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Journal of Zoological and Botanical Gardens

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Bottlenose Dolphins -- Research, Animal welfare, Environmental enrichment, Variable enrichment, Overall dynamic body acceleration


Environmental enrichment can be used to improve the welfare of dolphins in zoos and aquariums. Bottlenose dolphins under professional care are typically provided with a range of enrichment that has a variety of features and levels of complexity at various frequencies. In the present study, a subset of data from a larger study entitled “Towards understanding the welfare of cetaceans in zoos and aquariums” (colloquially called the Cetacean Welfare Study) was used to examine the relationship between activity level and enrichment buoyancy as well as enrichment provisioning schedules. Survey data were collected from accredited zoos and aquariums related to the types of enrichment provided to the dolphins and the frequency and duration they were supplied. Non-invasive bio-logging devices were used to record the dolphin kinematics one day per week over the course of two five-week data collection periods. Activity level related positively with the total duration of time non-stationary enrichment was provided. In addition, providing a larger number of enrichment types each between 26% and 50% of the days in a month (i.e., rotating many different types of enrichment across days on a moderate schedule) was positively related to activity level. Activity level was negatively related to the number of times sinking enrichment was provided. Understanding how the temporal schedule and features of various types of enrichment are related to activity levels will aid in developing progressively more effective enrichment programs.


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