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Texas State Aquarium conducts dolphin research

Posted: 5:58 AM, Apr 23, 2018
Updated: 2018-04-23 06:58:10-04

The Texas State Aquarium is one of 44 institutions across the world that is collecting data in a study conducted by the Chicago Zoological Society.

The research will help determine what is needed to keep cetaceans like bottlenose dolphins, thriving in professional care.

There are over 300 cetaceans involved in this worldwide study including over 290 common and Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins, 20 beluga whales, and 8 Pacific white-sided dolphins.

The research study will include different types of data collecting, including bio-logging devices or Dtags, blood and fecal samples, behavioral videos, weekly trainer surveys, veterinary exams, cytology slides, and animal management surveys.

The Dtags are one of the most important pieces of this study because it works as a fitness tracker for the dolphins.

Texas State Aquarium, Curator of Mammals Emma Gilbert says, "we’ll be able to track how many miles a day they swim, where they’re spending most of their time, what areas of the habitat they like the best, who they’re communicating with, what they’re whistling at [and] what kinds of whistles they’re making and everything."

The Texas State Aquarium is one of the only institutions in Texas that gets to be a part of this study. 

"For all of us to come together as a zoo community, zoo and aquarium community, and get this information to better care for our animals every single day is, it’s amazing," says Gilbert. 

Right now at the Texas State Aquarium, the two dolphins that wear the research tracker, Kai and Shadow, do not have to keep the tracker on all the time.

The staff at Dolphin Bay of the Texas State Aquarium feel that just like a fitness tracker a human wears, if the dolphins choose to take it off then the staff tries again the next day.

At the moment the staff are trying to keep the tracker on for a certain amount of time each day and will gradually move up the time limit each week.

As a part of the multi-institutional study, this research is supposed to find "how the physical habitat, environmental enrichment, and animal training impact the welfare of cetaceans in zoos and aquariums."

This is why the Texas State Aquarium knew they had to be a part of this world-changing research.

"It’s important because we do the best that we can every day to care for them in their daily lives, we provide them the best health care and now we can take this information to really see, scientifically at the end of the day when we leave this building, do they have the best possible life experience that we’re providing them with," says Gilbert.