Dolphin therapy: application and criticism of the method

According to the advertising promise, dolphin therapy is said to have a calming and healing effect on a number of diseases and ailments. In this article you will find out what is actually behind the questionable therapy.

What is dolphin therapy?

In dolphin therapy, children with various physical and mental disabilities come into contact with dolphins in particular. So they swim together with the marine mammals, can observe and stroke them.

The therapy is particularly known as a treatment method for autism, trauma, intellectual disability and mental illness. Dealing with the animals should help the children to perceive their environment better, to build trust and their ability to concentrate to increase.

This supposed effect is often attributed to the friendly nature of the animals. In some cases, organizers also state that the sound waves that dolphins emit under water should have a positive effect on the human brain. However, none of these effects has so far been scientifically proven.

In addition, dolphin therapy does not follow a uniform system worldwide. For example, dolphins serve as a reward within some therapies: children can spend time with the marine mammals after they have completed certain tasks.

Dolphin therapy: that’s why it’s problematic

Dolphin therapies are not scientifically sound, but according to researchers, they can pose a risk.

Dolphin therapies are extremely expensive. Since its effect has not been scientifically proven, it is health insurance paid. Nevertheless, desperate parents resort to therapy – not least because dolphins have long had a reputation as empathetic, mystical healers.

In fact, scientists largely agree that dolphin therapy is not a suitable treatment for any motor or mental illness. This is the conclusion of various studies, for example: Researcher at Emory University. The American anthropologist Betsy Smith, who helped to develop dolphin therapy, describes the therapy as ineffective and as an exploitation of humans and animals.

Researchers even see therapy as a danger. This way, infections can easily be transmitted between dolphin and child. In addition, according to the metory study from Emory University, the risk of injury increases: Since dolphins in captivity suffer from stress due to the restrictive living conditions, there is a high risk that they will develop aggressive behaviors and thereby injure people.

Dolphinaria: the suffering of marine mammals

Even if the bottlenose dolphins seem to always smile: in dolphinaria the animals suffer from the artificial living conditions.

Another major ethical problem with dolphin therapy is that it takes place in so-called dolphinariums, systems in which the animals live in small pools. Dolphins can be captive and never be kept properly. Bottlenose dolphins travel long distances in the wild, are used to varied habitats and are part of schools up to several 100 animals on road.

In captivity, the animals suffer from lack of space and movement. In addition, unlike in freedom, they cannot choose for themselves which of their species they want to more or less distance from. This makes it even faster among the actually peaceful dolphins aggressive behavior. Last but not least, dolphins are extremely noise-sensitive animals. If they are exposed to child cries and other unusual sounds every day, this increases the likelihood of Stressymptome.

Not only the situation in dolphinaria itself is problematic with dolphin therapy. Even the way dolphins are captured is ethically unacceptable. Whale and dolphin hunters brutally hunt marine mammals.

They are an example of this cruelty: Dolphin Massacre in the Japanese port city of Taiji. The hunters often round up entire schools in one bay and brutally slaughter the majority of the animals. A few specimens keep them alive and sell them for large sums of money to dolphinariums, where the animals have to live in confined spaces as alleged therapists or entertainers.

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