Pros and cons with growing wildlife populations
In many parts of Europe and North America, populations of large mammals and birds have recovered during recent decades. In Sweden, this has resulted in more wildlife than was historically recorded. This positive development provides a number of opportunities for ecosystem services and for biodiversity. More wildlife also means more interactions with humans, as many birds and mammals may interfere with human interests in the landscape, such as natural resource use. Thus, more wildlife may shift the baseline for societal perception of wildlife.
Wildlife species may host pathogens with potential for infecting humans and domestic animals. With increasing knowledge about zoonotic diseases and their dynamics, more scientific, media, and public attention is given to zoonotic processes. We are concerned with how the public image of the wild animals is affected, because many of the recent zoonotic outbreaks connect animal groups to diseases such as avian and swine influenza, lyme disease, and tick-borne encephalitis. The societal focus on zoonotic diseases may increase the fear of the wild and will separate the public further from the outdoors in general and wildlife in particular. Ultimately, we risk a juxtaposition of the overall acceptance of biological diversity and a shifting societal perception of wildlife that could be harmful for life on earth. We therefore suggest multidisciplinary research on societal awareness of zoonotic diseases and its implications for public acceptance for wildlife and biological diversity.
Link to the article:
Thulin C-G, Malmsten J, Ericsson G (2015). Opportunities and challenges with growing wildlife populations and zoonotic diseases in Sweden. European Journal of Wildlife Research 61, 649–656.