Many places in the world are currently under quarantine, which has given nature a break from human activity and pollution. Chile has yet to impose a nationwide quarantine but the effects of reduced movement can already be seen in various places. Pumas continuously wander around the Metropolitan Region while the air is clearer thanks to the lack of car traffic.
On Mar. 22, the government announced that it would be implementing a curfew from 10:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. A few days later, they added a mandatory quarantine for seven municipalities in the Metropolitan Region. This has resulted in quiet, empty streets in the wee hours of the night, an attractive prospect to many of the region’s wild inhabitants.
The first notable visitor was a puma that roamed the streets of Providencia and Ñuñoa in the Metropolitan region the very first night of the curfew. Authorities later managed to sedate, capture, and take the puma to the veterinarian zoo hospital for a check up before releasing him back into the wild.
The next night, another puma was found wandering the municipality of La Reina. He was also captured and taken to the zoo hospital, as was the third puma, this time in the nearby town of Chicureo.
Pumas aren’t the only animals taking advantage of the peace and quiet. Condors have been sighted near apartment balconies, while cows took over the streets in the city of Quilpué, where they ate grass and napped in the middle of the parks. Other countries are also seeing wildlife returning to populated places. Argentina now has guanacos sauntering along the coast and enjoying the empty beaches, fish are turning up in Venice, Italy, and whales are enjoying an empty Acapulco Bay in Mexico.
Pumas Appear Out of Necessity
After the first puma encounter in the city, experts said that the animal went down from the mountain to explore the city due to the lack of movement and noise. After the third puma was caught, however, they added that they thought these felines were motivated to leave their natural habitat as a result of the record-breaking drought that is affecting Chile at the moment.
The first puma was young and healthy, which meant he was likely looking for a new sustainable habitat that could replace the one he left. The third puma further supports this hypothesis, as it was underweight and dehydrated.
Experts say that the lack of movement and noise during the nightly curfew are simply an opportunity for the pumas to look for new homes, instead of being the main reason for their appearance, which is a lack of water in their natural habitats, which in turn means less small game, i.e., food for the – meaning their trips to the city are more a necessity than a diversion.
Another consequence of the coronavirus pandemic is the sudden drop in air pollution, especially CO2 emissions, because of the drop in transportation. Spain alone has seen a 40% drop in CO2 emissions. Closer to home, Santiago has seen a 20-25% reduction in the smog that normally covers the region.
Diego Rivera is currently a senior in University, finishing up his audiovisual degree. You can find him on Twitter as @Piover45.