When I started writing this post I was based in Costa Rica where it is illegal to feed or touch wild animals. However as I am finishing this off I am in Florida (and now the UK) where the attitude towards wild animals can be quite despicable.
In Costa Rica it is illegal to touch of feed wild animals however in America (as well as many other places around the world) animals are freely exploited as a means of entertainment. The majority of people I speak to are clueless about animal welfare or even acknowledging animals as anything other than dumb entities, solely there for human pleasure.
Too frequently around the world I see animals used as exhibits with people touching and feeding (semi) wild animals in the name of ‘learning’. If we love the animals we should NOT be touching or feeding them and here’s why!
19 reasons why we shouldn’t touch or feed wild animals
- Animals are highly susceptible to diseases from human hands. They can die from bacteria transferred from your hands that has no ill effect on you. They can react badly to your perfume, shower gel and even worse BUG SPRAY. Insect repellent is toxic to many animals (including you, ironically) and you can end up killing them. Frogs, dolphins, whales, starfish and reptiles are particularly susceptible to human bacteria passed from your hands.
- Feeding wild animals creates a dependency on humans that diminishes the animals natural, survival abilities. In short it’s dangerous for the animal because they can end up starving.
- Feeding interferes and upsets the balance of the food chain which, for birds, is often centered on eating wild fruits, seeds, small animals and insects.
- Did you know that birds disperse crucial seeds that we need for growing more forests. Their messy eating also creates food on the floors for other smaller animals to eat and thus starts a new food chain.
- Irregular feeding can lead to aggressive behaviour towards humans. This has resulted in human injuries and even death. People have been bitten while feeding wild animals, some of which carry infectious diseases such as rabies, bubonic plague or hantavirus.
- If we feed wild animals the wrong food they can become sick or addicted to the wrong type of food. Human food is often contaminated with pesticides and can be upsetting to delicate digestive systems causing serious problems that lead to death. On some islands in the Caribbean, tourist operators encourage people to feed endangered northern Bahamian rock iguanas with grapes on sticks, beef mince and other human foods. Researchers reported different levels of calcium, cholesterol and various minerals in fed versus unfed populations of the iguanas, as well as diarrhea, higher levels of glucose and a staggering 100 percent endoparasitic infection rate in the tourist-fed animals.
- Human contact with animals encourages them to think that we’re safe. Contact with humans facilitates poaching and the trade in illegal wildlife.
- Illegally caught wildlife are often subjected to terrible conditions, physical abuse and even drugging. Thailand’s infamous Tiger Temple has been repeatedly shown to punch the tigers as a means of control and use drugs to profit from their ‘selfie with a tiger’ mentality.
- Feeding wild animals often results in them being euthanised. U.S. national parks prohibit the feeding of wildlife however in some parks, bears have learned to forage for unattended human food. Rangers relocate these bears away from human food sources yet many return and continue seeking human food—eventually, such problem bears must be euthanised. Being fed from cars can cause bears and other animals to congregate near roads where they may be killed by vehicles – this is especially true for birds. Hanging around roads and parking lots can also make animals such as squirrels, birds and deer easier for predators to catch.
- Human contact changes their natural behaviour. Sharks, for example, don’t naturally share territory, and when they group around boats to feed, it can cause stress and shark-on-shark conflict. Sharks are solitary predators not normally found in groups. With feeding, they associate humans in the water—and even the sound of a motor boat—with food and come from long distances away to seek it out.
- Human touching stresses animals and they can die from stress related illness. This is particularly relevant to sloths who are very susceptible to stress but also to touching pools where kids are encouraged to handle marine life.
- Migration to human-populated areas to be fed increases the risk of dog attacks and road accidents – especially for birds, squirrels, raccoons and monkeys.
- Wild animals travel great distances in the wild and they need to for good physical and mental health. If they know that food is available in a particular location, they will not leave that area and not get the exercise they need.
- Human food becomes addictive for them because it’s often high in fructose & sucrose. This dependency can lead animals to stealing human food and breaking into houses to get it. This is a problem seen in Costa Rica with feeding monkeys bananas. Bananas are not part of their indigenous diet and they become addicted to the fructose.
- Handling wild animals increases the likelihood they’ll get physically damaged. Sting rays for example are prone to skin abrasions when we try to touch them.
- Providing food in residential areas (with the exception of birdseed feeders) often leads to property damage and unwelcome “house-guests”. Sometimes people feed wildlife inadvertently when they leave pet food dishes outside or do not secure rubbish.
- There are times animals cannot be reunited with their own because of human contact. A solitary Bison calf was transported by humans in Yellowstone to a park station. Although the calf was later released into the wild, it was repeatedly rejected by its herd and was endangering itself by approaching people and cars. Park rangers made numerous attempts to reunite the calf with a nearby herd but were unsuccessful and eventually had no option but to euthanize the calf.
- Pregnant females who are fed human food during their pregnancy will not give birth to healthy infants. The babies will be malnourished or never develop to term and die before birth.
- It’s often illegal to touch and feed wild animals and can result in a hefty fine and even jail time.
If you care about wild animals, please don’t feed them.
Let’s spread this message and stop feeding and endangering wild animals. I’d love it if you could add this to your pinterest board so we can protect animals and keep them healthy.
Teach your children not to approach, touch or feed animals regardless of how cute they appear. Ultimately it will endanger the animal and could lead to its illness or death.