Our Strange Era Now Has a Name

Scientists say it's time for an in-depth study of animals during the pandemic
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 2, 2020 10:50 AM CDT
Updated Jul 5, 2020 1:50 PM CDT

Jellyfish gliding through the calm waters of Venice, Italy. Wild mountain goats "running rampant" in a small Welsh town. Deer seen in "usually bustling areas" of Toronto. At least anecdotally, there's evidence of animals advancing during our absence, for which scientists have coined a new term: the "anthropause." "We noticed that people started referring to the lockdown period as the 'Great Pause,' but felt that a more precise term would be helpful," a team of scientists write in Nature Ecology & Evolution, per the Smithsonian. "We propose 'anthropause' to refer specifically to a considerable global slowing of modern human activities, notably travel." The authors say it's an "amazing" opportunity to learn more about "how humans and wildlife interact on this planet."

They call for "urgent steps," like the pooling of global research on animals and easy distribution of the data, per the BBC. The authors cite the recent "COVID-19 Bio-Logging Initiative"—a worldwide effort to follow animals' behavior and stress levels via little tracking devices called "bio-loggers"—as a fine precedent. But as Wired points out, scientists have much to learn about the anthropause in a limited time. For example, it's long been unclear whether animals are afraid of humans or our built environment; perhaps the anthropause will tell us. Scientists also see the downside, with poaching reportedly on the rise in countries that relied on tourist dollars. And how many anecdotes are just social-media hype? "A quantitative scientific investigation is urgently needed," the authors write. (Read more wildlife stories.)

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