Andrew goes on a bit of a rant about constantly seeing videos of people feeding animals in the wild. There are 3 things wrong with feeding wild animals that he describes in this episode.
First off, you never know what chemicals may be on your hand that wild animals may not enjoy ingesting. Whether it’s hand sanitizer, lotion, or Cheetos residue, your hand is a frequent vector for hitchhiking substances. While most of us have developed either a resistance to these substances or habits that remove them from our body (i.e. washing our hands), animals have not. Hand feeding wild animals can inadvertently introduce these chemicals into their system, chemicals that they may not be able to filter out.
It’s not just inorganic substances that could potentially harm these animals. Feeding animals certain types of food, specifically food that they are not adapted to, can also lead to digestive problems for wild animals. In the podcast, Andrew mentions how tourists on the Pacific side of Costa Rica used to feed wild monkeys bananas. The problem here is that what stereotypical monkeys eat and what actual wild monkeys eat can be very different. While monkeys on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica typically encounter and feed on wild bananas, monkeys on the Pacific side of the country do not. Because bananas are not a normal part of their diet, their bodies don’t have the capability to digest them safely in large amounts. Unfortunately, the tourists who thought they were providing these wild monkeys with safe and healthy food were actually hurting, and potentially killing, them.
But perhaps the most important reason not to feed wild animals is that by doing so, you are contributing to the loss of their instinct and ability to find food on their own. Wild animals are perfectly capable of hunting or foraging for food. However, if they repeatedly receive food from humans, then there becomes less of an incentive to find it elsewhere. An animal doesn’t have to spend as much energy and time getting food from humans as it does finding it on its own, so why would it go back to hunting or foraging if we’re offering it our leftovers? Well, when there are no more humans around, these animals either don’t understand that they have to go back to foraging for themselves or they’ve lost the ability to do so. Again, in a situation where we may think we’re helping animals by giving them easy access to food, we’re actually making it more difficult for them to survive long term.
We at SUFB know that the drive to feed wild animals (including sharks) is coming from a good place; we want to connect with these magnificent creatures in any way we can, and feeding them seems like a way to do just that. However, it is usually safest and more conscientious to leave them be. Though sharks are certainly not the killing machines we so often see in the news and on the big screen, they are still dangerous animals. And if one of them just happened to bite a little too much of the fish and get some of the diver with it, the public backlash would be extremely detrimental to shark conservation. So please, be safe and smart around wild animals. You wouldn’t take food from a stranger, so don’t ask animals to do any different.
Enjoy the Podcast!