Birders flock to Costa Rica like migrating swallow-tailed kites. Animal lovers are ga-ga about viewing anteaters, monkeys and snakes. Truth is, wildlife-viewing in Costa Rica is simply astounding. The country is home seasonally to more than 850 bird species (the U.S. and Canada combined have less that half that number). It has 10 percent of the world's known butterflies. Plus 220 reptile species. And mammals galore. Best yet, Costa Rica is nature's live theater where the actors aren't shy. I'm always amazed at how many species I see in the course of researching my Moon Costa Rica ...and without even trying!
Unfortunately, I'm also amazed at how many people display the most appalling behavior in their interactions with wildlife.
Sure, those cuddly coatimundis begging for tidbits roadside sure are cute. It's oh-so-tempting to snap a photo of your girlfriend feeding the critters. So why not "reward" them with a hand-out? Feeding wild animals is harmful to them. Here's why:
Feeding wild animals draws them into high-traffic areas, such as roads, where they are subject to accidents.
Feeding wild animals changes their behavior – often they become more aggressive towards humans – and interferes with their natural habitat.
Contrary to myth, bananas are not a natural part of most monkey's diets (squirrel monkeys are omnivores that feed on insects, fruits, seeds, lizards, etc.).
Feeding them bananas upsets their digestive system and changes their dietary pattern.
Pregnant females fed bananas and other human foods do not give birth to healthy babies.
Feeding wild animals increases their dependence on humans and decreases their natural feeding instincts.
Animals need to roam their natural territories to maintain their vigor. When fed by humans, they stay in that particular spot and become inactive.
Increased human contact facilitates poaching for illegal animal trafficking.
Wild animals are susceptible to human diseases that you may carry on your hands.
Many creatures, such as squirrel monkey (mono titi), are endangered. This tiny and gregarious monkey species is now restricted to the central and southern Pacific, where groups of squirrel monkeys are commonly seen begging food from humans at hotels. For example, on a recent visit to Purruja Lodge , the staff were feeding a local band of monkeys, which had become accustomed to their morning hand-out. When I explained that the above reasons why the policy had to stop, the staff replied: "Yes, but it looks good for the camera!"
Such ignorance (and stupidity) breaks my heart. Unfortunately, it will kill the monkeys.
Don't feed the wildlife!