The keeping of dolphins in captivity is a controversial topic in France. Recently, legislation was defeated that would have outlawed dolphins being kept in captivity. Because of the controversy, scientists have been conducting a three year long study to determine what makes dolphins happy, and if dolphins show evidence of happiness while in a captive state.
The study was conducted by Dr. Isabella Clegg and scientists working out of the University of Paris. The group worked with dolphins and their trainers at the Parc Asterix which is the largest dolphinarium within France.
The scientists tested the dolphins in three activities. The dolphins were tested when interacting with a trainer, when they were given toys to play with in the pool and when they were just allowed to do whatever they wanted to do.
The scientists found that the dolphins displayed the most happiness when they were interacting with their trainers. The scientists defined displays of happiness when a dolphins were more active, when they were closer to the edge of their pool, and when the dolphins looked up out of the water to observe what was happening. All three of these behaviors occurred when the dolphins’ trainer was present.
The dolphins displayed the most amount of happy behaviors when they interacted with trainers and caretakers with whom they had a long or particularly close bond. This finding among dolphins has been observed by scientists in a number of animals who reside in zoos or at farms.