Some of you may be aware the Vancouver Park Board is looking to ban the continued study of whales and dolphins at our marine science centre due to pressure from animal rights critics. They cite that there is no value in having whales and dolphins at a marine science facility. Below is a signed statement by preeminent research scientists from around the world who disagree.

April 8, 2016

We, the undersigned members of the scientific community, wish to acknowledge the importance of marine mammals in zoos, aquariums, and marine mammal facilities, and express our support for research conducted at these facilities. We know that critical research findings have come from studies of dolphins and related species in managed care environments, which have provided the vast majority of what is known about their perception, physiology, and cognition. This includes both basic facts about these animals (e.g., echolocation and how it works[i], diving physiology[ii], energetics[iii], gestation period[iv], hearing range[v], signature whistles[vi], and so forth) and applied information such as how they react to environmental stressors[vii] and how to diagnose and treat their diseases.[viii]

The benefits of such research extend well beyond the animals in zoological facilities. The interpretation of data from field studies is directly informed by what we have learned about the cognition and physiology of these animals in managed care settings. Moreover, because science is inherently a collaborative endeavor, research findings from these animals contribute to our collective understanding across the animal kingdom. Finally, research in managed care settings impacts conservation efforts by: (a) providing the baseline information necessary to inform conservation plans and practices (e.g., typical respiration rates, metabolic rates, gestation length, hearing range and thresholds, etc.), (b) documenting physiological and behavioral responses to environmental stressors such as sound and contaminants7 to inform population managers, and (c) developing and testing techniques and tools for assessing animals in the field.[ix]

The advances that have come from research in marine mammal facilities could not have come from studies of animals in the wild. Field studies are crucial, however, many research questions are unsuited to discovery at a distance. Studies of pregnancy, birth, and fine-scale calf development require the type of close and consistent observation that is only possible in zoological settings. The hypothesis testing required for questions about cognition, perception, and physiology requires the ability to present animals with specific situations and challenges utilizing the necessary controls, consistency, and repetition that are impossible to achieve in the wild. Indeed, as with research in any discipline, a comprehensive understanding of these animals requires a combination of both in-situ and ex-situ studies; studies based in the wild and in zoological settings. This idea is neither new nor specific to marine mammals, but is critical to the way scientific discovery works.

Sincerely,

Francisco Aboitiz, PhD, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile

José Fco. Zamorano Abramson, PhD, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile

Michael Adkesson, DVM, Dipl ACZM, Chicago Zoological Society / Brookfield Zoo

Javier Almunia, PhD, Loro Parque Fundación

Richard Bates, PhD, University of St. Andrews

Gordon B. Bauer, PhD, New College of Florida

Don R. Bergfelt, PhD, Ross University, School of Veterinary Medicine

Gregory D. Bossart, VMD, PhD, Georgia Aquarium

Ann E. Bowles, PhD, Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute

David Brammer, DVM, DACLAM, University of Houston

Micah Brodsky, VMD, V.M.D. Consulting

Jason N. Bruck, PhD, University of St. Andrews, School of Biology, Sea Mammal Research Unit

Josep Call, PhD, University of St Andrews

Susan Carey, PhD, Harvard University

Tonya Clauss, DVM, Georgia Aquarium

Fernando Colmenares, PhD, Universidad Complutense de Madrid

Richard C. Connor, PhD, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

Boris Culik, PhD, F3

Leslie M. Dalton, DVM, SeaWorld San Antonio

Fabienne Delfour, PhD, L.E.E.C., Paris 13 University

Alistair D.M. Dove, PhD, Georgia Aquarium

Samuel Dover, DVM, Channel Islands Marine & Wildlife Institute

Kathleen M. Dudzinski, PhD, Dolphin Communication Project; Managing Editor, Aquatic Mammals Journal

Holli Eskelinen, PhD, Dolphins Plus

Andreas Fahlman, PhD, Texas A&M- Corpus Christi

Antonio Jesús Fernández Rodríguez, DVM, PhD, Veterinary School University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

Vanessa Fravel, DVM, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

Steven J.M. Gans, MD, St. Jansdal Hospital

Joseph Gaspard, PhD, Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium

William G. Gilmartin, President, Hawai`i Wildlife Fund

Heidi E. Harley, PhD, New College of Florida

Martin Haulena, DVM, MSc, DACZM, Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre

Basilio Valladares Hernández, PhD, Universidad de La Laguna

Susan Hespos, PhD, Northwestern University

Heather M. Hill, PhD, St. Mary’s University

Matthias Hoffmann-Kuhnt, PhD, Tropical Marine Science Institute, National University of Singapore

Bradley Scott Houser, DVM, Wildlife World Zoo and Aquarium

Marina Ivančić, DVM, DACVR, AquaVetRad

Kelly Jaakkola, PhD, Dolphin Research Center

Frants H. Jensen, PhD, Aarhus University

Allison B. Kaufman, PhD, University of Connecticut, Avery Point

Robin Kelleher Davis, PhD, Harvard Medical School & Schepens Eye Research Institute

Stephanie L. King, PhD, Centre for Evolutionary Biology, University of Western Australia

Stan Kuczaj, PhD, University of Southern Mississippi

Robert C. Lacy, PhD, Chicago Zoological Society

Jef Lamoureux, PhD, Boston College

Gregg Levine, DVM

Klaus Lucke, PhD, Centre for Marine Science & Technology, Curtin University

Heidi Lyn, PhD, University of Southern Mississippi

Radhika Makecha, PhD, Eastern Kentucky University

Katherine McHugh, PhD, Chicago Zoological Society

Eduardo Mercado III, PhD, University at Buffalo, SUNY

Lance Miller, PhD, Chicago Zoological Society / Brookfield Zoo

Paul Nachtigall, PhD, Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, University of Hawaii

Shawn R Noren, PhD, Institute of Marine Science, University of California, Santa Cruz

Steven Pinker, PhD, Harvard University

Stephen Raverty, DVM, PhD, University of British Columbia

Michael S. Renner, DVM, Marine Mammal Veterinary Consulting Practice

Jill Richardson, PhD, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science

Fernando Rosa, PhD, Universidad de La Laguna

James A. Russell, PhD, Boston College

Steve Shippee, PhD, Marine Wildlife Response

Alex Shorter, PhD, University of Michigan

Mark S. Sklansky, MD, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA

Brandon Southall, PhD, University of California, Santa Cruz

Judy St. Leger, DVM, DACVP, SeaWorld

Grey Stafford, PhD, Aquatic Mammals Editorial Board

Jeffrey L. Stott, PhD, University of California, Davis

Francys Subiaul, PhD, The George Washington University

Alex Taylor, PhD, University of Auckland

Roger K. R. Thompson, PhD, Franklin & Marshall College

Walter R. Threlfall, DVM, PhD, DACT, The Ohio State University

Dietmar Todt, PhD, Free University of Berlin

Michael Tomasello, PhD, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology

Forrest Townsend Jr, DVM, Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park

Marie Trone, PhD, Valencia College

Jennifer Vonk, PhD, Oakland University

David A. Washburn, PhD, Georgia State University

Rebecca Wells, DVM, Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park

Randall Wells, PhD, Chicago Zoological Society

Nathan P. Wiederhold, Pharm.D, FCCP, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio

Daniel Wilkes, PhD, Centre for Marine Science and Technology, Curtin University

Clive D. L. Wynne, PhD, Arizona State University

Pamela K. Yochem, DVM, PhD, Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute

References

[i] e.g., Kellogg, W. N. (1958). Echo ranging in the porpoise. Science, 128, 982-988.

Norris, K. S., Prescott, J. H., Asa-Dorian, P. V., & Perkins, P. (1961). An experimental demonstration of echolocation behavior in the porpoise, Tursiops truncatus (Montague). Biological Bulletin, 120, 163-176.

Au, W. W. L. (1993). The sonar of dolphins. New York: Springer-Verlag.

[ii] e.g., Ridgway, S. H., & Howard, R. (1979). Dolphin lung collapse and intramuscular circulation during free diving: evidence from nitrogen washout. Science, 206(4423), 1182-1183.

Skrovan, R. C., Williams, T. M., Berry, P. S., Moore, P. W., & Davis, R. W. (1999). The diving physiology of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). II. Biomechanics and changes in buoyancy at depth. Journal of Experimental Biology, 202(20), 2749-2761.

Noren, S. R., Cuccurullo, V., & Williams, T. M. (2004). The development of diving bradycardia in bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). Journal of Comparative Physiology B, 174, 139-147.

[iii] e.g., Williams, T. M., Friedl, W. A., & Haun, J. E. (1993). The physiology of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus): Heart rate, metabolic rate and plasma lactate concentration during exercise. Journal of Experimental Biology, 179, 31-46.

Holt, M. M., Noren, D. P., Dunkin, R. C., & Williams, T. M. (2015). Vocal performance affects metabolic rate in dolphins: Implications for animals communicating in noisy environments. The Journal of Experimental Biology, 218, 1647-1654.

[iv] e.g., Essapian, F. S. (1963). Observations on abnormalities of parturition in captive bottle-nosed dolphins, Tursiops truncatus, and concurrent behavior of other porpoises. Journal of Mammalogy, 44, 405-414.

Cornell, L. H., Asper, E. D., Antrim, J. E., Searles, S. S., Young, W. G., & Goff, T. (1987). Progress report: Results of a long-range captive breeding program for the bottlenose dolphin, Tursiops truncatus and Tursiops truncatus gilli. Zoo Biology, 6, 41-53.

Duffield, D. A., Odell, D. K., McBain, J. F., & Andrews, B. (1995). Killer whale (Orcinus orca) reproduction at Sea World. Zoo Biology, 14, 417-430.

[v] e.g., Hall, J. D., & Johnson, C. S. (1972). Auditory thresholds of a killer whale Orcinus orca Linnaeus. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 51(2B), 515-517.

Kellogg, W. N. (1953). Ultrasonic hearing in the porpoise, Tursiops truncatus. Journal of comparative and physiological psychology, 46, 446-450.

[vi] e.g., Caldwell, M. C., & Caldwell, D. K. (1965). Individualized whistle contours in bottle-nosed dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). Nature, 207, 434-435.

Tyack, P. L. (1986). Whistle repertoires of two bottlenosed dolphins, Tursiops truncatus: Mimicry of signature whistles? Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 18, 251-257.

Janik, V. M., & Slater, P. J. B. (1998). Context-specific use suggests that bottlenose dolphin signature whistles are cohesion calls. Animal Behaviour, 56, 829-838.

[vii] e.g., Thomas, J. A., Kastelein, R. A., & Awbrey, F. T. (1990). Behavior and blood catecholamines of captive belugas during playbacks of noise from an oil drilling platform. Zoo Biology, 9, 393-402.

Ridgway, S. H., & Reddy, M. (1995). Residue levels of several organochlorines in Tursiops truncatus milk collected at varied stages of lactation. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 30, 609-614.

Reddy, M., Echols, S., Finklea, B., Busbee, D., Reif, J. S., & Ridgway, S. (1998). PCBs and chlorinated pesticides in clinically healthy Tursiops truncatus: Relationships between levels in blubber and blood. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 36, 892-903.

Houser, D. S., Yeates, L., Crocker, D. E., Martin, S. W., & Finneran, J. J. (2011). Behavioral reactions of dolphins and sea lions to sonarlike sound exposures, Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 129, 2432.

[viii] e.g., Reidarson, T. H., McBain, J. F., Dalton, L. M., & Rinaldi, M. G. (1999). Diagnosis and treatment of fungal infections in marine mammals. (pp. 478-484). In M. E. Fowler & R. E. Miller (Eds.), Zoo & Wild Animal Medicine, Current Therapy 4. W.B. Saunders: Philadelphia, PA.

[ix] e.g., Finneran, J. J., Houser, D. S., Blasko, D., Hicks, C., Hudson, J., & Osborn, M. (2008). Estimating bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) hearing thresholds from single and multiple simultaneous auditory evoked potentials. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 123, 542-551.

[1] e.g., Kellogg, W. N. (1958). Echo ranging in the porpoise. Science, 128, 982-988.

Norris, K. S., Prescott, J. H., Asa-Dorian, P. V., & Perkins, P. (1961). An experimental demonstration of echolocation behavior in the porpoise, Tursiops truncatus (Montague). Biological Bulletin, 120, 163-176.

Au, W. W. L. (1993). The sonar of dolphins. New York: Springer-Verlag.

[1] e.g., Ridgway, S. H., & Howard, R. (1979). Dolphin lung collapse and intramuscular circulation during free diving: evidence from nitrogen washout. Science, 206(4423), 1182-1183.

Skrovan, R. C., Williams, T. M., Berry, P. S., Moore, P. W., & Davis, R. W. (1999). The diving physiology of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). II. Biomechanics and changes in buoyancy at depth. Journal of Experimental Biology, 202(20), 2749-2761.

Noren, S. R., Cuccurullo, V., & Williams, T. M. (2004). The development of diving bradycardia in bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). Journal of Comparative Physiology B, 174, 139-147.

[1] e.g., Williams, T. M., Friedl, W. A., & Haun, J. E. (1993). The physiology of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus): Heart rate, metabolic rate and plasma lactate concentration during exercise. Journal of Experimental Biology, 179, 31-46.

Holt, M. M., Noren, D. P., Dunkin, R. C., & Williams, T. M. (2015). Vocal performance affects metabolic rate in dolphins: Implications for animals communicating in noisy environments. The Journal of Experimental Biology, 218, 1647-1654.

[1] e.g., Essapian, F. S. (1963). Observations on abnormalities of parturition in captive bottle-nosed dolphins, Tursiops truncatus, and concurrent behavior of other porpoises. Journal of Mammalogy, 44, 405-414.

Cornell, L. H., Asper, E. D., Antrim, J. E., Searles, S. S., Young, W. G., & Goff, T. (1987). Progress report: Results of a long-range captive breeding program for the bottlenose dolphin, Tursiops truncatus and Tursiops truncatus gilli. Zoo Biology, 6, 41-53.

Duffield, D. A., Odell, D. K., McBain, J. F., & Andrews, B. (1995). Killer whale (Orcinus orca) reproduction at Sea World. Zoo Biology, 14, 417-430.

[1] e.g., Hall, J. D., & Johnson, C. S. (1972). Auditory thresholds of a killer whale Orcinus orca Linnaeus. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 51(2B), 515-517.

Kellogg, W. N. (1953). Ultrasonic hearing in the porpoise, Tursiops truncatus. Journal of comparative and physiological psychology, 46, 446-450.

[1] e.g., Caldwell, M. C., & Caldwell, D. K. (1965). Individualized whistle contours in bottle-nosed dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). Nature, 207, 434-435.

Tyack, P. L. (1986). Whistle repertoires of two bottlenosed dolphins, Tursiops truncatus: Mimicry of signature whistles? Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 18, 251-257.

Janik, V. M., & Slater, P. J. B. (1998). Context-specific use suggests that bottlenose dolphin signature whistles are cohesion calls. Animal Behaviour, 56, 829-838.

[1] e.g., Thomas, J. A., Kastelein, R. A., & Awbrey, F. T. (1990). Behavior and blood catecholamines of captive belugas during playbacks of noise from an oil drilling platform. Zoo Biology, 9, 393-402.

Ridgway, S. H., & Reddy, M. (1995). Residue levels of several organochlorines in Tursiops truncatus milk collected at varied stages of lactation. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 30, 609-614.

Reddy, M., Echols, S., Finklea, B., Busbee, D., Reif, J. S., & Ridgway, S. (1998). PCBs and chlorinated pesticides in clinically healthy Tursiops truncatus: Relationships between levels in blubber and blood. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 36, 892-903.

Houser, D. S., Yeates, L., Crocker, D. E., Martin, S. W., & Finneran, J. J. (2011). Behavioral reactions of dolphins and sea lions to sonarlike sound exposures, Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 129, 2432.

[1] e.g., Reidarson, T. H., McBain, J. F., Dalton, L. M., & Rinaldi, M. G. (1999). Diagnosis and treatment of fungal infections in marine mammals. (pp. 478-484). In M. E. Fowler & R. E. Miller (Eds.), Zoo & Wild Animal Medicine, Current Therapy 4. W.B. Saunders: Philadelphia, PA.

[1] e.g., Finneran, J. J., Houser, D. S., Blasko, D., Hicks, C., Hudson, J., & Osborn, M. (2008). Estimating bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) hearing thresholds from single and multiple simultaneous auditory evoked potentials. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 123, 542-551.

7 Responses

  1. Britta

    I Support Keeping and research of Marine mammals in scientific led zoos. Please continue it and do not listen to stupid activists who know nothing about animal needs/biology.

    Reply
  2. April Schiller

    You all do such amazing research and give such support and unconditional love for these mammals. Do NOT abandon this ongoing endeavour.

    Reply
  3. Tammy

    Please continue doing research on the whales and dolphins at the Vancouver aquarium! It’s great to have a facility so close to visit and learn what they are finding!

    Reply

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