How animal home invasions relate to future world health

A week ago our home was invaded by a troop of baboons. Since moving into our house, which my husband and I owner-built ourselves, we have had a number of baboon visits, however, this incident was by far the worst. It is also a good example of how animal home invasions could impact future world health.

DSC_0008A young technician was fixing our WiFi and had come into the house, closing the door behind him, but not locking it as he was going in and out. Baboons are amazingly intelligent and opportunistic animals, and the whole troop, a big alpha male, females with babies, young adults and little juveniles entered the house after the big male opened the front door.

I was working in my office at the time, and the first I knew of the invasion was an almighty crash in the kitchen at the other end of the house: the alpha male had opened the fridge door – no door handle this time – and pulled out the glass top shelf which crashed to the tiled kitchen floor when he dropped it, shattering into a million pieces.

What a mess as two dozen organic eggs also crashed to the floor!! I shouted and clapped my hands together loudly, and as the troop left through the open front door, the big male grabbed a Tupperware container filled with stone-ground, organic flour – as you can imagine I wasn’t going to argue with him and he had a feast!! My husband and I laughed about it later, but the incident has a wider and more serious significance in terms of future world health.

DSC_0020With increasing urbanisation, wild areas are shrinking around the world, bringing wildlife closer to people. As in our case, this inevitably results in incidents of house raiding and home invasion. More concerning, however, are potential health impacts as disease-carrying animals and insects move closer to people.

A warming planet also carries increased disease risk for populations around the world: at 2ºC of warming, a point we are likely to arrive at in about 2030 if we do not greatly reduce our carbon emissions, we are in danger of reaching a significant tipping point or crossing a climatic threshold into a new climatic regime. This level of warming could be disease altering, bringing changes in vector ecologies and a wider vector range. It could also result in recombinations of microbes of greater virulence, and the emergence of new pathogenic viral strains, with the next pandemic being zoonotic in origin (animals to humans). This has extremely important implications for future world health.