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Confronting hand-feeding

 

confronting hand feeding
A wild dolphin being fed dead fish as part of a food provisioning program.

 

Hand-feeding hurts wild dolphins, and it’s happening right across Australia.

Science shows providing wild dolphins with food can alter their behaviour, increase risk of injury, and lower their survival rates. In 2019, a shocking study found hand-fed mothers successfully weaned half as many calves as non-provisioned mothers.  Even feeding dolphins with as little as 10% of their daily food source can have a negative impact.

Studies show dolphins that receive food are more likely to beg, scavenge, patrol and show aggression towards members of their own pod. As dolphins are social animals and learn from each other, hand-feeding could put the entire pod in danger. 

That’s why feeding wild dolphins is illegal under Australian state and federal law. But despite this, hand-feeding occurs illegally in several states, and as part of licenced programs at four locations within Australia that have been granted legal exemption.

In 2019 AFD launched a campaign to address the issue of hand-feeding wild dolphins. We delivered an open letter to the Minister for Environment in Western Australia, calling on him to stop the recruitment of new wild dolphins into the hand-feeding program at Monkey Mia, a resort where five dolphin calves have died over the last five years.

AFD has teamed up with other conservation organisations, scientific experts and ethical tourism operators to urge the Government to cancel the recruitment drive, and have delivered thousands of petition signatures straight to their door.

AFD also launched an awareness campaign on social media, speaking to both radio and print media about the issue.  We’ve made sure our concerns were voiced in Parliament with the help of Greens MP Allison Xamon, and submitted a compelling report, packed full of science and irrefutable evidence showing exactly how hand-feeding hurts.

If you’re looking to learn more on hand-feeding wild dolphins, check out our report “the effects of food provisioning on wild dolphins to facilitate tourist-dolphin interactions”.

 

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