It is easy to get carried away while observing these interesting animals. Many people lose track of the fact that dolphins rely on their hunting skills to survive as predators in the wild, and offer them food. Most believe they are helping “starving” dolphins by providing an easy meal. Some are trying to trick the dolphins into coming closer in hope of prolonging the encounter. While these are probably not the only reasons behind this kind of conduct, the results are always adverse. This is why:
- Dolphins can get accustomed to receiving food and become increasingly dependent on humans to provide the next meal. They will alter their foraging strategies and social relationships to allocate more time to “begging” as opposed to actively searching for prey. Human intervention most often presents a transient, unreliable food source which can suddenly become unavailable at their expense.
- The adopted habit of looking for food near humans can prove to be fatal to offspring that may not learn essential hunting and foraging skills. These individuals become completely dependent on human intervention to survive.
- Animals used to receive food will often accept items they would normally refuse to eat. Ingestion of inappropriate food items such as candy bars, pretzels or even plastic objects that are sometimes offered by people who are unaware or unethical can lead to serious health problems.
- Even if you provide fish or other marine organisms such as squid, bear in mind the species in question may not be part of the natural diet of dolphins. These can be contaminated by bacteria and become a source of, potentially lethal, infection if improperly handled or stored.
- Dolphins accustomed to taking food from people lose their fear of humans and frequently approach boats. Being less cautious places them at greater risk of entanglement in fishing gear or ingestion of deployed equipment. It makes them prone to boat strikes and injuries caused by engine propellers.
- Think about your own safety and that of people interacting with the animals in the future! Dolphins used to receiving food from humans can become aggressive if you fail to produce the expected hand out or try to touch and tease them. Remember, these are wild animals with unpredictable behaviour.
- Finally, feeding dolphins in the wild constitutes harming and harassment for reasons explained above – you do not want to get a fine!