10 Places Where Humans and Wild Animals Live in Harmony
As urban sprawl gets wider and wider, animals' natural habitats are getting smaller and smaller. But it doesn't have to be that way—the world is wide enough for all of us, and these 10 places prove it.
1. BOULDERS BEACH, SOUTH AFRICA
You don’t have to visit a zoo to get a look at African penguins in Boulders Beach, South Africa—they’re everywhere, roaming around beaches, sidewalks, and even parking lots. The penguins established a colony at Boulders Beach after urban development eventually chased out natural predators like caracals and leopards. The first nesting pair was spotted in 1983, and since then their numbers have grown: As of 2014, there were about 2100 pairs. Today, the town supports its penguin population by providing artificial nesting boxes.
2. MOSCOW, RUSSIA
As many as 35,000 feral dogs roam Russia’s capital city, and not just the streets. Some of the strays have figured out how to use the city’s subway system, and others have been observed obeying traffic signals. Though there have been some efforts to move strays to pounds, for the most part, citizens are just learning to share the space—there’s even a statue in one of the subway stations dedicated to the dogs.
3. MINAS GERAIS, BRAZIL
If you’ve never seen a “urban marmoset,” get yourself to southeastern Brazil. Though the little monkeys are typically rainforest-dwellers, a number of them have moved into Belo Horizonte City Park in Minas Gerais, Brazil. In order to adjust to their new environment, the marmosets have developed a habit of sleeping in just 12 of the park’s 3,000 trees. The dozen “chosen” trees have high branches and smooth bark, which prevent the park’s 115 domestic cats from having a marmoset snack.
4. DALLAS, TEXAS
While some neighborhoods battle an infestation of geese, the Lake Highlands neighborhood in Dallas has been dealing with a roving band of peafowl. The peacocks and peahens were originally bred at a nearby stable during the 1950s, but at some point, the showy birds escaped the confines of the boarding facility. Their descendants now roam Lake Highlands, establishing private lawns as their territory, doing mating dances in driveways, and laying eggs on back decks.
5. BANFF NATIONAL PARK, ALBERTA, CANADA
Trans-Canada Highway 1 and the Bow Valley Parkway 1A both pass through Banff National Park in Alberta, which is bad news for the grizzlies, elk, moose, wolves, and wolverines just trying to go about their daily business. To provide safe crossing opportunities, 38 underpasses and 6 overpasses were built specifically with the animals in mind, and foliage was planted to block vehicle lights and noise pollution as much as possible.
6. KEY WEST, FLORIDA
In addition to Hemingway’s six-toed cats, the feral “gypsy chickens” of Key West are some of the most famous residents on the island. They’ve been there for nearly 200 years, brought there by early pioneers. Though how and when their numbers swelled is a little fuzzy, some believe they’re descended from birds brought to the island for cockfighting.
We know that nearly 112,000 cars cross the Golden Gate Bridge every day, but in 2004, the city of San Francisco got photo evidence that coyotes were traversing the bridge at night as well. Things haven’t always been peaceful between the animals and the residents—in 2007, a couple of coyotes had to be put down after attacking two pet dogs in Golden Gate Park. Since then, however, the city has asked San Franciscans to coexist with the coyotes.
“They’re doing their own thing,” one pet owner told the New York Times. “It’s pretty cool. This is a big city, and there are wild animals.”
8. SAN FRANCISCO, PART II
Shortly after the Loma Prieta earthquake in October 1989, a few sea lions staked out a spot on Pier 39’s K-Dock in San Francisco. By January, a number of friends had joined them, almost completely taking over the dock. The Marine Mammal Center recommended that the sea lions be allowed to stay, and the city agreed; at one point, more than 1700 of them called the dock home. Today, the boisterous barkers are one of the most popular tourist attractions in San Francisco.
9. AMHERST, MASSACHUSETTS
Every year after the first spring rains in Amherst, hundreds of spotted salamanders make their migration from underground forest burrows to nearby vernal pools. Unfortunately, the most direct path to those pools forced the salamanders to cross a busy street, meaning that many of them never reached the destination. In the 1980s, volunteers formed bucket brigades, helping the salamanders cross the street like amphibian Boy Scouts.
In 1987, an unlikely duo joined forces to help with the migration. The British Fauna and Floral Preservation Society and ACO Polymer, a drainage company in Germany, offered to fund teeny, tiny underpasses to help with the safe crossing. The Amherst Department of Public Works took them up on it, and tunnels about 10 inches high and 6 inches wide now help up to 200 animals cross every year.
10. BIG MAJOR CAY, THE BAHAMAS
No one's sure how feral pigs took over an entire island in the Bahamas—some think the original pigs were shipwreck survivors—but one thing is for certain: tourists love them. Although humans don't reside on the island, visitors flock to Big Major Cay to witness around 20 pigs and piglets lounging in the sand, scavenging for snacks, and swimming. "These animals are now as much a Bahamian experience as any other that visitors may discover while visiting The Bahamas," says the Director General of The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism.