Developing welfare parameters for bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) under human care

Abstract : Welfare science is now an established discipline which enables objective measurements of animal welfare to be made. Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) are a common cetacean species kept in captivity, and although questions are arising over their quality of life in this environment, very few studies have focussed on objectively measuring their welfare. This thesis aimed to address this lack of data by developing animal-based indicators of bottlenose dolphin welfare. An initial review identified potential dolphin welfare measures, before selected behavioural indicators were measured in relation to training sessions. A judgement bias test was then adapted to dolphins, where optimistic biases were significantly linked to higher frequencies of synchronous swimming in their ‘free-time’ and lower frequencies of anticipatory behaviour before training sessions, (concurring with there ward-sensitivity theory). A penultimate study showed that anticipatory behaviour predicted participation in the upcoming event, and positive Human-Animal Interactions were anticipated more than access to toys. A final, on-going experiment has developed and applied a standardised protocol for measuring dolphins’motivation during training sessions in relation to social and health-related welfare problems. Although overall welfare is still difficult to measure, this thesis has proposed some first measures of dolphin emotions and affective states. Synchronous swimming is a likely indicator of positive emotions and social support, although more research should investigate variability between contexts. Anticipatory behaviour seemed to indicate motivation for events, and we suggest it reflects reward sensitivity as in other animals : further work into frequency thresholds would render it a valuable welfare indicator. A major objective of the thesis is to stimulate more research on welfare measures for bottlenose dolphins and other cetacean species in captivity.
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Isabella Louisa Clegg. Developing welfare parameters for bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) under human care. Other [q-bio.OT]. Université Sorbonne Paris Cité, 2017. English. ⟨NNT : 2017USPCD055⟩. ⟨tel-02285579⟩

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