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Marino, L., Frohoff, T. 2011.Towards a New Paradigm of Non-Captive Research on Cetacean Cognition. PLoS ONE 6(9): e24121. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0024121.

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Abstract: Contemporary knowledge of impressive neu- rophysiology and behavior in cetaceans, combined with increasing opportunities for studying free-ranging ceta- ceans who initiate sociable interaction with humans, are converging to highlight serious ethical considerations and emerging opportunities for a new era of progressive and less-invasive cetacean research. Most research on ceta- cean cognition has taken place in controlled captive settings, e.g., research labs, marine parks. While these environments afford a certain amount of experimental rigor and logistical control they are fraught with limitations in external validity, impose tremendous stress on the part of the captive animals, and place burdens on populations from which they are often captured. Alterna- tively, over the past three decades, some researchers have sought to focus their attention on the presence of free- ranging cetacean individuals and groups who have initiated, or chosen to participate in, sociable interactions with humans in the wild. This new approach, defined as Interspecies Collaborative Research between cetacean and human, involves developing novel ways to address research questions under natural conditions and respect- ing the individual cetacean’s autonomy. It also offers a range of potential direct benefits to the cetaceans studied, as well as allowing for unprecedented cognitive and psychological research on sociable mysticetes. Yet stringent precautions are warranted so as to not increase their vulnerability to human activities or pathogens. When conducted in its best and most responsible form, collaborative research with free-ranging cetaceans can deliver methodological innovation and invaluable new insights while not necessitating the ethical and scientific compromises that characterize research in captivity. Further, it is representative of a new epoch in science in which research is designed so that the participating cetaceans are the direct recipients of the benefits.
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Towards a New Paradigm of Non-Captive Research on
Cetacean Cognition
Lori Marino
1,2
*, Toni Frohoff
3
1Department of Psychology, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, United States of America, 2Emory Center for Ethics, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, United States of
America, 3TerraMar Research and Learning Institute, Santa Barbara, California, United States of America
Abstract: Contemporary knowledge of impressive neu-
rophysiology and behavior in cetaceans, combined with
increasing opportunities for studying free-ranging ceta-
ceans who initiate sociable interaction with humans, are
converging to highlight serious ethical considerations and
emerging opportunities for a new era of progressive and
less-invasive cetacean research. Most research on ceta-
cean cognition has taken place in controlled captive
settings, e.g., research labs, marine parks. While these
environments afford a certain amount of experimental
rigor and logistical control they are fraught with
limitations in external validity, impose tremendous stress
on the part of the captive animals, and place burdens on
populations from which they are often captured. Alterna-
tively, over the past three decades, some researchers have
sought to focus their attention on the presence of free-
ranging cetacean individuals and groups who have
initiated, or chosen to participate in, sociable interactions
with humans in the wild. This new approach, defined as
Interspecies Collaborative Research between cetacean
and human, involves developing novel ways to address
research questions under natural conditions and respect-
ing the individual cetacean’s autonomy. It also offers a
range of potential direct benefits to the cetaceans
studied, as well as allowing for unprecedented cognitive
and psychological research on sociable mysticetes. Yet
stringent precautions are warranted so as to not increase
their vulnerability to human activities or pathogens. When
conducted in its best and most responsible form,
collaborative research with free-ranging cetaceans can
deliver methodological innovation and invaluable new
insights while not necessitating the ethical and scientific
compromises that characterize research in captivity.
Further, it is representative of a new epoch in science in
which research is designed so that the participating
cetaceans are the direct recipients of the benefits.
Introduction
Cetaceans (dolphins, porpoises and whales) are an order of fully-
aquatic mammals who have engrossed scientists and the public
alike with their large complex brains, impressive intelligence, and
social and communicative sophistication [1–3]. For a long time the
study of these characteristics in cetaceans lagged behind the rich
literature on cognitive, social and even cultural aspects of
nonhuman primates. And, just as we have learned that some
nonhuman primates possess such qualities as self-awareness,
morality, culture, empathy and politics, we now have evidence
for similar sophisticated abilities in cetaceans and other animals
such as elephants. These developments have provided new lenses
through which we have reconsidered these aspects of ourselves; the
reference point by which we can view our own characteristics
relative to other animals has expanded and diversified beyond the
primates. Therefore, the complex sentience of other animals such
as cetaceans must be recognized and their physical, psychological
and behavioral needs appropriately protected. Accordingly,
scientists are now faced with the task of accommodating this
contemporary knowledge of cetacean neuroanatomy and behavior
in ways that alter their research approaches and priorities.
Cetacean cognition
Cognition refers to the thought processes of an individual; it
typically comprises memory, problem-solving, concept formation,
self-awareness, and other abilities that involve information
processing at various levels and in various domains. It is important
to define the term cognition in the context of our arguments in
order to be clear about what kinds of studies we are proposing in
this paper. Cognition can be assessed through indirect measures
and inference as well as through direct tests. Ongoing long-term
field studies of social complexity, foraging, and culture in dolphins
and whales continue to yield some of the most intriguing insights
into cetacean behavior. Examples include long-term observations
of sponge-carrying in bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops sp.) in Shark
Bay, Western Australia, which have led to the discovery of tool use
in dolphins and provided important information about learning
and cultural transmission [4–6] and work on communication
among dolphins and whales which has produced insights into
vocal learning and referential signaling in cetaceans in the wild [7–
9]. Generally, field studies reveal the importance of cetaceans
learning and remembering individuals within their community
and recognizing their particular characteristics and interrelation-
ships, all abilities reliant upon strong long-term memory and of
relevance to cognition [10]. Likewise, neuroanatomical postmor-
tem studies of brain size, structure and complexity in dolphins and
whales provide critical information about the neurobiological
bases of intelligence and cognition and allow for inferences about
these processes that may be tested through behavioral studies
[11,12].
Citation: Marino L, Frohoff T (2011) Towards a New Paradigm of Non-Captive
Research on Cetacean Cognition. PLoS ONE 6(9): e24121. doi:10.1371/journal.
pone.0024121
Editor: Karen McComb, University of Sussex, United Kingdom
Published September 7, 2011
Copyright: ß2011 Marino, Frohoff. This is an open-access article distributed
under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits
unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the
original author and source are credited.
Funding: The authors have no support or funding to report.
Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests
exist.
* E-mail: lmarino@emory.edu
PLoS ONE | www.plosone.org 1 September 2011 | Volume 6 | Issue 9 | e24121
Field and neuroanatomical studies like the ones mentioned
above are potentially important sources of relevant data about
cognition and promote the generation of hypotheses. But they
often do not allow measures of cognitive abilities. In this paper we
propose developing ways to more directly assess cognition in wild
individuals that may replace studies in captivity and form the basis
for a more extensive cognitive ethological approach in cetaceans;
one that also encompasses aspects of their behavioral ecology.
There are a number of protocols available for studying cognition
that either can be potentially transferred to research on dolphins in
the wild or are already being applied to study wild individuals,
including cetaceans. We describe several below. One of the keys to
being able to transfer cognitive tasks from the captive situation to
the wild is the opportunity to work with individual dolphins one-
on-one. Individuals known as lone sociable dolphins present the
potential for doing so. Lone sociable dolphins are free-ranging
cetacean individuals who are often solitary, yet, for one reason or
another, have initiated, or participated in, sociable interactions
with humans in the wild with some regularity [13,14]. Some of
these individuals were orphaned and have become separated from
their social group and are truly isolated from conspecifics. Others
move back and forth between interactions with humans and
members of their own (or other) species but nevertheless fall under
the category of lone sociables. There are numerous known
individual cetaceans who fit this description; mostly bottlenose
dolphins in various regions (Tursiops truncatus), beluga whales
(Delphinapterus leucas) in Eastern Canada and orcas (Orcinus orca)in
the U.S. Pacific Northwest. And while not all of them will be good
candidates for research, many of them can be with the right
circumstances and proclivities of the individual dolphin or dolphin
group.
Cognitive Tasks with Cetaceans
Many cognitive tests assess processes such as learning, memory,
communication, attention, the ability to discriminate stimuli,
imitation, and preferences through basic procedures that involve
repeated interactions with particular individuals. If these protocols
are developed they could be used to assess cognitive capacities in
lone sociable dolphins in the wild. As described later in this paper,
interactions with lone sociables may, under certain circumstances,
afford the opportunity to present stimuli of various kinds (including
mirrors for testing self-awareness), present ‘‘choice paradigms’’
with objects to assess preferences, and initiate simple training
procedures that can be used to probe learning and memory and
other cognitive abilities. Most of these kinds of tests do not require
an extensive experimental set-up but are dependent upon regular
access to an individual in a way that allows a certain degree of
methodological consistency.
Communication and language research has been one of the
most vigorous areas of cetacean study. Studies of natural
communication have been ongoing for decades and can be
complemented by further work using new technologies and
methods. These studies typically involve acoustic and visual
recording in order to extract correlations among sounds, behavior
and context. Playback experiments - a set of techniques by which
natural or synthetic signals are broadcast to an animal or groups of
animals and the response noted – are subsequently used to reveal
what listeners know about the broadcast signal or the signaller that
produced it. These kinds of studies have typically been conducted
with groups of cetaceans but can also be applied to individuals in
order to learn more about how individuals process communicative
sounds. Capabilities to perform this sort of research will grow with
our ability to create increasingly sophisticated pattern detection
algorithms, present relevant stimuli in playback experiments, and
monitor the detailed behavioral responses of subjects underwater.
One of the main goals of research with captive cetaceans has
been to determine whether dolphins and other cetaceans can
comprehend an artificial symbolic language. The work in captivity
heretofore has provided important insights into cetacean intelli-
gence and cognition [15,16]. However, similar methods can
potentially be used to engage individual lone sociable dolphins in
tests of language comprehension. For instance, interactive
underwater keyboards containing visual symbols that dolphins
could select have been used to study these skills in captive dolphins
[16], providing a closer approximation to two-way communica-
tion. Denise Herzing and her colleagues piloted the use of an
underwater keyboard with a habituated group of wild spotted
dolphins with some success. Moreover, Herzing and collaborators
from Georgia Tech in Atlanta are currently developing a cutting-
edge technology that will potentially provide a much more
sophisticated interactive interface for human-dolphin communi-
cation in the wild. Although these efforts are challenging and not a
guarantee of success, they represent the promise of applying new
technologies to the study of communication and language
comprehension in wild dolphins.
Analysis
Why do we need a new paradigm for cetacean cognition
research?
There are advantages and disadvantages to studying dolphins
and whales in captivity versus the natural setting. Research in
captivity affords a level of experimental control and internal
validity that cannot be as easily achieved in the natural setting.
Decades of research on captive dolphins has resulted in a rich
literature on their intelligence, self-awareness, and cognitive
abilities [11]. On the other hand, captive studies are limited in
external validity for a variety of reasons. These comprise the
unknown and largely uncontrollable developmental-cognitive
effects of living in an artificial physical, perceptual and social
environment on the generalizability of findings to wild cetaceans.
Captive studies may be confounded by the physical and
psychological stress and trauma evidenced in illnesses and aberrant
dolphin behavior described below. Also studies of wild dolphins
may reveal behaviors and capacities that are absent or diminished
in captivity. Recently, a study of a group of wild chimpanzees
revealed that their gestural repertoire was over twice the size
suggested by studies of captive chimpanzees [17]. Such studies
suggest that captivity may truncate capacities under some
circumstances and lead to inaccurate conclusions. On the other
hand, there are also difficulties and limitations associated with
interacting with wild dolphins and, in particular, lone sociable
dolphins, who may not be representative of other dolphins who
live in normal wild social groups.
As important as the above pro and con arguments are, there is
an arguably more compelling reason to consider adopting a new
paradigm for studying cetacean cognition. This has to do with the
essential importance of adjusting our behaviors, protocols, and
paradigms to the very information provided by our scientific
endeavors. In our view, the conclusion from decades of cumulative
results of both captive and field studies is that cetaceans possess a
level of intelligence, awareness and psychological and emotional
sensitivity that makes it unacceptable to continue to keep them in
captivity if not necessary for their welfare, survival, or conserva-
tion. We do not deny that captive studies have contributed
substantially to this conclusion. Our point is that now that we have
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this knowledge about cetaceans it is incumbent upon us to revise
our approaches to studying them.
How and why captivity harms cetaceans
Captivity for both wild-caught and captive-born cetaceans is
devastating on a number of levels ranging from harm to the
captive individuals to negative impacts on entire populations in the
wild, even when even a small number of individuals are removed
from their social groups [18,19]. There is a copious scientific
literature confirming the damaging effects of captivity on dolphin
and whale physical health and psychological well-being. The
challenges to cetaceans in captivity are numerous beginning with
the physical constraints of the artificial enclosures (regardless of
how natural they may appear to humans aesthetically) that limit
physical exercise and are often harmful in other ways to the
cetaceans’ distinctive physiology [20]. Confinement impacts social
relationships, degrades autonomy through the imposition of an
enforced schedule of activity and behavior, causes boredom
produced by a relatively sterile and unchanging environment,
induces frustration, and inhibits incentives and abilities to carry
out natural behaviors such as hunting and traveling. While
awareness of how husbandry in cetaceans in captivity can be
significantly improved is increasing [21], the abundant evidence
for stress, disease and increased mortality in captive cetaceans is an
inevitable outcome of such confinement, loss of control and
deprivation where dolphins are held subordinate to humans in
unnatural physical and social conditions.
Aberrant behavior. There is ample anatomical and
behavioral evidence that dolphins are not only self-aware but
also emotionally sensitive and psychologically complex [2,3,22–
24]. Many captive cetaceans display physiological and behavioral
abnormalities indicative of psychological distress and emotional
disturbance. These include stereotyped behavior [25–27],
unresponsiveness, excessive submissiveness, hyper-sexual
behavior (towards humans or other dolphins), self-inflicted
physical trauma and mutilation [28], stress-induced vomiting
[29], compromised immunology [25,29] and excessive
aggressiveness towards other dolphins and humans [22,30]. One
of the more dramatic forms of aberrant behavior in captive
cetaceans is evidenced in the long record of orcas and other
dolphins killing and seriously injuring humans, other whales, and
themselves in captivity [31–36]. These statistics are striking
considering that there is not a single recorded instance of an
orca seriously harming, let alone killing, a human being in the
wild. Moreover, serious aggression among orcas in the wild is
relatively low and most injuries, e.g., rake marks, are superficial
[37]. These discrepancies in aggression and aberrant behavior
between cetaceans in the wild and captivity provide particularly
clear evidence for psychological and behavioral disturbances in
captive orcas.
Stress and Disease. Stress derives from many aspects of
captivity, not the least of which is that associated with the many
changes in social groupings and isolation that occur in captivity.
Social relationships play a critical role in the lives and well-being of
dolphins and whales. Bottlenose dolphins, orcas, and other
cetaceans are not merely gregarious. They form complex
societies with dynamic social roles in intricate social networks
[18,38] many with cultural traditions [39,40]. In the wild
individuals can have very strong and long-lasting relationships
[41]. In the ‘‘resident’’ orca groups of the Northeast Pacific, both
sons and daughters remain with their mothers in their matrilineal
cultures [42]. Conflict in the wild is resolved effectively through
various means that include dispersion and shifting alliances within
large groups of animals [43], an opportunity not afforded by
captivity. Social group composition is dynamic and fluid with
individuals exerting choice about their associations. In the confines
of captivity where social groups are often artificially constructed
and transferred in and out of different pools and facilities without
choice, and there is not enough room or social support to resolve
conflict, dolphins and whales suffer extreme stress that has led to
reduced life expectancy [44]. Waples and Gales (2002) state that a
decline in fitness, reproductive and physiological problems or even
death can be the result of an animal being subjected to stress.
There are several cases where stress, social stress in particular, was
the probable cause of illness and death in captive bottlenose
dolphins [44]. Several studies [44,45] provide overviews of
behavioral measures of dolphin welfare related to stress in
captivity.
Furthermore, the U.S. Marine Mammal Inventory Report [46]
lists numerous stress-related disorders, such as ulcerative gastritis,
perforating ulcer, cardiogenic shock and psychogenic shock as
‘cause of death’ in captive cetaceans, strongly indicating that stress
is an important component of captive display. Moreover, recent
work shows that handling and transportation of captive dolphins is
so stressful that it can decrease their immune system function [47].
Mortality. The effects of increased stress and disease in
captive cetaceans are evident in the mortality records as well. Up
until a few years ago mortality rates were significantly higher in
captivity than in known wild populations of bottlenose dolphins.
Only recently have survivorship statistics in captivity (6.4%)
reached a level not statistically significantly different from that
thought to exist in the wild (3.9%) [48–53]. The best estimate of
average and maximum lifespan for captive and wild bottlenose
dolphins is about 25 and 45 years, respectively [51]. But there are
biases in these data that make it doubtful that bottlenose dolphins
live as long in captivity as in the wild (see below).
Importantly, bottlenose dolphins face a six-fold increase in risk
of mortality immediately after capture from the wild and
immediately after every transfer between facilities [51]. These
findings demonstrate that the stresses associated with transfer from
one captive facility to another and capture from the wild are
similar.
For orcas the discrepancy in mortality rates between captivity
and the wild is even greater. The natural average lifespan for male
and female orcas is 29.2 and 50.2 years, respectively, with a
maximum longevity of 60 and 90 years, respectively [50,52–55].
In captivity most orcas do not survive much past the age of 20
years ([36] for a review). DeMaster and Drevenak [45] estimated
the annual mortality rate for captive orcas at 7.0%, and two
further studies, Small and DeMaster (1995) and Woodley et al
(1994) both estimated (captive) annual mortality rates at 6.2%
(excluding calves) [51,53], considerably higher than the 2.3%
annual mortality rate figure for wild populations [48]. Moreover,
there is evidence suggesting belugas die prematurely in captivity as
well [56].
It should be noted, when interpreting any of the above findings,
that survivorship statistics from captive facilities often exclude
periods of sharply increased mortality – those associated with
capture and transfer. According to Small and DeMaster (1995)
[51] the first 60 days of captivity should not be taken into account
when calculating survival rates for wild-born individuals, since the
mortality during this time is so high. Further, remote locations and
many non-western or developing countries were not included in
these studies; hence it is likely that the worst of these facilities were
omitted from these data. These biases can easily lead to artificially
inflated survivorship data.
All of these findings provide empirical evidence that captivity is
harmful to cetaceans, resulting in abnormal behavior, stress-
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related disease, and, ultimately, high mortality/short lifespans.
This state of affairs is not only unfavorable as a context for
scientific work it makes the confinement of cetaceans for research
purposes difficult to defend ethically.
Given all of the disadvantages of maintaining cetaceans in
captivity for research, how should we move forward if we wish to
continue learning about and from cetaceans? The answer lies in
building upon ongoing research in the natural habitat and using
these various efforts to create a new paradigm of research on
cetacean cognition.
Results and Discussion
A New Paradigm of Interspecies Collaborative Research
An ethically and scientifically progressive research paradigm
takes into account current knowledge about the complex
psychological and sociological needs and capacities of cetaceans
as well as the increasing anthropogenic challenges to their survival
worldwide. A new era of cetacean research has been developing
‘beneath the surface’ over the past three decades that exemplifies a
more responsive approach to what we now know to be key aspects
of both individual cetacean wellbeing and conservation. This new
approach is called Interspecies Collaborative Research (ICR)
[57,58]. ICR amounts to optimizing existing natural conditions for
the primary benefit of the cetacean rather than imposing artificial
ones for the sole benefit of the researcher. (Moreover, this new
paradigm does not include research on captive animals unless
exceptional circumstances exist that involve rehabilitation and
eventual transfer to a sanctuary or release to the wild as well as
mutual cooperation in the absence of human withholding of
positive stimuli or applying negative reinforcement.).
Possibilities for studying free-ranging cetaceans who initiate
close proximity and even sociable interactions with humans have
been providing unique scientific opportunities for an era of less-
invasive cetacean research. Inherent to the methodology of ICR is
respect for and protection of cetacean individuals, groups,
societies, and cultures. We now know that the survivorship of
individuals is inextricably linked to that of their culture [40,59]
and a population’s ability to survive may be particularly dependent
upon the cultural role of key individuals in their group - so that the
concept of wellbeing must encompass all levels of concern ranging
from the individual to the society. ICR offers unique insights and
methodologies concordant with new empirical data compelling us
to reevaluate what is rigorous and ethical science with respect to
the individual as well as the conservation of entire populations and
species.
Habituation and interspecies sociability in the wild has certainly
been explored in prior years by pioneering scientists such as Jane
Goodall with chimpanzees in the 1960’s and Cynthia Moss with
elephants beginning in the 1970’s. But the line between the
observer and the observed is especially blurred when cetaceans
initiate aspects of close proximity and sociability towards human
boaters and swimmers. The choice of some free-ranging dolphins
and whales (as individuals and in groups) to initiate or participate
in sustained physical proximity and even sociable interactions with
humans is somewhat unique among wild animals (especially those
not provisioned with food). What we knew of as fables of free-
ranging dolphins exhibiting sociable behavior towards humans
from times of antiquity [60] are realities encountered by modern
day researchers.
Interspecies cetacean-human sociability in the wild involves a
continuum of behaviors in which cetaceans approach, or are
receptive to human approach, and exhibit close and sustained
physical proximity with humans that may include prolonged visual
and acoustic contact and exchange, and may even involve tactile
sociable contact, acoustic and postural mimicry, and play [57,61].
Cetacean sociality with humans ranges from the extreme of
solitary individuals who are geographically isolated from conspe-
cifics (typically, young orcas or belugas who have been orphaned
but are nutritionally weaned) to individuals who interact with
conspecifics, e.g., bottlenose dolphins (though some are solitary),
mother and calf pairs of gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus),
humpback whales (Megaptera novaeanglia) individually or in groups,
dwarf minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) in groups, and whole
populations of spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis) in the Bahamas.
Unique opportunities for studying cetaceans with deference to
their choice, on their terms, and in their own environments are
providing alternatives to more invasive methods of scientific
investigation.
Over the past few decades, not only have dolphin- and whale-
watching become popularized, but even in-water encounters with
dolphins and whales have become commercialized in various areas
around the world [61-65]. The commercial aspects of observing
cetaceans in their natural habitat are certainly preferable to the
unsustainable (let alone cruel) aspects of intentionally slaughtering.
Yet, it is critical to acknowledge that close contact with any wild
animals, including dolphins and whales, can present serious risks
for cetaceans (and humans) and implementation of precautions are
warranted to protect them [66].
ICR with Solitary Cetaceans
A unique situation arises when cetacean individuals socialize
exclusively with humans or have somehow lost contact with and
access to conspecifics. When addressing such lone, sociable
cetaceans research protocols can and should be developed to do
‘‘double-duty’’ as protection and enrichment on the one hand and
data collection on cetacean psychology on the other [67,68].
In the only on-site assessment of multiple species of solitary,
sociable odontocetes (toothed whales, dolphins and porpoises) over
numerous years, Frohoff identified three critical aspects of
successful protection of solitary individuals (especially apparent
when implemented in stewardship programs with Catherine
Kinsman designed to protect orphaned and isolated belugas); (1)
early assessment of the unique and varied risks encountered by
each individual as well as any distinctive behavioral or physical
qualities, (2) carefully designed, but nimble and quickly-imple-
mented protocols tailored for each circumstance to mitigate risks
to the cetaceans (and sometimes humans), and (3) early
implementation of research (including aspects of communicative,
cognitive, psychological and emotional complexity) feeding back
directly into the second aspect, risk management and promoting
wellbeing [66-71].
In the past, scientific documentation of sociable interactions
with cetaceans has almost entirely been with odontocetes and
typically with members of the family Delphinidae, particularly
bottlenose dolphins (Figure 1). However, notable exceptions have
been documented in the lone, sociable beluga whales (family:
Monodontidae) observed annually for the past ten years under the
Whale Stewardship Project and TerraMar Research [68,70] and
for two orcas (see various contributors in both [13,72]). These
studies are the first in the world of their kind for orphaned and
solitary individuals of these species. In the intensive research efforts
for the belugas, it was found that the interactive behaviors of these
individuals with humans, boats and other objects were complex
and numerous. Frohoff and Kinsman have, to date, collected
approximately 500 hours of videotape data for seven individual
belugas over a decade. Previously, orphaned and solitary belugas
were considered demographic and behavioral anomalies, but their
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more commonplace occurrences have brought attention to their
importance in conservation. With the marked increase in the
number of orphans spotted over time, uncertainty about the cause
of these orphanings, and a deepened understanding of the role of
sociality in overall odontocete population viability, the study and
protection of these individuals is of critical conservation concern
[67]. The proximal objectives have been to study and support the
factors important to each beluga’s physical, psychological, and
behavioral health and then apply this knowledge to long term
conservation.
The beluga whale named ‘‘Q’’ is one of several orphaned
whales who Frohoff and Kinsman have studied over the past
decade. This beluga has not only been monitoring the researchers
in turn (as interpreted by frequent approaches and often sustained
proximity to us, with prolonged visual and acoustic observations,)
but has displayed an astonishing array of interesting behaviors that
can be explored to study cognition (Figure 2). For example,
Kinsman reported a behavior of interest when reviewing footage
from a remotely-operated underwater video camera beneath the
boat. She noted: ‘‘When you see the beluga looking into the extra-
wide lens of the camera, he is apparently watching what is a
reflection of himself in that reflective lens.’’ (C. Kinsman, personal
communication 2010). Presentation with a mirror (or playing
sounds resembling those made by other cetaceans) to an isolated
cetacean individual may mislead them into thinking they are not
alone and could potentially therefore be undesirable and
unethical. Yet, mirror self-recognition tests may be perfectly
reasonable choices for dolphins and whales who are already in the
company of conspecifics in the wild.
ICR Research with Cetacean Groups
In addition to the study of cognition and other aspects of
individual psychology, ICR has also been developed through
ongoing efforts to study habituated groups of wild cetaceans. One
such example is that of The Wild Dolphin Project, led by Denise
Herzing. This research, in its 25th year, involves observations and
interactions with a habituated group of wild Atlantic spotted
dolphins (Stenella frontalis) in the Bahamas. These spotted dolphins
also frequently swim with bottlenose dolphins affording the
opportunity to observe natural inter-species dolphin behavior.
The goal is to develop a two-way communication system between
humans and dolphins and to accomplish these studies with the
least amount of invasiveness possible and, importantly, on the
dolphins’ own terms. This research uses the psychological model of
distributed cognition, using observable and measurable phenom-
ena to infer the flow of information in a group of cetaceans.
Anticipating a watershed change in cognitive research on
dolphins. Herzing and Johnson (2006, p.554) [73] wrote:
‘‘Data from observational settings may be critical… when
the cognitive laboratories of the past no longer exist or no
longer conduct experimental cognitive work.’’
Another example of ICR that combines protection and research
in the wild is that of the Orca Research Trust, lead by Ingrid
Visser in New Zealand and other parts of the world where orcas
are found. This work provides proof of concept that important
research can be done with individual as well as groups of wild
orcas. This research project led to recent detailed reports of a
special type of cooperative hunting among orcas in which they
work together to create waves to displace penguins and seals on ice
Figure 1. Free-ranging dolphin in the Irish Sea initiating what became a collaborative ‘‘choice’’ study. (Photo: Ute Margreff).
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0024121.g001
Figure 2. Beluga ‘‘Q’’ observing occupant of boat. (Photo:
Catherine Kinsman).
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0024121.g002
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floes [74]. These findings, along with other similar reports, provide
insight into the cognitive capacities of orcas. Much of the research
done by Visser involves interaction with habituated individual
orcas as well – an approach made possible by engaging the orcas
in their familiar natural habitat.
ICR presents unprecedented opportunities for studying cogni-
tion and psychology in mysticetes (baleen whales) as well. In some
parts of the world, gray, minke, and humpback whales are well
known for their ‘‘friendly’’ behavior towards humans; although the
degree and form of attraction and sociability towards humans
varies widely across whale individuals, species, and locations. In
the Baja lagoons in Mexico where the northwest Eastern Pacific
gray whales migrate annually to breed and give birth, a tradition
of sorts has developed over the past few decades in which some
whales often initiate prolonged visual and even tactile interaction
with boaters [75,76]. After having documented aspects of this
unique type of interspecies communication, Frohoff has been
exploring the potential for cognitive and psychological studies;
including carefully implemented mirror response studies with the
whales who approach the small boats; a rare opportunity for
looking into the minds of mysticetes in a minimally intrusive way
and one that may yield results supporting their increased
protection (Figure 3).
The potential for collaborative research between the two species
is beautifully illustrated in these lagoons; particularly when
regulations honoring the need for space and privacy for the
whales are judiciously self-enforced by the boat operators and
whale watchers. Also, one of the best examples of the benefits of
wildlife-tourism dollars on wildlife conservation can be found here
given the notable influence of these funds on the government
protection of these lagoons for the whales [76]. The need for
reciprocity inherent in research, let alone in whale-watching, is
perhaps no more clear than when mother whales bring their calves
and initiate and seem to encourage gentle touch and even play
with boaters. Also warranting respect are situations in which
humpback whales and minke whales in other parts of the world
not only tolerate, but sometimes approach humans in the water.
Frohoff (in progress) is currently documenting the in-water
interactions that are occurring between humans and humpback
whales and analyzing them alone and also relative to in-water
human interactions with free-ranging groups of odontocetes she
has studied (including spotted, spinner, and bottlenose dolphins).
Accordingly, while studying the cognitive and communicative
aspects of these interactions, the concordant research goal is to
assess the differential impacts of contact with humans and to
encourage the amelioration of any identified negative effects and
expanding on those that may be positive for these ‘‘friendly’’
cetaceans.
Caveats and Precautions
Despite the range of potential direct benefits to the cetaceans
studied, this new research paradigm is not without its need for
stringent precautionary measures for their protection. The same
risks inherent in direct or indirect recreational interaction with
these cetaceans need to be carefully considered and mitigated. For
example, care needs to be taken that habituation, or the positive
reinforcement of increased habituation, of free-ranging animals
does not occur (except in unique circumstances) given the clearly
demonstrated dangers that such misplaced trust in humans can
have for cetaceans. And exposure to humans can also increase
susceptibility to pathogens [77,78] just as there are health risks for
marine mammal workers handling diseased cetaceans [79]. But
Geraci and Ridgway (1991) stated that microorganisms introduced
into a pre-existing microbial pool – such as would naturally exist in
the wild – would have ‘‘no particular benefit or harm to a healthy,
immunologically competent animal’’ [77, p. 192]. Common sense
suggests that disease transmission risks for dolphins in the wild are
much less than in confined quarters due to the dispersal of
microorganisms in an open environment. Also, risks of brief tactile
interactions would be mitigated by healthy human investigators
who would avoid mucus membranes and other inappropriate
touching such as is often observed when these lone sociables
interact with the general public [13]. Taken together, although
there is always a risk of disease transmission and injury, well-
controlled interactions between professionals and cetaceans in
open waters represents the least risky scenario when compared
with those in captivity where micro-organisms are more
concentrated and cetaceans are stressed and confined.
In addition, the integrity of the research methods themselves
needs to be maintained through creative procedures that will
Figure 3. Frohoff studying cognitive and communicative aspects of "friendly" gray whale behavior is an example of the
unprecedented research opportunities for collaborative research in mysticetes (baleen whales). Photo: Toni Frohoff.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0024121.g003
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render meaningful data in the wild. Methodological and logistical
challenges to the human researcher working in the natural
environment can be intensive anytime, but especially so when
responding respectfully to the often unexpected choices and timing
initiated by the cetaceans. Such spontaneous events (some
involving real-time participation) require that researchers be
flexible, and highly prepared for the rapid and unexpected
changes that occur in the natural setting. Because no aspect of the
situation is controlled, copious detailed records must always be
maintained in order to preserve the validity and reliability of the
observations.
Just as the psychological and emotional wellbeing of solitary and
orphaned individuals is likely much more fragile and precarious
than that of any other type of free-ranging cetacean (see above
mentioned ethical concerns about mirror self recognition and
auditory experiments), so is their vulnerability to serious injury and
early mortality, especially in the case of young individuals and
solitary belugas and orcas (who seem to be particularly susceptible
to injuries from boat propellers) [67,68]. Therefore, implementa-
tion of judicious precautionary welfare measures should take
priority in these contexts. Yet because of the unique needs of these
individuals, they may be in the most need for the potential benefits
of enrichment and support that collaborative research may
provide for them. Regardless, precautionary measures in any
context are always good practice if such research is to yield benefits
for the individuals, let alone the species.
Moving Forward: Integrating Research with Ethical
Responsibility
There is no single and comprehensive prescription for the
design of protocols for ICR, yet some commonalities have been
observed across species and situations that can inform this
approach. In groups of cetaceans as well as solitary individuals
who interact closely with humans, research has shown that
successful efforts are directly related to early implementation and
consistency of on-site, pro-active protection and research pro-
grams [66,68]. Studies on lone, sociable cetaceans of various
species such as bottlenose dolphins and beluga whales [62,68,69]
have shown that ongoing, systematic research integrated with
responsible decisions about protection and conservation provide
vital feedback on how our interactions with cetaceans affect their
welfare.
The suitability and feasibility for the release of various dolphins
to the wild has been debated also and almost as much as has the
conservation and welfare related ethics of capturing free ranging
dolphins for captivity. Yet if some dolphins are considered
unequivocally to be non-releasable to the wild once captive (for
health or survival reasons), the question of what is best for them
should be at the forefront of consideration. Sanctuaries exist for
virtually every type of animal, both domestic and wild, except for
small cetaceans. A true dolphin sanctuary, defined as being
created and operated primarily for the benefit of the dolphins
rather than for the gain of people, has not yet been formally
created. Sanctuary-living would be preferable to the stresses of
being maintained in the confinement of artificial tanks. Any
knowledge gained about dolphins and whales while in sanctuary is
of value and importance but, as with wild individuals, collected on
the cetaceans’ terms.
Limited Resources for Critical Needs
Resources have been severely limited for ICR programs. Only
about 20% of the videotaped data on solitary, sociable belugas
have been quantitatively analyzed to date and the researchers …
‘‘have been unable to capitalize on numerous unique opportunities
to implement wild-based studies in areas such as cognition and
acoustics’’ (66 pg. 27). Attempts by Frohoff and others to
implement protection and enrichment programs coinciding with
research, such as was in the case of an orphaned and solitary orca
named ‘‘Luna’’ (who was subsequently killed by a boat’s propeller),
as well as for various belugas and other habituated cetaceans, have
been thwarted by outdated policies and limited funding. But with
an infusion of support, ICR is poised to open up new avenues of
understanding between humans and cetaceans.
When conducted responsibly, ICR is a collaborative endeavor
with other species that creates a two-way lens of observation, i.e. it
is the humans who are also being observed and the other species
are afforded at least as much choice in participating as the
researchers. This approach can open up unparalleled opportuni-
ties for obtaining data about normative aspects of cetacean
behavior, lifestyle, culture, and some of the more subtle and
nuanced, yet vital, aspects of cetacean cognition, communication,
emotion, sociality, and behavioral ecology. Moreover, this method
also allows for cognitive research on the larger sociable mysticetes
which has been, up to now, almost nonexistent. When conducted
in its best, most rigorous, and most conscientious form, interspecies
collaborative research with free-ranging cetaceans can deliver
methodological innovation and invaluable new insights without
the ethical and scientific compromises that characterize research in
captivity. Researchers may be surprised at what we can learn not
only from cetaceans and other animals, but also about ourselves as
a species, particularly as we relate to the natural world.
Acknowledgments
The authors would like to thank Catherine Kinsman and Ken Petersen,
Ann Smith, Wildquest, Tom Conlin of Aquatic Adventures, Ute Margreff,
Baja Discovery, Baja Expeditions and all of the supporters of TerraMar
Research & Learning Institute and Whale Stewardship Project.
Author Contributions
Conceived and designed the experiments: TF. Performed the experiments:
TF. Analyzed the data: LM TF. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis
tools: TF. Wrote the paper: LM TF.
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... The limited ontogenic and ecological validity of such experiments questions the scientific value of these results, and would at least require special scrutiny when a cognitive limitation is suggested for the whole of the species from such artificial experiments (Benson-Amram et al., 2013;Boesch, 2007;2012;Calisi & Bentley, 2009;Marino & Frohoff, 2011;Suddendorf & Whiten 2001). While the question of ecological validity has been addressed by some authors in the past (Boesch, 2007(Boesch, , 2012Calisi & Bentley, 2009;Cauchoix et al., 2017;Haun & Tomasello, 2016;Lambrechts et al., 1999;Marino & Frohoff, 2011;Mason, 2010;Morand-Ferron et al., 2015;2019;Pack, 2010;Stevens & Carlson, 2008;Suddendorf & Whiten, 2001), some authors proposed that the difference between captive and wild animals are so important to the point of asking if they are the same animals (Calisi & Bentley, 2009;Marino & Frohoff, 2011), while others proposed that a synergy between captive and naturalistic approaches would be the ideal solution to gain a full understanding of an animal cognitive abilities (Pack, 2010;Tomasello & Call, 2011). ...
... The limited ontogenic and ecological validity of such experiments questions the scientific value of these results, and would at least require special scrutiny when a cognitive limitation is suggested for the whole of the species from such artificial experiments (Benson-Amram et al., 2013;Boesch, 2007;2012;Calisi & Bentley, 2009;Marino & Frohoff, 2011;Suddendorf & Whiten 2001). While the question of ecological validity has been addressed by some authors in the past (Boesch, 2007(Boesch, , 2012Calisi & Bentley, 2009;Cauchoix et al., 2017;Haun & Tomasello, 2016;Lambrechts et al., 1999;Marino & Frohoff, 2011;Mason, 2010;Morand-Ferron et al., 2015;2019;Pack, 2010;Stevens & Carlson, 2008;Suddendorf & Whiten, 2001), some authors proposed that the difference between captive and wild animals are so important to the point of asking if they are the same animals (Calisi & Bentley, 2009;Marino & Frohoff, 2011), while others proposed that a synergy between captive and naturalistic approaches would be the ideal solution to gain a full understanding of an animal cognitive abilities (Pack, 2010;Tomasello & Call, 2011). Some contradicting results from captive bird studies with the closely related species did make sense only after a precise consideration of the different ecologies of these species (Healy et al., 2009;Lambrechts et al., 1999;Pravosudov & Smulders, 2010;Smulders et al., 2010). ...
... The limited ontogenic and ecological validity of such experiments questions the scientific value of these results, and would at least require special scrutiny when a cognitive limitation is suggested for the whole of the species from such artificial experiments (Benson-Amram et al., 2013;Boesch, 2007;2012;Calisi & Bentley, 2009;Marino & Frohoff, 2011;Suddendorf & Whiten 2001). While the question of ecological validity has been addressed by some authors in the past (Boesch, 2007(Boesch, , 2012Calisi & Bentley, 2009;Cauchoix et al., 2017;Haun & Tomasello, 2016;Lambrechts et al., 1999;Marino & Frohoff, 2011;Mason, 2010;Morand-Ferron et al., 2015;2019;Pack, 2010;Stevens & Carlson, 2008;Suddendorf & Whiten, 2001), some authors proposed that the difference between captive and wild animals are so important to the point of asking if they are the same animals (Calisi & Bentley, 2009;Marino & Frohoff, 2011), while others proposed that a synergy between captive and naturalistic approaches would be the ideal solution to gain a full understanding of an animal cognitive abilities (Pack, 2010;Tomasello & Call, 2011). Some contradicting results from captive bird studies with the closely related species did make sense only after a precise consideration of the different ecologies of these species (Healy et al., 2009;Lambrechts et al., 1999;Pravosudov & Smulders, 2010;Smulders et al., 2010). ...
... Por una parte, (a) los estudios cognitivos y etológicos, que evidencian la presencia de complejas capacidades, entre las que se encuentran el autoreconocimiento, la teoría de la mente, las capacidades lingüísticas o la habilidad de trasmisión de hábitos y comportamientos mediante aprendizaje social (p.e., Byrne, Bates y Moss, 2009;Gomez, 2008;Marino et al., 2007). Por otra parte, (b) los estudios con animales cautivos han revelado las consecuencias negativas de los entornos desfavorables de crianza, con el desarrollo de comportamientos anormales (p.e., Marino y Frohoff, 2011;Mason y Veasey, 2010;Nash, Fritz, Alford y Brent, 1999) e incluso de posibles trastornos mentales (p.e., Rizzolo y Bradshaw, 2016). Este último punto resulta especialmente relevante, ya que pese a que todavía este tipo de aproximaciones son muy escasos en el ámbito animal, evidencian tanto el daño psicológico, como la complejidad cognitiva y emocional de dichas especies . ...
Thesis
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La metodología rating se basa en los juicios de una serie de evaluadores respecto al comportamiento de los animales de estudio, usando para ello listas de ítems descriptivos recogidos en un cuestionario. Una serie de argumentos psicométricos y pragmáticos se han traducido en que un gran número de autores elijan el método rating para evaluar comportamientos en animales que pueden ser representados mediante ítems descriptivos. En la presente Tesis se evalúan una serie de constructos psicológicos mediante metodología rating en un número variable de chimpancés y orcas alojados en cautividad. En el caso de los chimpancés se evaluaron personalidad y psicopatologías, mientras que en el caso de las orcas personalidad, bienestar y bienestar subjetivo (o felicidad). En primer lugar, en el estudio de personalidad en chimpancés alojados en santuario (n=11) (Estudio 1) se aplicaron adaptaciones del modelo psicobiológico de Eysenck (PEN) y del Five Factor Model (FFM), con un total de 12 y 38 adjetivos respectivamente. La reducción de datos evidenció, 3 factores para PEN —Extraversión, Neuro-Psicoticismo y Dominancia— y 4 para FFM —Extraversión, Responsabilidad-amabilidad, Dominancia y Responsabilidad-apertura— con valores adecuados de validez y fiabilidad. Los resultados obtenidos fueron altamente comparables a los esperados para humanos con dichas teorías, aunque con características idiosincráticas de la especie y el tipo de muestra. Por otra parte, en el estudio de trastornos mentales en chimpancés (Estudio 4) se presenta por primera vez una herramienta de diagnóstico de trastornos mentales para chimpancés basada en la herramienta de diagnóstico humana: el Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) (American Psychiatric Association [APA], 2013). Para crear el Chimpanzee Psychopathology Questionnaire (CPQ), un total de 66 ítems del DSM fueron retenidos. El CPQ fue evaluado en 23 chimpancés utilizados previamente como mascotas y en el ámbito del espectáculo, que actualmente residen en un santuario y un zoológico. La reducción de datos evidenció 8 factores de diagnóstico — «Trastornos destructivos del control de los impulsos y de la conducta», «Trastornos de ansiedad», «Trastornos bipolares y trastornos relacionados», «Trastornos parafílicos», «Trastornos depresivos», «Trastornos relacionados con ansiedad, traumas y factores estresantes», «Trastornos derivados de traumas» y «Trastornos desinhibidos» — con valores adecuados de validez y fiabilidad y altamente comparables con las categorías de diagnóstico humanas equivalentes. Por tanto, el presente estudio evidencia las consecuencias a nivel de trastornos mentales derivadas del uso de chimpancés como mascotas o en el ámbito del espectáculo. Así pues, este tipo de estudios aportan (Estudio 5) argumentos empíricos para promover: (a) la concienciación por parte del público y (b) un cambio en el marco legal en relación a los usos y tenencias que se les dan a esta especie. Además, este tipo de estudios, pueden contribuir a (c) aumentar los conocimientos sobre los orígenes evolutivos de la enfermedad humana desde una perspectiva filogenética y comparada, y (d) mejorar las terapias aplicadas a la especie y los individuos, tanto a nivel farmacológico como terapéutico. Por otra parte, en el estudio de personalidad de orcas (n=24) (Estudio 2) se evaluaron 38 adjetivos basados en la teoría de FFM. Tras la reducción de datos se obtuvieron cuatro factores de personalidad —Extraversión, Responsabilidad-amabilidad, Dominancia y Cuidado— con valores adecuados de validez y fiabilidad. Los resultados obtenidos fueron muy similares a los obtenidos para chimpancés (Estudio 1) y humanos (Goldberg, 1990) según la misma teoría en la que estaba basada (FFM). Además, con parte de la muestra inicial (n=6) (Estudio 3), se obtuvieron correlaciones entre el factor de personalidad de Dominancia y los factores de bienestar «Bienestar general», «Sociabilidad», «Nerviosismo» y «Comunicativo», mientras que la felicidad apareció asociada a los factores de bienestar de «Bienestar general» y «Sociabilidad» y con el factor de personalidad de Dominancia. Los resultados fueron similares a lo obtenido para humanos (p.e., Diener, 2009; Steel, Schmidt, y Shultz, 2008) y a lo obtenido en nuestro estudio de coautoría de chimpancés (Robinson et al., 2017). Además, dichas correlaciones evidenciaron la validez de la herramienta novel de evaluación de bienestar en cetáceos, que sumada a los valores de fiabilidad, evidencian la utilidad de la misma. La presente Tesis presenta una serie de resultados principales. En primer lugar, cada uno de los constructos analizados tanto para orcas como para chimpancés en esta Tesis mostró niveles adecuados de validez y fiabilidad, evidenciando en última instancia la utilidad de las herramientas utilizadas, incluso de aquellas que eran utilizadas por primera vez —Chimpanzee Psychopathology Questionnaire, cuestionario de evaluación del bienestar en orcas y el modelo psicobiológico de Eysenck (PEN) para medir personalidad en chimpancés—. En segundo lugar, en el caso de los estudios con chimpancés (Estudios 1 y 4), se obtuvo tanto una estructura de personalidad, como de categorías diagnóstico de trastornos mentales, muy similares a la humana, evidenciando una posible continuidad evolutiva entre dichas especies. Por su parte, las similitudes encontradas en esta Tesis entre orcas y primates (Estudio 2 y Estudio 3) tanto en estructura de personalidad, como a nivel de correlaciones entre personalidad, bienestar y felicidad, podrían ser consideradas como convergencias evolutivas entre ambos Órdenes.
... 42 Captive cetaceans demonstrate a wide range of sociopathic and psychopathic behavior rarely if ever witnessed in the wild. 43 These include abnormal repetitive behavior, self-mutilation, attempted suicide, and murderkilling trainers and aquarium visitors who have entered their tanks. Such outcomes are similar to the sociopathic behavior induced by overcrowded prisons and solitary confinement among our own species. ...
Article
Though separated from human beings by tens of millions of years of independent evolution, whales and dolphins are highly intelligent and social animals, recognizably like human beings, if only in ways that we can sense but cannot quite measure. Kieran Fox reviews historical attitudes toward cetaceans, studies of cetacean communication, and links between brain size and sociability.
... This would help to reconcile the divergent results that have been accumulating between cognitive studies in captivity and the wild (e.g. Benson-Amram et al., 2013;Boesch, 2012Boesch, , 2020Calisi and Bentley, 2009;Forss et al., 2015;Gardner and Gardner, 1989;Lambrechts et al., 1999;Marino and Frohoff, 2011;Stevens and Carlson, 2008). ...
Article
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The search for human cognitive uniqueness often relied on low ecological tests with subjects experiencing unnatural ontogeny. Recently, neuroscience demonstrated the significance of a rich environment on the development of brain structures and cognitive abilities. This stresses the importance to consider the prior knowledge that subjects bring in any experiment. Second, recent developments in multivariate statistics control precisely for a number of factors and their interactions. Making controls in natural observations equivalent and sometimes superior to captive experimental studies without the drawbacks of the latter methods. Thus, we can now investigate complex cognition by accounting for many different factors, as required when solving tasks in nature. Combining both progresses allow us to move towards an “experience-specific cognition”, recognizing that cognition vary extensively in nature as individuals adapt to the precise challenges they experience in life. Such cognitive specialization makes cross-species comparisons more complex, while potentially identifying human cognitive uniqueness.
... Some more recent research on cetacean and primate cognition relies on individuals voluntarily participating in training sessions (e.g. 6,7 ). ...
Article
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Cognitive challenges may provide a form of enrichment to improve the welfare of captive animals. Primates, dolphins, and goats will voluntarily participate in learning tasks suggesting that these are rewarding, but little work has been conducted on livestock species. We investigated the motivation of 10 pairs of Holstein heifers to experience learning opportunities using a yoked design. All heifers were trained to perform an operant response (nose touch) on a variable interval schedule. Learning heifers then performed this response to access a discrimination learning task in which colour and texture of feed-bin lids signified a preferred reward (grain) vs. a non-preferred reward (straw). Control heifers received the same feed without a choice of bins or association of feed with lid type. Learning heifers approached the target to begin sessions faster (p = 0.024) and tended to perform more operant responses (p = 0.08), indicating stronger motivation. Treatments did not differ in the frequency with which heifers participated in voluntary training sessions. We conclude that heifers are motivated to participate in learning tasks, but that aspects of the experience other than discrimination learning were also rewarding. Cognitive challenges and other opportunities to exert control over the environment may improve animal welfare.
... Many experiments on behavior and cognition in animals take place in captive settings. While these conditions allow for logistical control, they often lead to harms for the captive animals (Marino and Frohoff 2011). The damaging effects of captivity have been well documented. ...
Article
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Research in ecology and wildlife biology remains crucial for increasing our knowledge and improving species management and conservation in the midst of the current biodiversity crisis. However, obtaining information on population status often involves invasive sampling of a certain number of individual animals. Marking and sampling practices include taking blood and tissue samples, toe-clipping of amphibians and rodents, or using implants and radio-transmitters – techniques that can negatively affect the animal. Wildlife research may then result in a fundamental conflict between individual animal welfare and the welfare of the population or ecosystem, which could be significantly reduced if non-invasive research practices were more broadly implemented. Implementation of non-invasive methods could be guided by the so-called 3Rs principles for animal research (replace, reduce, refine), which were proposed by Russell and Burch 60 years ago and have become a part of many animal protection legislations worldwide. However, the process of incorporating the 3Rs principles into wildlife research has been unfortunately rather slow and their importance overlooked. In order to help alleviate this situation, here I provide an overview of the most common practices in wildlife research, discuss their potential impact on animal welfare, and present available non-invasive alternatives.
... Captivity for animals used in research, and the way it affects both the quality of life of the animals and the quality of the science [8], is an important issue for both neuroscience and neuroethics. The effects of captivity and social deprivation on both animal welfare and the ecological validity of cognitive and brain research are important considerations that bear on the value of such scientific research with animals [9][10][11]. Other captive animals-those in zoos and aquaria, for example-have not been a traditional concern for neuroethics. ...
Chapter
The emergence and development of neuroethics over the last two decades has occurred in parallel with progress and advancement in several separate sciences, including various neurosciences, comparative psychology, comparative cognition, and ethology. The rapid growth of knowledge about animal brains, minds, intelligence, culture, behaviors, and capacities made by these sciences continues to be integrated into the philosophical discourse on animal ethics, but has thus far had little impact on animal research regulations. Our aim is to bend what have heretofore been more or less parallel tracks into convergence and intersection, and examine the implications of neuroscientific research for our understanding of the minds of other animals, the moral status of these animals, and our moral obligations to them. We challenge neuroethics to adopt a less anthropocentric focus and explore how growing knowledge of nonhuman minds challenges human supremacy.
Chapter
The final chapter of Part I sets up the importance of the biology of communication and argues for the innateness of deception in all forms of persuasion. Human language, being a very complex and varied technology, is most susceptible to corruption by manipulative utterances, which is ironic because it is held up by the vast majority of language scholars as the most effective form of communication in the world. Efficacy is a double-edged sword, then, because sophisticated talk is just as important to the vicious as it is to the virtuous. It is indeed a constant struggle to weed through deceit, even when it is trivial or mundane. The ones we love lie to us as often as a stranger on the street (on some touchy personal topics, even more often), and our various media are inundated with commercial advertisements filled with lies, half-truths, and spin. There is an evolutionary and cultural arms race going on between those who want to deceive and those who want to learn the truth, and as we become more civilized as a species, it does not appear to be getting easier to find the latter.
Chapter
Dolphins and whales are highly complex, large-brained social mammals. To date, thousands are kept in concrete tanks in marine parks and aquariums around the world. In these environments, they endure lack of control, lack of stimulation, and loss of the ability to engage in activities necessary for them to thrive. The fact that they are such complex, self-aware, intelligent beings makes it more difficult for them to cope in artificial environments, not less, as might be expected. This is because their needs cannot be met outside of their natural habitat. The only ethical response to this situation is to phase out the keeping of dolphins and whales for entertainment and to move those in commercial facilities to sanctuaries that prioritize their needs.
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Whale watching is the human activity of encountering cetaceans in their natural habitat. It can be for scientific, educational, and/or recreational purposes. The wide variety of whale watching activities includes tours lasting from 1 h to 2 weeks, using platforms ranging from kayaks to cruise ships, from land points including cliffs and beaches, from sea planes and helicopters in the air, as well as swimming and diving activities in which the whale watcher enters the water with cetaceans. Whale watching grew out of the traditions of bird watching and, to a lesser extent, other forms of land-based wildlife watching. The species originally responsible for the development of whale watching was the gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus). Whale watching for the purposes of research can be traced back to Aristotle, who spent time on boats and with fishermen in the Aegean Sea. A successful partnership between science and commercial whale watching began in Provincetown, Massachusetts, in 1975, when Al Avellar of the Dolphin fleet asked Charles “Stormy” Mayo to be his naturalist. This key partnership between science and commerce has determined the course of whale watching, as well as the practice of whale research, throughout southern New England. Despite the competitive atmosphere of commercial whale watching in New England, the researchers and their representative institutions have cooperated in setting up the North Atlantic Humpback Whale Catalog, which is a photo catalog and database covering more than 10,000 individual whales.
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The gray whale (. Eschrichtius robustus) is the only living species in the family Eschrichtiidae. It is a slow-moving sturdy mysticete, slimmer than right whales and stockier than most rorquals. It attains a maximum length of 15.3 m (50 ft) and its skin is mottled light to dark gray with whitish blotches and heavily infested with barnacles and cyamids, or " whale lice, " especially on the head. Instead of a dorsal fin, the back has a hump followed by a series of fleshy knobs, or " knuckles" along the tailstock. The behavioral ecology of the gray whale is unique among mysticetes, as it is the most coastal; makes the longest migration; calves in warm bays, lagoons, and coastal areas; and is an intermittent suction feeder that regularly forages on benthos, apart from feeding opportunistically on plankton and nekton by gulping and skimming. Once found throughout the Northern Hemisphere, the gray whale became extinct in the Atlantic and now is a relict species confined to the productive neritic and estuarine waters of the North Pacific Ocean and adjacent waters of the Arctic Ocean. The eastern population (also called the American , California , or Chukchi stock) occurs in the eastern North Pacific and Amerasian Arctic Oceans, whereas the remnant western population (also called the Asian , Korean , or Okhotsk stock ) occurs in the western North Pacific (off Asia). The western gray whale is now a remnant population close to extinction that occurs off Russia, Japan, Korea, and China and is one of the most critically endangered populations of whales.