As science fiction movies and pandemic scares have taught us, diseases can indeed pass from animals to people. But it goes the other way, too. In fact, a recent study found that humans have been giving monkeys staph infections in Africa -- by feeding them peanuts.
Not cool, humans. In today's DNews dispatch, Trace Dominguez looks at the Africa study and the ultimate wisdom of that enduring admonition: "Please Don't Feed the Animals."
A report in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology found that particular groups of green monkeys in The Gambia were contracting Staphylococcus aureus -- otherwise known as staph infection. Scientists were able to sleuth out the situation and discovered that the trouble started in areas where humans were encroaching on the monkeys' habitat.
The research team determined that the staph outbreak among the monkeys resulted from transfer of human bacteria from hands to foodstuffs -- usually peanuts -- that were then fed to monkeys. It's no joke for the monkeys. If a staph infection gets into the bloodstream it can cause the fatal toxic shock syndrome.
RELATED: Tidy Monkeys Shed Light on Human Cleanliness
Extensive research over the years has determined that, as a rule, it's never a good idea to feed animals in the wild. What they need to eat, and what we have on hand to give them, rarely match up. Take ducks, for instance. Feeding white bread to ducks is the nutritional equivalent of feeding red velvet cake to infants. The bread has no nutrients that the duck can use, but is packed with calories that cause trouble.
Bread, it turns out, is genuinely dangerous for ducks. Overfed ducks stuffed with bread crumbs get too full to eat the natural food they should be eating. Too much bread can also lead to a condition called angel wing, in which the wings become deformed and stick out from the body. Ducks with severe angel wing can't fly, and as such can't dodge predators, cars, Elmer Fudd, what-have-you.
That said, if you really like feeding ducks, you can actually find Safe For Ducks (SFD) lists online, including num-nums like cracked corn, peas and rice. Or earthworms. They really like earthworms.
-- Glenn McDonald
New York Times: Why Do We Feed Wild Animals?
Mother Nature Network: 3 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Feed Bread To Ducks
Business Standard: Humans Can Give Monkeys Golden Staph Germs