Every year up to 100,000 tourists visit Monkey Mia in Western Australia to hand-feed the resident dolphins. But this practice is harmful.
Science shows providing food to wild dolphins is bad for their health, wellbeing and long-term survival. Even as far back as the early 90s it was known that hand-feeding wild dolphins puts their lives at risk.
A recent study by Senigaglia et al (2019) found hand-fed females successfully weaned half as many calves as their non-fed associates. Mothers were spending so much time receiving food from humans, they did not provide essential care for their calves.
Dolphins that receive food are more likely to beg, scavenge, patrol and show aggression towards members of their own pod. As dolphins are social animals and learn from each other, hand-feeding could put the entire pod in danger.
The current situation
The Government of Western Australia prohibited the hand-feeding of wild dolphins in 1998 under the Wildlife Conservation Notice, but the hand-feeding programme at Monkey Mia was given a free pass.
The hand-feeding programme began before we knew the harmful effects of feeding wild dolphins, but Monkey Mia believe they can continue because they have introduced certain protocols. They provide the dolphins with 10% of their daily food intake.
But these measures are not enough. Calf survival in the pod is decreasing and three of Monkey Mia’s five regular dolphins are missing, presumed dead.
It gets worse
With just two regular dolphins left, Monkey Mia recently announced they are starting a ‘recruitment campaign’ to find new dolphin replacements. They are targeting female dolphins, a decision which puts both adults and their calves at risk.
To recruit and potentially harm wild dolphins for the benefit of tourism is completely irresponsible. Especially when a number of ethical tourism operators in Western Australia allow people to see and learn about dolphins, while also caring for their welfare and conservation.
How we’re helping
AFD is taking a stand for Western Australia’s wild dolphins with a new campaign to stop Monkey Mia’s recruitment drive.
We’ve teamed up with leading conservation organisations, expert scientists and local tour operators to write an open letter to the Government of Western Australia condemning Monkey Mia’s announcement. We’ve also launched a petition urging Monkey Mia to reconsider their recruitment drive, while applying valuable pressure to those in charge.
In addition to lobbying, AFD has also been talking to media and performing radio interviews to get the word out about how harmful Monkey Mia’s plans to recruit new wild dolphins are.
The two surviving dolphins currently being fed at Monkey Mia have come to rely on the resort for some of their daily food, so it would be harmful to end the program altogether.
But Monkey Mia should NOT be allowed to deliberately recruit new wild dolphins. It’s time to break the cycle of hand-feeding.
Let’s keep these dolphins safe in the wild.