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To feed or not to feed: a contentious issues in wildlife tourism

Newsome, D. and Rodger, K. (2008) To feed or not to feed: a contentious issues in wildlife tourism. In: Lunney, D., Munn, A. and Meikle, W., (eds.) Too close for comfort: contentious issues in human-wildlife encounters. Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales, Mosman, N.S.W, pp. 255-270.

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There is a deep need within humans to be in contact with animals and feeding has arisen as a means of achieving this as well as fostering a sense of nurture and even assistance to wild animals. In tourism situations feeding is frequently used in order to enhance visitor satisfaction through delivering a good sighting and close contact as well as through improved opportunities to photograph wildlife. Wildlife feeding activities comprise one or a combination of being inadvertent and accidental, a result of deliberate habitat modification to attract wildlife, unstructured, namely the intentional provisioning of food for wildlife without any form of management or structured where wildlife are deliberately fed via formal supervised arrangement. All of these situations have the potential to have both positive and negative impacts on wildlife. Recognised advantages of intentional feeding can be divided into two categories. The first relates to visitor experience and tourism product while the second involves animal welfare issues. Potential and realised problems associated with the feeding of wildlife include habituation and attraction, disruption of normal activities, increased aggregation of animals at feeding sites and nutritional problems. Management strategies aim to control access, visitor numbers, the nature and quality of provisioned food and the educational value of the viewing experience. Management styles cater for different circumstances and include wild bird feeding operations, wildlife restaurants, structured fish feeding and highly managed dolphin feeding. All of these involve a specific feeding area, controls over the feeding activity and educational programmes. It seems that on, a global scale, birds appear the most suitable candidates for structured feeding operations. Caution must be exercised in developing a feeding situation for tourism purposes and be subject to review in the light of new information on the benefits or otherwise of the feeding situation. Feeding operations should also be based upon the fostering of respect and appreciation of natural values and not entertainment.

Item Type: Book Chapter
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Environmental Science
Publisher: Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales
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