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How fear shapes landscape

Monday, May 26, 2014

What happens when prey species lose their fear of predators? I came face to face with this question, literally, while riding my bicycle in Chaguaramas. 



An agouti is in my path. It sits there, eating something without concern. I approach it closer and closer. With a lazy, lacklustre hop, it jumps onto the verge. Had this agouti lost its fear of human predators? I’ve only observed this fearless behaviour at the Asa Wright Nature Centre, where humans are protectors, not predators. Asa Wright’s agoutis are so bold that they’ll approach the Great Estate House verandah to feed in front of camera-toting nature lovers. 


But I wasn’t at Asa Wright. This was a routine ride up Mt St Catherine, the mountain with the “Golf Ball” at its summit; at least that’s what I call the huge radar dome operated by the Civil Aviation Authority. The Golf Ball shares the summit with a nearby radar station operated by the T&T Coast Guard. Coast Guard vehicles regularly ply the road to and from their installation, but a “No Unauthorised Persons” sign at the road entrance discourages any other drivers.