Wildlife tours offer amazing experiences where you can see various animals you never have before. While it’s incredible to be so up-close to some of these creatures, you should never actually touch them.
Touching wildlife can have negative side effects for the animals and the ecosystem. Here are some examples of why touching during wildlife encounters can be especially harmful.
Animals Are Susceptible to Bacteria on Human Hands
You should always keep your hands to yourself during an animal encounter due to the risk of disease that you present to them. While we are all used to hearing about diseases passed from animals to humans, you may not have heard that the opposite is also true. Humans carry specific bacteria that can cause wildlife to get sick and even die.
Humans also use products like lotion, perfume, sunscreen, and bug spray that animals react badly to. Some of these products are especially toxic to wildlife. This is true for any animal, but especially marine life.
If you have a wildlife tour guide that tells you touching an animal is okay, you still shouldn’t do it. Even the ‘touch pools’ at aquariums are not healthy for any species. In 2018, at SeaQuest Aquarium in California, a stingray in a touch pool died within a month of opening due to the assault of continuous touching from visitors.
Animals May Be Rejected From Its Own Kind
An animal may be rejected by its own kind if a human touches them. This is especially true for young animals. Their mothers may leave them behind to die if they smell any human scents on them.
In a tragic twist of events at Yellowstone National Park in 2016, two humans tried to help a baby bison who had gotten separated from its herd. They placed it in their car and drove it back to a ranger station. Later, when introduced back into the wild, the baby bison’s herd repeatedly rejected it. This caused the bison to wander around on the park roads alone. In the end, the baby bison had to be euthanized for the risk it presented to both itself and drivers on the road.
In order to avoid the risk of an animal being rejected from its own kind during a wildlife encounter, don’t touch it, feed it, or attempt to help it. If you think the animal needs assistance, alert park rangers of wildlife experts.
You Can Cause Unnecessary Stress and Harm
Being touched by humans often causes a lot of stress to animals. It can also physically harm them. Wild animals are not meant to be grabbed and prodded by humans. The stress and physical assault of these actions can cause wildlife to die.
In 2016, a group of beachgoers in Buenos Aires, Argentina passed around a baby dolphin for photos. The stress caused by being handled by so many people and the physical harm from the hot sun was fatal to the baby dolphin. Dolphin mothers nurse their babies for up to ten years. This was not only traumatic to the baby dolphin but also its mother.
Don’t Touch wildlife!
Don’t touch the wildlife you may see on wildlife tours or while exploring nature, no matter how cute they may look. This can be extremely harmful to the animals and cause unnecessary sickness and premature death.
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