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In France as in Belgium, it is not recommended, or even forbidden, to feed wild animals. The publications have been shared several thousand times over the past year, however, advising Internet users to put their Halloween pumpkins in the forest when the party is over, ensuring that they are “good for wildlife. ” But, as wildlife protection associations explained to AFP, this bad advice can lead to changes in the animals’ habits and problems interacting with people, or even poison them.
As the Halloween party approaches, a text has reappeared on social networks since the beginning of October 2022. It suggests not to throw away the pumpkins after the party, which took place on October 31, and gives advice to Internet users : “Find a forest or field near you and crush the pumpkins for the animals to eat.” According to this misleading text, shared several thousand times, pumpkins “is good for wildlife and the seeds act as a natural dewormer”.
The text is accompanied by a picture showing a deer eating a pumpkin.
Animal protection associationsthe French National Forestry Office and the Department of Nature and Forestry of Wallonia has however warned against this alleged advice, sent tens of thousands of times in France, Belgium and Canada since October 2021, and explained to AFP that it could be dangerous to animals.
The same text was also shared in German and was verified by AFP in that language.
A danger of changing the ecological balance
“We don’t encourage people to give pumpkins to wild animals”, on October 27, 2022 to AFP Laurence Delcourt, “care” manager at the Center for the rehabilitation of animal species living in the wild (Creaves) in Namur, which helps wild animals that are injured or in danger. “If animals are hungry, they will always find something to eat.”
In the Brussels-Capital Region, it is forbidden to feed wild animals in nature and forest reserves and in public parks. On its website, the municipality of Seneffe (Wallonia) explains this. “changes the habits of animals that fall into the ease and dependence of this food source” and destroys the ecological balance of the habitat: “The more food, the more individuals for the same surface”.
“The reproductive rate of animals is linked” on the food available in their natural habitat, also explained to AFP Damien Bertrand, biodiversity manager of the National Forestry Office (ONF), who was interviewed on October 28, 2022.For example, the number of wild boars depends on the acorn” – the production of acorns by oaks. Beyond the visible impact of waste, feed animals have therefore “an ecosystem consequence”.
“Although I understand the good intention, in nature it is better to provide space for animals, than to bring food outside”, by promoting, for example, the diversity of trees or the development of clearings, added Mr. Bertrand.
Cohabitation is against people
Encourage feeding of wild animals “can have many implications“, said Adrien Chevalier, biodiversity officer at the Royal Belgian League for the Protection of Birds (LRBPO). “Like us, animals want to make their lives easier, and therefore favor food sources that require the least effort. After being fed by humans, they may tend to move closer to humans and habitations. It will not benefit man or beast”, he explained to AFP on October 28, 2022, pointing out the dangers of “cohabitation conflicts”.
If not, “The publication’s illustration, showing remains of deer eating cucurbits, is misleading”, he estimated. “HeyIn fact, food left in the wild is likely to be used first by other, more common animals.” like rats, foxes, corvids, etc. “These animals still have a bad reputation among many, so it is better not to promote the rapprochement of these species with people, to avoid getting into conflicting situations.”
“The risk of throwing these pumpkins in a wood is that they are also accessible to other sometimes undesirable species, such as raccoons, which ideally should not be fed in natural habitats” , added on October 27, 2022 Vinciane Schockert, expert in the Department of natural and agricultural environment studies (DEMNA) of the SPW Wallonia (ministry). Moreover, this action will have little effect according to him: “With an acorn like this year and the remarkable mildness of this autumn, the importance of such anthropogenic resources carried by individuals is only anecdotal, especially since our deer population is not suffering”.
In France, the ONF explained in a document published in 2015 that “providing food at the edge of the forest or in an urban area changes the wild nature of the animals. The latter, when hungry, leaves the forest to venture into town in hopes of picking up leftover food. Greedy and opportunistic wild boar like foxes adapt very easily to the human presence associated with food. Then, they stopped running away and returned regularly to collect their compensation.”
The National Forestry Office warns specifically of the risks of road accidents or property damage associated with the proximity of these species to urban spaces.
Canadian authorities also advise against feeding wild animals, which may disappear “their natural fear of humans” and risk of being killed “to ensure the safety of the people”.
Toxicity hazards for animals
Halloween pumpkins can also cause health problems, the German Wildlife Foundation told AFP. October 18: “Carved pumpkins (whether jumbo pumpkin, butternut squash or garden squash) usually spoil after Halloween and are therefore no longer suitable for mammalian consumption”.
Neither edible nor ornamental gourds are part of the natural food spectrum of most free-living wild animals and “Health problems cannot be ruled out. It can also be caused by wax residue or mold”commented on October 18, 2022 by the German Association for the Protection of Animals (Deutscher Tierschutzbund).
“It should also be considered that in Germany, unlike in the United States, Cucurbits are not a native plant family and therefore not a common food source for the fauna of this country”, explained to AFP Yvonne Würz, spokesperson for the German branch of the animal rights association PETA, on October 19, 2022.
As for the possible deworming action of pumpkin seeds on animals, this has not been scientifically proven enough, he said, adding that PETA advises against “strongly feed wild animals with Halloween pumpkins by dropping them in forests and fields”.
If not, “A parasite infestation is considered normal and not a problem for healthy animals”, said a spokesman for the German Association for the Protection of Animals.
On its site, the French League for the Protection of Birds (LPO) advises against depositing food in the forest, which could potentially cause decay. “cases of disease or poisoning for animals” and favor “the dangers of zoonosis”. On the other hand, explained the league, “It is possible to leave shallow water trays with stones or branches protruding from the tray” to prevent drowning of small species.
On its website, the Brussels Institute for Environmental Management explains that providing leftover food, which is potentially rotten or infected, can cause animal diseases, such as swine fever in wild boars. .
On the other hand, the situation is slightly different for animals in captivity, explains the German Association for the Protection of Animals, because the amount of pumpkins consumed by the animals is known before and they are more likely to rot before being eaten.
“It is certain that pumpkins are edible, at least for some animal species. Of course, you must always consider the needs of the species concerned and only provide varieties and quantities of pumpkins without any risk” , added a PETA spokesperson.
Global pumpkin production
The author of the text we are analyzing also claims that “of the 2.5 billion pumpkins produced, only a fifth is reused”, the remaining ending “by rotting in landfills creating harmful gases that harm the environment”.
Germany’s Agrarmarkt Informations-Gesellschaft (AMI), which specializes in agricultural market data, told AFP on October 18, 2022 that UN crop statistics for food and agriculture show a global harvest of 28 million tons of pumpkins. “However, this batch also includes zucchini, as well as a notable amount of pumpkin for processing (baby food, pumpkin oil, etc.),” said Michael Koch, AMI spokesman.
According to the Belgian Statbel statistics office, contacted on October 28, 2022, “13,800 tons of pumpkins were grown on about 690 hectares in Belgium in 2021″.