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Study Says Ecotourism May Produce "Semi-Domesticated" Wild Animals

10/14/2015 - 09h58

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REINALDO JOSÉ LOPES
COLABORAÇÃO PARA A FOLHA

A group of researchers from Brazil and the United States has warned that ecotourism, as it is currently practiced today, may be harmful to animals in their natural environment.

They argue that frequent contact with humans may alter animals' levels of stress and vigilance, making them excessively calm. They may therefore become easy prey, both to human hunters and to their natural enemies.

"Rather than talking about specific cases, what we wanted to do with this study was to start a discussion and encourage people to investigate the issue," says the zoologist Eduardo Bessa, from the State University of Ponta Grossa, in Paraná.

Bessa co-authored the study, along with Benjamin Geffroy, Diogo Samia and Daniel Blumstein. The group published the research in the scientific journal "Trends in Ecology and Evolution".

A key concept from the study is habituation, a common phenomenon, easy to understand. Following repeated encounters with humans, whose only weapon is a smartphone for filming and taking photos, animals cease to regard them as a potential threat.

They become excessively calm as a result. One example is the graylag goose, which, when raised in these conditions, displays lower levels of stress hormones than normal and are easily picked off by predators.

The researchers warn that these factors, combined, might produce the appearance of "semi-domesticated" wild animals, which, generally speaking, would have organisms and behavior unprepared to deal with threats.

Translated by TOM GATEHOUSE

Read the article in the original language

Douglas Lambert/Folhapress
A group of researchers from Brazil and the US has warned that ecotourism may be harmful to animals in their natural environment
A group of researchers from Brazil and the US has warned that ecotourism may be harmful to animals in their natural environment

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