Date of Award

Spring 5-2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair

Stanley A. Kuczaj

Committee Chair Department


Committee Member 2

David Echevarria

Committee Member 2 Department


Committee Member 3

Holli C. Eskelinen

Committee Member 4

Richard S. Mohn

Committee Member 4 Department

Educational Studies and Research

Committee Member 5

Donald Sacco

Committee Member 5 Department



Environmental enrichment is an important component in maintaining the welfare of animals housed in human care. While a variety of enrichment types (e.g., objects, food, sound) have been utilized, a major challenge in developing enrichment is determining the enrichment potential of various techniques for individual animals. In this study, the efficacy of video clips as enrichment devices was assessed in two species of captive dolphins, exposed to video footage accompanied by sound. Videos were evenly divided into five categories, based on content, and played at underwater viewing windows across 20 sessions while the animals were housed with conspecifics. Species and sex were analyzed to assess the potential these factors had on interest levels (i.e., percent watching, behavioral response). When compared to the control condition, the television was present but turned off, both species spent significantly more time engaged with the television and directed more behaviors toward the viewing window. Video categories did not seem to influence the interest levels for the bottlenose (Tursiops truncatus) or rough toothed dolphins (Steno bredanensis). There were marked differences in response between the species and the sexes. Male bottlenose dolphins spent significantly more time watching the television; however, the opposite pattern was observed in the rough toothed dolphins. Rough toothed dolphins produced significantly more bubble and interest behaviors compared to the bottlenose dolphins. Rough toothed dolphins also preferred to approach and watch the television alone, with no preference in companionship (i.e., solo or social) in the type of approach or type of watching observed in the bottlenose dolphins. These results suggest that television may serve as a useful enrichment device and a potential tool for further cognitive studies, though individual variability in interest level was apparent.

Masters thesis: