Saving money, one behavior at a time

The idea proposed is to “manipulate” their behavior – to eat or move around, for example – but without any commitment or pressure, which could become a source of stress. Biologists who propose this approach compare it to the theory used in psychology, the “helping hand” theory, a rough translation of “push theory”. Essentially, this is the theory that humans have a greater incentive to change their behavior when subtle incentives are used rather than constraints. Cafeteria menus are often presented as examples that put “vegetable” dishes more prominently, without making them the only option. Or cities that reduce parking spaces, to encourage cycling or public transportation.

How can this be transmitted to animals? “All creatures learn in the same way”, explain in new world Ken Ramirez, whose first job was an animal trainer. “Let’s make it more difficult what we don’t want animals to do, and make what we want easier.”

Corridors created to make it easier for animals to cross roads is one example: How can we encourage them to go there without forcing them? The trick: Put in urine or droppings that will make them believe that some of their congeners are already there. On the contrary, Ramirez describes the strategy that was used in Zambia, this time, to kidnap elephants during their annual migrations: preventing them from crossing the border into the Congo, where they are less protected from poachers. The trick was to plant trees and create watering holes, forcing these animals to turn around, without ever encountering humans.

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Another example of a strategy, this strategy to warn animals of danger, is described in a study Published October 2020: Trains sound and light alerts to encourage animals to stay off the rails when a train approaches.

Critics reply that, in spite of everything, it is an interference with nature. Defenders see it as a way to intervene Gently, as the species is already endangered. Between the two, researchers try to rate The impact of these efforts that intertwine two disciplines, nature conservation and behavioral biology: The fact is, Recognized in November Three experts review the scientific literature on the efforts, so far, what we know about how animals learn is still too partial to guarantee success with any of the other strategies. But for many species, time is running out.

Image: mosaic of endangered species. Konjure / Flickr

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