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Texas State Aquarium to Study Health & Welfare of Dolphins in Captivity

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The Texas State Aquarium will be participating in a worldwide study on how animal training, physical habitat, and environmental enrichment can impact the welfare of dolphins and other aquatic animals. In an effort to improve the living conditions and health of dolphins that are in captivity, the aquarium, based in Corpus Christi, will be one of 44 facilities within seven countries which will be participating.

The study will be funded by the National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services in the amount of $740,000. Going on 15 years, the Texas State Aquarium has been home to a 400,000-gallon saltwater habitat called Dolphin Bay, which is populated by Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, making them an understandable partner for the project.

Texas State Aquarium to Study Health & Welfare of Dolphins in Captivity

Photo: Facebook/Texas State Aquarium

Data for the study will be collected across all institutions with respect to 290 common and Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins, eight Pacific white-sided dolphins, and 20 beluga whales. The indicators of welfare will be developed by scientists, whereby stress levels would be cited and made note of depending on atmosphere and living conditions. The next study phase will then focus solely on the dolphins. They’ll be tagged with a component which a project representative termed a “fancy Fitbit,” which will measure their behavior, including how fast and far they’re swimming and what parts of their exhibit they’re using, as examples. The dolphins will also be recorded for the study of how they socialize and explore. Study data is anticipated to be published in 2020, for use in improving dolphin living conditions in aquariums and zoos around the world.