Specific preferences of bottlenose dolphins at a dolphin assisted therapy program “Alpha-Therapy”

Evaluation of the behavioral modulating factors throughout the preferences of dolphins towards different clients are influenced.

Type: Single case study

Dissertation Biology, University Graz

Author: Teresa Fritsch, University Graz 2010

Scientific Supervisors: Univ.-Prof. Dr. Heinrich Römer (Univ. Graz) Mag. Norbert Trompisch (Inst. Dolphinswim)

The specific preferences of bottlenose dolphins in Alpha therapy are dependent on different factors, which can be evaluated. Literature brings examples of observations that dolphins prefer certain people to others. So far there are just few studies about dolphin-human interactions and there is no significant study on the issue of preference.

In this study a method has been developed that measures preference behavior of dolphins on a scale. A case study with one bottlenose dolphin in the dolphinarium “Aquatoria” in Yalta (Ukraine) furthermore demonstrates the realization of this method. Thereby the existence of a constant preference behavior is shown. Moreover the impact of different parameters on preference behavior of the investigated dolphin is explained. It is demonstrated which human characteristics and attitudes lead to positive and negative reactions of the dolphin: the dolphin does not like tall and loud clients but rather prefers small, quiet and happy children. Also the behavior and expectations of family members seem to have an important influence on both the dolphin and the clients.


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