Shelter availability and human attitudes as drivers of rock hyrax (Procavia capensis) expansion along a rural–urban gradient

Noam Ben-Moshe, Takuya Iwamura

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

While anthropogenic land-use changes threaten wildlife globally, some species take advantage of such changes and disperse into urban areas. The wildlife in urban areas often promotes conflicts with humans, notably when the animals are associated with the spread of zoonotic diseases. In Israel, current urban invasion of rock hyraxes (Procavia capensis) draws public attention, since the species is a reservoir host of cutaneous leishmaniasis, a serious skin disease. The rock hyrax, however, has seldom been studied in densely populated areas, and the drivers for its urban expansion, as well as its abilities to live and spread in core urban areas, are relatively unknown. Here, we explore the rock hyrax expansion to urban areas process by examining the availability, characteristics and use of shelter along an urban gradient. Our findings suggest that a series of factors determines shelter availability and quality for the rock hyrax, which facilitates its dispersion across the urban gradient. We found that rock hyraxes from the Judean Desert expand to the peri-urban region of Jerusalem by colonizing new rocky shelters formed as by-products of urban development. With their populations reaching extreme densities in this area and saturating the available shelters, there is some spill over to the adjacent core urban areas where they colonize littered sites, which are made available due to the local socio-economic conditions and cultural norms of waste disposal and illegal placement of temporary structures. Our work emphasizes the significance of the urban gradient approach for studying the mechanisms promoting wildlife expansion to cities. Our findings suggest that changes in shelter availability and quality due to urban development, and cultural norms promote shifts of the hyrax population by pushing from the already established areas and pulling into new environment across the urban gradient.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4044-4065
Number of pages22
JournalEcology and Evolution
Volume10
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 May 2020

Keywords

  • Leishmania tropica
  • invasion biology
  • urban wildlife
  • zoonotic diseases

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