Feeding dolphins may sound noble and kind but if you do it you may be harming the animals, and breaking the law.
A new study conducted in Sarasota Bay concludes that wild dolphins are more likely to suffer injury if humans feed them. When meeting dolphins, either in aquariums or in areas that these cetaceans visit, humans can provide them with food, but this action is not good for them.
Dolphins are intelligent and active predators that have a carnivorous diet. They can quickly adapt to any habitat they find themselves.
Unfortunately, humans are interfering with the natural order of life these animals are supposed to thrive in.
You may wonder how.
Well, it turns out that well-meaning people that throw food to wild dolphins may really be doing them more harm than good.
Below we look at some of the things that go wrong when people feed wild dolphins:
Common Problems With Feeding Dolphins
1) Dolphins are active hunters and they are so intelligent that they can devise some surprising hunting strategies. But when we take to feeding them, just like most other animals, they learn to take the easy way out.
Bears for instance are an example of animals that can be badly affected by human feeding. The animals learn to beg rather than hunt for food.
Dolphins are intelligent hunters but feeding dolphins tuns them to nothing better than beggars.
2) In the process of feeding dolphins, the animals become used to being around humans and as a result, gradually lose their natural fear of people. With time, they could become boisterous, excited, and even dangerous to the people that come around them.
Dolphins often bite the fingers and hands of people stretching out food. Not intentionally, of course, but these are wild animals and they can be unpredictable.
People sustaining bites while feeding dolphins is surprisingly very common.
3) The dolphins themselves are also hurt when they come too close to humans. There are several reports of injuries these creatures sustain. For instance, they could be injured while swimming too close to churning boat propellers.
Also, they often get entangled with fishing nets and hooks and die in the process.
4) Feeding dolphins leads to abuse. Despite their best efforts, there is very little operators of dolphin feeding sites to control the visitors that come around. The dolphins get sick from eating things that people obviously know are bad for them.
You’ll find tourists feeding them rotten bait, candy, chocolate, pretzels, hot dogs, and even beer!
5) Feeding dolphins out in the wild can have serious effects on their social lives. It also threatens their natural abilities to survive in the wild. To survive, calves and juvenile dolphins must learn to hunt from their mothers and other pod members.
Imagine what happens when these young dolphins have to spend their time jostling for handouts from humans rather than learning to hunt.
Evidence From Science
A recent study based on data collected in Sarasota Bay shows that feeding dolphins actually does them more harm than good.
Scientists from the Chicago Zoological Society’s Sarasota Dolphin Research Program in partnership with Mote Marine Laboratory were able to study and highlight both the obvious and hidden danger of these acts.
The study especially pointed out the risks of injury to dolphins from human interactions. The dolphins suffered from boat strikes, food poisoning, entanglement in fishing gear, swallowing of hooks and line, and so on.
Bottlenose dolphins in particular are known to be prone to these kind of injuries. That’s because strangely enough, this species of dolphins tend to seek out human-provided food much more than any other species.
The raw data collected was sent to Murdoch University in Western Australia and also researchers from Scotland’s University of Aberdeen. Their joint efforts produced the final report and you could read more about it on the peer-reviewed journal “Royal Society Open Science.”
All the researchers came back with the same warning: don’t encourage dolphins by feeding them.
A wild dolphin that is used to humans feeding it will become angry, frustrated, and even dangerous when it can’t get food as expected.
Remember that It is against the law in many areas to feed or harass wild dolphins. Feeding dolphins is illegal under the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act.