Since the American hit series "Flipper" the dolphin is one of the most popular animals ever. Always friendly, clever and helpful, the perpetually smiling dolphins swam into the hearts of the audience. Soon, they were also awarded healing powers: The American behavioral scientist and psychologist dr. David E. Nathanson developed the so-called delfin-assisted therapy in the late 1980s, whose first approaches date back to the early 70s.
Dolphin therapy soon became the new miracle therapy for various physical and mental disabilities. But to date, the effectiveness of dolphin therapy is controversial; In addition, there is a lot of criticism about the non-welfare of the dolphins.
Dolphin Therapy for Autism, Trauma & Co.
Dolphin therapy is still not a consistent concept, but there are more and more providers of this costly form of therapy worldwide. Especially children with autism, spasticity, brain trauma, mental retardation and mental illnesses should benefit from the dolphin therapy, for example, "no scientific evidence that dolphin therapy helps children with autism to promote and cure" (Maria Kaminski, chair of the Federal Association autism Germany eV).
Often the patients are people who have difficulty communicating with their environment or have motor deficiencies. The dolphins should primarily help to better perceive the environment and get in touch with him as well as to increase the ability to concentrate.
Dolphins as a reward
Often the dolphin therapy is based on the principle of reward: The patient is initially to perform a series of tasks that provide him with physiotherapeutic, speech and behavioral therapists. After successful completion, the game beckons with the dolphin, which happens either from a platform or in the tank at the animal itself.
Some critics complain that the Dolphin Therapy approach assumes that the learning and motivation difficulties are largely attributed to the attention deficit of the patient population concerned, which is incompatible with the current state of research.
Dolphin Therapy: Scientifically Controversial
Although it is widely agreed that dolphin therapy actually leads to success. However, there is still disagreement as to whether the progress of the patients is actually driven by the dolphins or determined by other factors.
Critics complain that scientific studies on the effectiveness of dolphin therapy did not sufficiently consider the circumstances favorable to learning, such as changes in the environment and a possibly resulting holiday feeling, movement in the water or increased attention and a positive expectation.
Effect of sonar waves not clearly proven
Also, opponents of dolphin therapy criticize that statements on the much-propagated healing effects of sonar waves, with the help of which the dolphins communicate with each other, are sometimes contradictory.
While a group of scientists claim that the frequency of the brainwaves is increased and therefore reassuring, the others expect a decrease and thus an activation and an increase in performance. Still other scientists consider the possible effects of ultrasound on tissue extremely unlikely.
Dolphin Therapy: Progress but no miracles
Erwin Breitenbach from the special pedagogical institute of the University of Würzburg rates the dolphin therapy quite positive: The children have become more active, self-confident and courageous, and their communication skills have also improved. Even half a year after completion of the dolphin therapy, the success was still observed.
Nevertheless, Breitenbach also warns against real miracles of dolphin therapy. Some experts note that certain groups, such as clinically depressed individuals, may become accustomed to the dolphins too much and may suffer severe setbacks as a result of their subsequent absence.
Dolphin Therapy: cost of therapy
The dolphin therapy is not associated with negligible costs, especially as it is neither supported by the health insurance nor subsidized. Although some clubs promote dolphin therapy in individual cases, still high costs are still on the families.
Depending on the provider, the form of therapy and the destination country, the costs of dolphin therapy can vary considerably. The range extends from 5,000 to 20,000 euros or more for a family, as additional costs for flight, accommodation, food and transfer arise.
Often, the different therapeutic approaches are reflected in the costs:
- While some dolphinariums allow only one parent and the child to swim with the dolphin, trained therapists and trainers work with animals and humans elsewhere; Some therapy centers use one hour per unit, others only 20 minutes.
- At additional cost, additional procedures such as speech therapy, play therapy, physiotherapy or behavioral therapy are often offered.
- In addition, the cost of a dolphin therapy may depend on the season.
TAD: Therapeutic Animatronic Dolphins
In recent writings Nathanson, the "father" of dolphin therapy, has confirmed that the same therapy success will be achieved with robots. These therapeutic animation dolphins, or TADs for short, are, according to the experts, in some cases even making greater progress than the living bottlenose dolphins.
Should this alternative prevail, the cost of dolphin therapy may eventually be reduced in the long term. In addition, the dolphin robots are not subject to any limited working time, whose introduction has recently been discussed.
Dolphin therapy as animal cruelty?
Above all, animal rights activists are pleased about TAD: A species-appropriate attitude of the highly sensitive and intelligent animals is not possible in captivity. Free-range dolphins are found in associations of up to 1,000 animals at times, swim between 60 and 100 kilometers per day and dive up to 500 meters deep.
In contrast, dolphins in captivity can not choose their partners, living in a small basin or separate marine area, must learn to eat dead fish. In addition, most are treated with drugs and hormones to prevent disease. Nevertheless, humans and dolphins in the basin can infect each other with existing diseases.
Because imprisonment for dolphins means great stress, it also happens time and again (due to aggressiveness or accidents) to injury to patients.