Everyone who has been to zoos probably remembers the signs “Do not feed the animals”. But some may wonder why it is dangerous to feed animals in zoos.
It can seem harmless to throw some food at them, and since we feel sorry for them, it does not seem dangerous with a little sandwich or a cake. But we must understand that we put their health at risk by giving them inappropriate food.
Why is it dangerous to feed animals in zoos?
It is logical that food that humans eat is not always bad for animals. Many of them eat, for example, fruit, vegetables and cereals in their diet.
However, heavily processed, spicy or fried foods, as well as sausages and sweet drinks, are not recommended and can be toxic to animals (and humans!).
The same goes for alcohol and many other products that we ourselves consume on a daily basis.
Chocolate as an example
Chocolate is one of the most popular foods on Earth, and it comes in many different forms.
But chocolate can lead to heartburn due to its main ingredient – theobromine. It can affect the esophageal sphincter so that stomach acids get up into the esophagus.
Theobromine poisoning is relatively common in domestic animals. A daily intake of between 55 and 110 grams of cocoa in humans can lead to sweating, tremors and severe headaches.
This is because cocoa contains alkaloids such as theobromine and phenethylamine. These have physiological effects in humans, but can affect cats and dogs even more strongly.
As a consequence, even small consumption of chocolate can cause unwanted and negative effects in animals.
The most common are digestive problems, such as vomiting and diarrhea, which usually appear a few hours after consumption.
Tachycardia and behavioral changes, such as hyperactivity, can also develop due to the caffeine in chocolate.
Consumption of higher doses can poison the animal. As a consequence, breathing problems and the risk of heart failure can occur.
Risks of feeding animals in zoos with human food
As we showed with the example above, there are great risks with the well-meaning habit of feeding animals. Even if the food is foreign to them, it is also enticing.
Because we often use accessories and strange ingredients in our food, the food can attract the animals with its exciting mix of scents.
Because of this, it is common for them to be curious about what we have to offer.
Remember that the habit of feeding animals in zoos or the wild comes with the following risks:
- Many animals can react negatively and feel threatened when humans approach; approaching them with food is a mutual danger.
- It can make them addicted, and as a result, their ability to survive on their own deteriorates in the case of wildlife.
- It can interfere with birds’ migratory behavior, which in turn affects the reproduction and conservation of their species.
- Including new foods in a wild animal’s diet can make them reject their own natural diet. This can harm their health.
- Some human foods cause allergies, digestive problems and even poisoning in animals.
Feeding animals in zoos
As we mentioned earlier, wild species are neither biologically prepared to consume human food nor to become dependent on us.
That’s why you should not feed wild animals, neither in zoos nor in nature – not even pigeons, swans or ducks.
These animals are used to humans, but their bodies remain as they always have been. They must follow a diet that is in line with their natural requirements and needs.