LIMA – Seagulls, cormorants, pelicans, boobies and other birds have reclaimed Lima’s beaches after they emptied of bathers, surfers and street vendors due to the coronavirus lockdown.
Confinement measures over the Covid-19 outbreak has seen Peru’s entire population isolated indoors since mid-March.
With the people gone, thousands of Peru’s winged inhabitants have taken over the green coast of Lima, the fifth largest city in Latin America with about 10 million inhabitants and the only South American capital on the coast.
The birds on Lima’s beaches have gone viral on social networks starring in videos recorded by locals.
The scenes have even surprised experts, unaccustomed to seeing so many wild birds just a few meters from built-up areas.
“Suddenly, tons of kilometres of beaches have been left uninhabited and the birds have recolonized them. Some are being seen in places where they did not flock to before,” Fernando Angulo, principal Ornithology and Biodiversity investigator at Corbidi, told EFE.
The best proof of this is the populous Agua Dulce beach, in the fishing district of Chorrillos, which throughout the summer sees a steady stream of bathers and families crowding the sand with umbrellas. Food trucks throng the promenade and ice cream makers bellow for trade.
Now this beach at the foot of the Morro Solar promontory has transformed into and quiet oasis and idyllic resting place for thousands of migratory birds such as Franklin’s gulls, which at the end of the summer season in the southern hemisphere are on their way back to North America.
Peruvian and Dominican gulls are rarely seen during the summer in the city, even though they reside all year round on the coast of Peru.
“They were on stretches of coast that the humans use little or not at all. Towards the south of Lima, there are about 100 kilometres of urbanized beaches. Only about 20 kilometres are free, and it is there where these birds gather during the summer. That is why protected areas play a very important role,” said Angulo.
For the ornithologist, this “unexpected phenomenon” that has also been observed on other Peruvian city beaches is also due to the fact fishermen are not going to fish and that leaves more food for these birds.
“Suddenly there is more food and nobody bothers them, that combination of factors is making them happy and content in places where they couldn’t be before,” said Angulo.
“We have to reflect that we are the problem, humans and all our activities are disturbing those who have always been in these spaces and forced them to move elsewhere,” the expert added.
Quarantine has also led to the cleanest air in Lima for years and pollution levels have reached the standards recommended by the World Health Organization.
“If at any time we wanted to recover space for birds, we now have the formula: restrict fishing and the presence of people. Applying these two measures, birds will recover their space.”
“However, the sad part of this story is that, as soon as we are released from quarantine, we will return to normal and the birds will have to retreat to places where we do not bother them,” Angulo admitted.
Urban spaces have been reclaimed by wild species in other Latin American cities that are also in quarantine.
A cougar was be spotted walking through the streets of Santiago in Chile, and families of capybaras meander in residential areas of Buenos Aires.
“This quarantine has given nature a breather,” the director of Sustainable Management at the National Forest and Wild Fauna Service (SERFOR) told EFE.
“It is important to maintain an ecological balance and be more friendly with nature because the future of wildlife is also our future. We have to learn to live in harmony,” Galvez-Durand concluded.