The consequences of feeding wildlife

By AAP with Carolyn Barry | November 8, 2013

Feeding dingoes and other wild animals is not just detrimental to them, but bad for us, too.

IT CAN BE A bit tempting sometimes to ignore the signs, the advice and even common sense to never feed native wildlife. After all, they’re cute animals, right? And it’s nice to have that interaction, no?

Well, unfortunately, this is exactly the sort of thinking that’s all too frequent in our national parks and wilderness areas. Park rangers are constantly having to deal with the consequences of animals becoming used to getting their meal from humans.

And as reported today in the news, those consequences can be huge.

Six dingoes from a pack of seven, which attacked people on Queensland’s Fraser Island, had to be destroyed after being illegally fed by a photographer, the Queensland Government has said.

Rainbow Beach resident Jennifer Parkhurst was fined a whopping $40,000 for regularly feeding the dingoes on the World Heritage-listed island after pleading guilty to 46 offences in Maryborough court on Wednesday. Jennifer apparently fed and photographed a pack of seven dingoes from the time they were pups. It’s obviously an extreme example, but a relevant one nonetheless.

This case has sent a clear message to the public, Queensland Sustainability Minister Kate Jones said. “What has been most distressing is these same dingoes were later responsible for a number of very serious attacks on two children,” she said. “From a pack of seven Ms Parkhurst fed, six dingoes had to be humanely destroyed because they attacked other people on the island.”

The Sustainability Minister said the court case sent a clear message to the public. “Anyone who feeds dingoes is breaking the law and will face the consequences,” she said.

The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service has warned that feeding dingoes changes their behaviour and can have serious consequences. “If pups learn to associate humans with food they do not learn to hunt,” general manager Terry Harper said in a statement. “Instead, they grow up scavenging from these areas and are no longer wary of people. As we saw in this case, when this happens the results can be very dangerous.”

It is really an unfortunate reminder that even a small action of feeding animals does have an impact. But more to the point, it’s not just aggressive animals which shouldn not be fed. All wild animals should not be fed. Not only is the food we give them not healthy for them, but it interferes with their natural skill development and leads them to become dependent on humans for food.

So the next time you’re out in the wild, think twice about that innocent act of throwing bit of bread or leftovers to the seemingly hungry animal.

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