Don’t feed the dolphins

December 22, 2016

Researchers at Murdoch University have found evidence that feeding dolphins puts them at greater risk of injury and Dolphindeath.

The study was carried out in collaboration with the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program in Florida, US.

Scientists looked at a comprehensive dataset of more than 1,100 bottlenose dolphins in Sarasota over almost 50 years.

It was found that dolphins that had become conditioned to being fed by humans were at greater risk of injury than unconditioned animals.

Scientists believe that conditioning could lead to a decrease in dolphin survival.

Dr Fredrik Christiansen is a Post-Doctoral research fellow at Murdoch University and the lead author on the report which was published by the Royal Society Open Science (RSOS).

He said: “The study shows that conditioned animals are at greater risk of being injured from human activities than unconditioned animals.

“This is because conditioned dolphins that spend more time in close proximity to humans lose their fear of humans, which increases the risk of them being hit by boats or getting entangled in fishing gear.

“Feeding these animals therefore poses a significant risk to their survival and we need to think very carefully before provisioning wild dolphins.”

Professor Lars Bejder, leader of the Murdoch University Cetacean Research Unit (MUCRU), is also an author on the report.

He said: “Food provisioning is a concern for many species throughout the world.

“People love the interaction of feeding animals but rarely consider the damage they may be doing.

“This study clearly shows that conditioning threatens free-ranging dolphins and that interactions of this kind could ultimately threaten population dynamics.”

The study was carried out in collaboration with the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program, Chicago Zoological Society and the Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, UK.

Bottlenose dolphins involved in the study in Florida are regularly fed by people, despite the activity being illegal.

As a result, this has led to some dolphins associating humans with food.

This familiarity exposed dolphins to increased risk of injury or disease, which in many cases leads to death.

Recommendations from the study include more structured management actions to reduce harm caused by human activity.

Professor David Morrison, Deputy Vice Chancellor Research & Innovation at Murdoch University, said: “Murdoch University is focussed on meeting global challenges through translational research which offers solutions to issues.

“This is a hugely important study which has the potential to make a significant impact on the protection of a species which is suffering negatively from interaction with humans.”

Print This Post Print This Post

Leave a comment

You can use these tags : <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

We read every comment and will make every effort to approve each new comment within one working day. To ensure speedy posting, please keep your comments relevant to the topic of discussion, free of inappropriate language and in-line with the editorial integrity of this newsroom. If not, your comments may not be published.

Thanks for commenting!