern city.


It took just a few days of lockdown for baby rabbits to dare to cross once-bustling roads in Christchurch, New Zealand, and less than a week for a puma to descend from the Andes Mountains into Santiago, one of South America’s busiest capitals. In Barcelona, wild boar, a familiar sight for citizens on the city’s outskirts, have made their way into Diagonal Avenue, an eight-lane thoroughfare. 

It’s surprising and strange, yes, but also meaningful. Research suggests that ecosystems can rebound with speed once human intervention subsides. A review published last week determined that damaged ecosystems and wildlife can be rebuilt if the right conditions are achieved. Marine ecosystems in particular can substantially recover by 2050, according to the study, led by Carlos Duarte at the Red Sea Research Center in Saudi Arabia.

Of course, a deadly pandemic that brings about a sudden economic collapse is no way to sustainably restore threatened ecosystems. Yet it’s a clear reminder of how quickly the wild world responds when humans take a step back.

Scientists have tracked this pattern for decades. The number of humpback whales migrating from Antarctica to eastern Australia has been increasing each year, from a few hundred animals in 1968, when commercial whaling was banned, to more than 40,000 today. In 1880 only 20 breeding northern elephant seals had survived decades of hunting, and today there are more than 200,000.

Hunting bans, habitat restoration, and the reduction of water pollution are all linked to the recovery of marine species. The continuation of these practices—and, most of all, working to mitigate the effects of climate change—would contribute to oceans recovering significantly by 2050, the researchers said.

It’s more difficult for land ecosystems to bounce back because both the scale of extinction and the scale of human presence are so large there, said Duarte, a marine science professor. But these differences don’t mean the return of wildlife to deserted city streets isn’t significant, he said: “I believe our own confinement, and the release of wildlife from confinement, should bring some empathy between humans and wildlife moving forward.”

A flock of geese searched for food inside a temple in Nagaon, in India’s state of Assam, on April 3. Many temples and shrines across the country have closed during the nationwide lockdown.

On April 5, two cows strolled on a Corsican beach usually popular with tourists. It was the 20th day of a strict shutdown in France.

A young puma walked the streets of Santiago on March 24 after the government ordered confinement measures in some areas of the Chilean capital.

Mountain goats roamed the streets of Llandudno, in Wales, on March 31, one week after U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson issued a stay-at-home order.

Sika deer wandered over to a sushi restaurant in Nara, Japan, on March 12. When Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a state of emergency for Tokyo and its surrounding regions, the number of visitors to the city of Nara dropped significantly

Macaques searched for food around the closed stalls of the Johari Bazar in Jaipur, India, on March 26. After Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared a nationwide lockdown, the marketplace was deserted.

Since Italy’s countrywide lockdown was imposed, the water in Venice’s canals have cleared, and residents have noticed more birds appearing.

On March 30, ducks ventured across the street in the heart of Paris, which is typically bustling with traffic.

Goats sauntered on abandoned streets in Jaipur on March 24

A baby rabbit crossed a main road in Christchurch on April 1. New Zealand entered its strictest state of lockdown on March 25.

A wild fox roamed the empty streets of London on the night of March 28.

On April 1, cattle looked for food in Palu, Central Sulawesi, in Indonesia, where the government is recommending that people avoid public spaces.

A coyote stood outside Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on April 3, weeks after Major League Baseball suspended all play.

The movie theater was closed in Westbury, N.Y., on March 20, leaving the parking lot empty for Canadian geese to roam.


Credits: Bloomberg

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