Christopher X J. Jensen
Associate Professor, Pratt Institute

Urban Wildlife Podcast on big animals in big cities

Posted 27 Jul 2015 / 0

Urban Wildlife PodcastBangkok Pythons and Gotham Whales

This is a really interesting podcast that focuses on the wildlife of cities. This episode is about huge animals that manage to live in close proximity to cities, specifically in their waterways.

The section on reticulated pythons — which can grow up to 23-25 feet long — living in the Bangkok sewer system was fascinating to me. There is the interesting aspect of when these snakes are discovered: most sitings of the big snakes happen as they are eating (or right after eating) a large domestic animal. In an interesting cultural twist, local people do not immediately demand the carcass of snakes that eat their pets. More used to living in proximity to wildlife and perhaps culturally disposed to a live and let live attitude, the Thai response is to humanely relocate the snakes. Sewers are fascinating because by design they represent critical-but-invisible infrastructure. As such, there is the potential for all sorts of organisms to inhabit the sewers ‘right beneath our noses’. According to expert Michael Hakim featured in this podcast, no one has been able to get a full sense of what the pythons are surviving on. It is unlikely that domestic animals make up the majority of the snakes’ diets, so other animals that also inhabit the sewers are probably on the big snake’s menu. This suggests that pythons are a kind of ‘co-commensal’: a species that thrives in human environments because it eats the commensal species we play host to. Of course the waterways represented by sewers — which mimic the natural habitat of the pythons — also make us a direct host to the pythons as well.

This podcast also talked about the presence of large cetaceans, including humpback whales, right off of New York City’s coastline. For whatever reason this was not as surprising or compelling to me as the pythons, perhaps because I am less marine oriented and tend to think of oceans and even harbors as pretty wild places (in spite of how much human boat traffic there is!). The most interesting thing to me was the possibility that decades-long clean-up efforts on the Hudson River, in New York Harbor, and in the Atlantic Ocean near NYC might have opened up a new feeding ground for whales.


A Minor Post, Cetaceans, Coevolution, Commensalism, Conservation Biology, Public Outreach, Radio & Podcasts, Reptiles, Urban Ecology

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