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Human-animal interaction in the Antarctic: an animal behaviour approach to human disturbance of penguin colonies

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Nimon-Peters, Amanda 


Human disturbance of Antarctic penguins is an important aspect of Antarctic conservation. It is a phenomenon which has raised concern for several decades, and has prompted the creation of guidelines for human behaviour which aim to minimise disturbance to these and other Antarctic animals. Disturbance effects of human activities have often been cited as if they were well-understood and self-explanatory; however, little theoretical or empirical research has attempted to establish their true nature, or to clarify such baseline issues as what disturbance means and when it becomes significant. Answers to these questions are offered, based on Nimon and Dalziel's (1992) concept of human-animal interaction, and values espoused in recent documents such as the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty. A framework for inquiry in this field is described. The new approach focuses on penguin behaviour, and involves specifying a) what stimulus aspects of human presence affect penguins, b) the changes in behaviour they evoke, and c) the processes by which these changes are produced. This animal behaviour approach is then applied to published reports of human-Antarctic penguin interactions in an attempt to identify the general principles that underlie such interaction. Human disturbance is divided into three categories, the first of which is effects induced by aircraft. The discussion suggests that aircraft may represent a variety of changing stimuli, and that penguin response to human-induced stimuli will be affected by learning and situational variables such as breeding phase. The second category, approach and handling by humans, attempts to resolve contradictory conclusions in the literature, and suggests a model which may identify changing stimulus features evoked during such behaviour. The third category, an examination of effects induced by scientific methods, concludes that both penguin behaviour and welfare may be affected by studies, a finding which has implications not only for the field of disturbance research, but also for our understanding of the natural behaviour of the birds. Based on a literature review, the arguments presented are hypothetical and must be tested. Whether further inquiry supports or rejects these conclusions, this. review encourages awareness and clarifies the issues with which researchers must deal.






Master of Philosophy (MPhil)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
Digitisation of this thesis was sponsored by Arcadia Fund, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin.