Increasingly, swimming with dolphins in the wild is becoming a popular vacation activity giving people the opportunity to interact with dolphins in a way that is experienced by few others. Although there are few documented cases of anyone getting hurt when swimming with dolphins, whether in the wild or in a controlled environment, great care should always be taken. The species most commonly selected for these "up close and personal" dolphin swimming experiences is the Bottlenose Dolphin. This species may reach lengths well in excess of two metres giving this animal enormous potential for inflicting harm should it become agitated in any way. If conducted with care then this activity may provide people with an extraordinary insight into the dolphin character and awareness of their environment. Swimming with dolphins in Ireland is in its infancy but has occurred over the past few years with "friendly" Bottlenose Dolphins that have freely sought the company of humans along Ireland's coastline.
Whale Watch West Cork has considered the facts in detail and believes that dolphin swimming and swimming with any wild marine mammal unnecessarily increases the risk of injury and possibly increases stress of the animal to unacceptable levels. We therefore conclude that this practice should not be encouraged. Swim-with dolphin programmes that involve CAPTIVE dolphins are actively discouraged and any implied endorsement of the practice by discussion of the subject on this website is denied.
Much has been written about dolphin therapy for patients with depression and learning difficulties but latterly some practitioners believe that dolphin therapy may be used to assist children with autism, Down's syndrome and other neurological disorders. Doctors are unsure of how dolphin therapy might work but it has been reported that as the relationship builds between dolphins and a patient there is an increase in patient self-esteem, attention and trust of others along with increased motivation to attempt new tasks. Some have even suggested that dolphins use their sonar ability to pick up neurological defects in people or simply the unique opportunity and stimulation of interacting with a wild animal may help patients relax and be more open to learning and perhaps healing.
Dolphin Assisted Therapy
Whale Watch West Cork has studied widely the reported benefits of dolphin therapy and dolphin assisted therapy (DAT) and the ways in which interaction with dolphins might help children and adults with neurological disorders. Our conclusions are that there is little persuasive evidence in support of dolphin interactions having any significant benefit to patients with neurological disorders or learning difficulties. Furthermore, as this usually requires the keeping of CAPTIVE dolphins we strongly disassociate ourselves from any perceived endorsement of dolphin therapy or dolphin assisted therapy that might be implied by our discussion of the issue on this website. Whale Watch West Cork does not support the keeping of any whale or dolphin in captivity.
© Whale Watch West Cork Ireland 2005-2009
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