What is happening in New York City parks is microscopic of what is happening globally.
According to a new U.N. report on biodiversity and ecosystem, around “1 million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, many within decades, more than ever before in human history. This loss is a direct result of human activity, and constitutes a direct threat to human well-being in all regions of the world.”
Some of the main culprits are natural habitat loss, use of pesticides and insecticides (“bug zappers”), and overfishing.
All three are happening in parks, yet this ban on feeding birds and squirrels in New York City parks will punish the people trying to protect birds and squirrels.
Our manicured, overly built parks sorely lack the mud flats, grasslands, native plants, and trees that support a broad wildlife-sustainable environment. Trees and plants that bear nuts, seeds and fruit are non-existent in many parks, and have been replaced with non-native trees and ornamental plants that provide no natural food source.
For example, Bryant Park has 125 London plane trees on the west side of the New York Public Library, and 22 honey locust trees on the east side. So basically, 85 percent of the trees planted provide no food source for squirrels.
There are no squirrels in Bryant Park. Per discussion with Bryant Park grounds staff, the rat poison killed all the squirrels. Per discussion with resident park goers, the frequent loud concerts and events have driven out the wildlife. I believe it is a combination of the two since not only did I not find any squirrels, but there was not one nest built on any of the trees in Bryant Park.
But it isn’t the only park. Many parks throughout the city have been landscaped for human pleasure with minimal thought to the wildlife that reside or did reside there.
Last year in spring, all the vegetation surrounding the water was chopped down at the Jackie Onassis Reservoir.
The reservoir is important because it is a resting stop for hundreds of species of migratory birds in the spring, and is a wintering spot for hundreds of ducks and geese between December and March.
Last summer, eight to nine goslings perished at the reservoir, all around the age of four weeks. The lack of food sources had to be a contributing factor, leaving them weak and unable to avoid predation. Baby birds are unable to fly out until three months of age to forage elsewhere. Molting birds in summer are also unable to fly to find food.
The geese returned to their nesting spot in the reservoir, which is now barren, and as one passerby described, as a fish bowl.
Pesticides and insecticides may target mosquitoes but eliminate butterflies, moths, common flies and other insects that animals rely on for food. This results in a loss of natural sources for wildlife.
Insect-resistant grasses and insect-proof exotic plants are not only denying wildlife a “natural healthy” diet, but more than 95 percent of birds feed “insect” to their young. Not only does this starve their young, but they may not produce as the emperor penguins in Antarctica have not produced offspring for three years.
We kill the insects that feed the animals, it disrupts the cycle of life.
Fishing in New York City should not be permitted for several reasons. Fishing harms wildlife in New York City parks. A goose named Squally, for the snow squalls that were falling at the time of rescue, was recently rescued from Harlem Meer this year and taken to the Wild Bird Fund. It was not only emaciated, but suffering from lead poisoning, most likely from lead sinkers which are used by some unlicensed fishermen.
Another goose’s missing webbed foot was probably severed by a fishing line. Last year, a duck taken to the Wild Bird Fund almost lost his leg due to a fishing line. Another goose eventually died after a fishing bobber was wrapped around the beak and no one was able to trap the goose.
Fishermen toss loaves of bread as bait into the water, as witnessed by bird feeders in Harlem Meer.
The fishing license requirement is not enforced, and any person with a rod goes fishing.
The above three culprits are why wildlife cannot thrive in New York City parks, and banning the human support (bird and squirrel feeders) is against the best interest of humans and animals in our city, as well as globally.
As the U.N. report states, we must “start now from every level from local to global” to restore and protect nature.
Think globally, act locally.
The author is a member of Bronx Animal Rights Electors.