An article came out this week in a Costa Rica online English newspaper that talked about searching for monkeys. It was written by a non-Tico “freelance photographer” who is living in Costa Rica and I was just so horrified that I had to write this blog in order to counterbalance what he wrote. I’m not going to give a link to the article because I don’t want to give any publicity to such a tale of wrong-doing.
In the article, the author was explaining how to find monkeys in Costa Rica. He suggested the basics such as…looking for eaten pods on the ground and listening for breaking branches. But what came next is just so shocking to me. First that he wrote it as a photographer who should have some ethics when it comes to photographing in the wild but also just as an adult who should know better.
He said he brought a banana in order to entice the wild monkeys to him. There are so many reasons that is so wrong. Never, never, NEVER feed wild animals. NEVER. I don’t know how many more times I can say that. One should not even suggest tempting them with food, even if you’re not going to give it to them to eat.
I recently had friends visit and after 4 days of not seeing any monkeys, they joked that they just don’t exist here in Costa Rica. On the 5th day though, we did get to see them and enjoy, from a distance, their playful sweetness.
My ethics and philosophy are this: it’s such an incredible wonder if you get to see animals in the wild, in their natural habitat. It’s special and unique. But if you don’t get to see them, then that is just life. The natural world is called “the wild” for a reason. When we begin to interact with other species (by talking to them, trying to get their attention, feeding them, etc), problems ensue.
There are many public places and parks in Costa Rica where there are signs that say “Do not feed the animals” in both English and Spanish. I always thought that was pretty much common sense but now I realize there’s a need for those signs.
What I will give credit to is an article that explains why one should never feed animals. That is something that deserves to be read and shared: http://www.footprintscostarica.com/footprints_informacion_articulo.php?art=4.
Besides writing this blog post, other actions I took were posting a comment with the link above in the article as well as sending an email to the editors of the online news source, expressing my discontent with the article written and asking for it to be removed. The editor-in-chief responded with the following:
“We allow freedom of speech and freedom to publish about anything to do with Costa Rica, given that it does not break the law, etc.”
I did a quick google search and couldn’t find any laws on feeding wildlife here in Costa Rica so I responded: Feeding wild animals then contributes to wild animals getting used to humans and being captured for the pet trade…which is illegal.
The editor did respond again…with an offer to allow me to write for his online newspaper, share my viewpoints and have my business be seen by many, which I then responded that I only work with organizations who either already equal my values or are willing to learn and work towards a more sustainable and ethical system of values for all who live on our planet.
I was still unhappy though with the fact that this article would remain published for all those with internet to see. And then this morning, I read an article about Jairo Mora, a young Costa Rican conversationist who was killed a few months ago because he was protecting turtles on the Caribbean coast. In the article, it mentioned Wildlife Conservation Law 7317. And by googling that phrase, I then came up with several articles that described the law which included this from the Costa Rican Times: “Wildlife Conservation Law 7317 mandates that you do not remove any plant life nor engage with any wild animal by feeding them or removing them from their habitat. Feeding animals leads to an unhealthy dependence on humans and hurts the animals.” (Click here for source and entire article).
I promptly emailed the law and the article to the editor who then replied that what he meant was – it’s not illegal for him to publish an article that talks about an illegal act being committed (by the author of the article). He also said: There are laws for everything in Costa Rica, hardly any of them are enforced.
So what? That makes it okay? If the author had written about robbing a house, an obvious illegal act that also has very little enforcement in Costa Rica, would he have chosen to still publish the article? Or it’s just that this particular article is about wildlife so who cares if it’s illegal and wrong to do even though it contributes to the destruction of our planet.
That old idiom plays in my head when presented with offers to work with companies that don’t share similar ethics: If you lie down with dogs, you’ll end up with fleas. Getting more business and being seen by more people is not worth it to me if it goes against my morals and values. I’d rather live my values and stay true to what I believe in and hopefully, eventually, it will pay off. : )
The author of the article has yet to respond to the comment I left on his post.
Sept 6, 2013 Update: The author has responded and informed me that the piece was done as a fluff piece and a disclaimer would be added to the top of the article. While I know he was trying to be pleasant, his email only infuriated me more since I abhor using animals for entertainment purposes. Additionally, it is still illegal to feed wild animals so the article still needs to be removed.