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Can we live with monkeys?

November 22, 2017

After watching David Attenborough's Planet Earth 2, I've felt particularly inspired regarding society's ability to incorporate wildlife into our cities. In the 'Cities' episode, we were shown footage from India where monkeys hopped from roof-top to roof-top, and from Ethiopia, where hyenas prowled the streets. The amazing thing about these two scenarios, however, is the way in which these animals were treated by the people. In India, the public fed the monkeys bounties of fruit in the parks - a cultural delight. In Ethiopia, the workers would feed the hyenas their meat scraps - they believed that hyenas cleansed the city of ghosts and bad demons. 


In Singapore, huge garden towers exist where wild birds thrive. Apparently there is one tenth of the amount of birds in cities as opposed to forests. By implementing this technology Singapore has taken a massive positive step in changing this statistic. 


The fact is - we are driving wild animals out of the wild. And whilst conservationists and environmentalists are tackling this problem, can architects and city planners tackle it too - from another angle? Can we start to incorporate planning and building techniques that will include these animals in the architecture? 


Image: Proposal for Buenos Aires Vertical Zoo



At the moment, the amount of dead possums/rabbits/birds I see on the roads is heartbreaking. 


Animals are amazing architects themselves. We don't need to explicitly build shelters for them - but we need to allow them the space and resources for them to be able to. By implementing simple techniques such as growing plants in stratification we will encourage different species to flock to these areas. 


There are some zones in Sydney that are doing a great job at this - in Barangaroo the multiple layers of vegetation are encouraging birds.


But why should we be trying to incorporate wildlife into our cities, and our lives? Some may wonder. Well, if the idea of sitting next to a monkey on your lunch break doesn't entice you, here are some reasons: 


1. Cities with wildlife have a positive impact on residents health. Any interaction with nature has been scientifically proven to boost ones mood and esteem; and lower stress levels. 

2. Animals are wonderful at bringing people together. What if in order to connect with others you didn't need a social networking app such as tinder? These days, people need excuses to say hello to each other. Just think of Roger and Anita in 101 Dalmations.. need I say more !

4. Animals encourage people to be kinder and more generous. They can bring out the best in people. 

5. Animals can bring luck. My friend got pooped on by a bird, bought a lotto ticket and won $20. How's that for an enticing prospect? 

6. Animals can enrich our lives and make them more exciting. I know my day at work is 10 times better when Jess brings her dog in. 

7. It's just the right thing to do..!


When I was having lunch the other day, a pigeon landed on the table next to me where a girl was enjoying her lunch. She let out a little shriek and swatted it away with her waterbottle. I looked at her and smiled, kind of amused by the whole charade. She proceeded to look at me and say 'urgk!' voicing her disgust. It made me really think about this whole issue more. I mean, I'm all for designing to accomodate wildlife. But are other city dwellers? How often have I seen little children chasing birds away with glee? How can we make people less scared and more excited by the prospect of living with wild animals?


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