After 13 years of playing hard to get, two giant pandas in Hong Kong’s Ocean Park Zoo have finally mated. Zookeepers were over the moon. Pandas have a mating season of just 24 to 72 hours per year. Normally the zoo is flooded with throngs of daily visitors. But since the zoo has been closed because of the coronavirus, these two pandas finally got the privacy they needed.
While humans are temporarily sheltering at home, wildlife is filling the void. Killer whales are swimming into a Vancouver inlet. No longer afraid of traffic, coyotes have been seen on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Deer in Nara, Japan are wandering into subway stations. And wild boar, sheep and monkeys have been reported in the streets of cities in Europe and Asia.
With humans in lockdown in many cities, animals are now the tourists and people are the ones in cages.
Pollution is also declining around the world. While recent reports of dolphins in Venice were a hoax, the waters of the city’s canals are much cleaner. This is a direct result of the decrease in boat activity. Venice isn’t the only city benefitting from humans staying home.
Citizens of the city of Jalandhar in Northern India say that nature is healing before their very eyes. After thirty years of being hidden by thick smog, the majestic peaks of the Himalayas are now clearly visible in the distance.
For ages, Los Angeles has been plagued by thick smog hanging over its downtown buildings. But now with the entire city under stay-at-home orders, traffic has fallen by around 80%. LA now has some of the cleanest air of any major city in the world. Unfortunately, this improvement is probably temporary. Once lockdowns are lifted, daily commutes will resume, and the air quality will worsen. But there is a lesson to be learned. How to improve air quality is clear and we don’t need a pandemic to make it happen.
Dr. Yifang Zhu is a professor of environmental health sciences at UCLA. He says, “we need to think really hard about how… technologies and policies come together to bring us cleaner energy, so that the air that we’re breathing will stay as clean as what we’re breathing today.”