With the nationwide lockdown in effect, people have been staying at their homes, leaving the animals outside hungry. In a bid to help the innocent creatures sustain in this critical time, some volunteers have taken the responsibility to feed these animals and birds. While many are praising the initiative, zoologists, on the other hand, do not support this movement to feed the animals and birds. Some have raised questions regarding its quality while others feel the lockdown is the right time for letting the animals and birds seek out their food naturally.
OnlineKhabar recently asked veteran zoologist Mukesh Chalise to explain why it is wrong to feed the animals and birds which are hungry and helpless.
People are feeding the hungry dogs, monkeys, and pigeons during this lockdown. Should we continue to do that?
The affection being shown towards the animals is appreciable. But, I feel, making them dependent on humans for food is wrong. During this time of crisis, we should also not forget that diseases like bird flu and swine flu that created havoc before come from animals and birds.
Another question is who is checking the quality of the feed being given to the animals. I do not think there has been any such step. There is no news of the feed–be it wheat, rice, or bananas–being distributed in the recommendation of a veterinarian or a doctor.
Nevertheless, I think we should give priority to humans. Kathmandu is home to approximately five million people, among which the majority are manual workers, who survive on their daily wages. With 45 days into the lockdown, they are suffering–with no money and no food. So, I appreciate the local authorities distributing food for the residents, free of cost.
Can you please explain more on how we are making them dependent on distributing food?
In the Kathmandu Valley, we can see many seasonal birds like heron and raven soar across the sky gallantly. Herons feed on the fish from the Manohara River, but if we start collecting the fish in one place, they will stop visiting the river. If we start feeding the foxes, jackals, mongooses, etc, their natural way of life will be disturbed, rendering them weak and vulnerable against natural obstacles and diseases.
It has been speculated that the coronavirus originated in the bats, while bird flu from birds and HIV/AIDS from the monkeys. If animals can transmit diseases to humans, humans are capable of transmitting diseases to animals too. Monkeys in the Pashupati and Swayambhu areas are sick from cold and cough and diarrhoea. They are the result of receiving food from infected humans. Certainly, giving food to animals is an act of love, but their consequences can be fatal.
But, there were reports of dogs inside Singhadurbar dying of hunger. Do you think we should let them die?
We must first understand why the dogs reached the area. If we are to keep the food like rice grains or even fish everywhere, then the herons will also be seen in the area from tomorrow.
An example can be of people giving fruits and leafy vegetables to appease the wild animals in Pathalaiya and East Bardibas. As a result, lately, there is the news of animals waiting in lines to get food on the streets, like beggars. We have made the rhinos in Sauraha beggars too. Wild buffaloes in Koshi Tappu have also become dependent. Human interference in the natural process is not wise. We should think about whether we are making their habits better or worse.
Are humans the only reason for the habitual change seen in the animals?
If the monkeys in the Pashupati and Swayambhu areas had continued to live on the trees or the fruits only, they would have never disturbed the humans visiting the holy places. But, as we know, the monkeys attack and try to snatch even if we carry the smallest of plastic bags. We are the ones who encouraged that behaviour. We made them lazy and greedy. We taught them that humans carry food in such bags. However, they are not aware of humans carrying the diseases and that they can get infected. But we humans do (and we should be responsible).
What can we do to revert to the natural order for the animals and birds?
We should first ensure and protect their natural habitat. Those who have taken shelter in the city, among humans, should be protected as naturally as possible. One way can be to grow the plants and trees that bear foods that the animals such as monkeys will eat in the Pashupati and Swayambhu areas. If we have to feed them, we should ensure their safety and that of the humans, rather than haphazardly throwing and feeding them.
If the animals’ numbers rise naturally, the natural order will be restored. We should not devoid them of their natural traits or transfer diseases. We should think of ways to make them independent, to feed on their own, and to fight against any kind of disease or epidemic.