Get ready to take a wildlife tour… along the number-4 subway line in Beijing. Though people don't often think about animal diversity in cities, recent research is beginning to show that there's much more to New York and Beijing than pigeons and rats. The concrete jungle forms unique, sometimes stressful ecosystems for many animal species. And in Beijing, in-car videos and brochures now tell riders about the birds, fish, frogs and rare deer they can see if they pop out at stops along the way. "The idea is that you can grab the map brochure and look at the topics and ask questions about how urban ecology happens along the four line," said Janette Kim, an architect at Columbia University's Urban Landscape Lab, which created the tour, called Safari 4.
Highlights include the city's canals, which are among the oldest in the world. Amidst an estimated 22 million people, the man-made waterways support birds and fish. Kim's favorite stop is Gongyixiqiao, at the southern end of the line, off of which people can see the rare Pere David's deer. The deer had disappeared from Beijing by 1900 because of habitat loss, a large flood in 1894 and hunting from starved citizens during the Boxer Revolution.
Luckily, a French missionary called Père David had taken some of the deer to Europe in the mid-1800s, out of fear for their extinction. They were reintroduced in 1984, in a wildlife preserve that's a bit of a hike from the station. The preserve is a study in contrasts, Kim told InnovationNewsDaily. "You find more and more giant construction sites right next to this wilderness area."
Safari 4 isn't the Urban Landscape Lab's first urban wildlife tour. The lab created a tour of New York City in 2010, which people could listen to as podcasts as they rode the number-7 subway line. The podcasts were timed with the 7 train's stops, which moves partly aboveground, so that people could learn about the wildlife just outside the car doors.
Next up for tours, said Kim, are Sao Paulo and Mumbai.
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