Cognitive Group Testing Promotes Affiliative Behaviors in Dolphins

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Eszter Mátrai, Suzanne M Gendron, Michael Boos, Ákos Pogány
Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science
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Ex-situ research in aquariums and zoological settings not only support scientific advancement, they also provide opportunities for education, facilitating both mental and physical stimulation, consequently improving welfare. This study aimed to investigate the impact of cognitive testing on the well-being of a group of male Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins. The occurrence of affiliative, aggressive and potentially stereotypical behaviors was assessed based on seven monitored behavior types and compared between “Session days” and “Non-session days.” The consistency of the impact was assessed over a three-year period. The analyses revealed that “Play with enrichment,” “Affiliative tactile,” “Social play” and “Synchronous swim” were significantly higher, while “Aggression” was significantly lower on Session days than on Non-session days. Individual analysis showed significant increase in the positive welfare indicators in all dolphins during Session days. The social network analysis of aggressive interactions between group members also supported an overall decrease of aggression during Session days. These results indicate that dolphin groups that voluntarily participate in cognitive tests under human care benefit from the testing and show an improvement in animal welfare while contributing to scientific advancement.


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