Does Participation in Dolphin-Human Interaction Programs Affect Bottlenose Dolphin Behaviour?

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The present study quantified the daily (short-term) and monthly (long-term) behavioural repertoires of three dolphins that participated in Dolphin Interaction Programs with paying guests. Behavioural data were collected over a 6-month period, with Dolphin Interaction Programs occurring daily during the central 4 months. Observations were conducted for 90 min before and 90 min after Dolphin Interaction Programs during the central 4 months, and at corresponding times during the first and last months. Twelve days of such observations were conducted each month. Statistical analyses were conducted on the data obtained from three Social Behaviour categories (Solitary, Dolphin-Dolphin, and Dolphin-Human) and four Behavioural Event categories (Play, Swimming, Orienting, and Motor Movements). Results revealed no short-term or long-term changes in the frequencies of Social Behaviours, and no long-term changes in the frequencies of Behavioural Events. However, there was a significant difference in the short-term frequencies of Play behaviours, with Play being more frequent during the Observation Sessions that followed dolphin participation in a Dolphin Interaction Program. The increased levels of Play behaviours following Dolphin Interaction Programs were indicative of robust psychological health. Furthermore, the dolphins continued to voluntarily interact with park visitors, even after interacting with a limited number of guests during Dolphin Interaction Programs. Finally, the lack of observed changes in other behavioural frequencies suggested that engaging in Dolphin Interaction Programs was not detrimental to the participating dolphins. However, these conclusions should be accepted with caution, given the low statistical power resulting from using only three subjects, In addition, the results should only be generalized to situations where dolphins partake in a single Dolphin Interaction program each day. (c) 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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Applied Animal Behaviour Science





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