Why It's Important
There are many reasons we do research at DRC:
- It provides our dolphins and sea lions with mental stimulation. What we call "cognitive research," the animals experience as "thinking games." They have a fantastic time thinking & figuring things out.
- It contributes to scientific knowledge of dolphins and of other animals. There's a lot we don't know about dolphins yet. For example, we know that dolphins are smart, but we don't yet know all the specifics of that - and those specifics are important. Dolphins have evolved within a completely different environment, different body plan, and different neuroanatomy from humans for a long time now [~ 90 to 95 million years]. We're different in a lot of ways. So when we find out that dolphins can do something, we also compare it to what other animals and people can do, so it tells us: (1) something about dolphins and (2) something about the ways in which intelligent behaviors evolve in general.
- The new knowledge that research generates can benefit the animals, both in human care and in the wild. The more we understand these animals, the better we will be able to meet their needs.
- Cognitive studies inspire conservation. For better or for worse, it is human nature to care more about animals that we view as intelligent. When guests visit DRC and see Talon doing math, or Tanner imitating in such a clever way, it invites a new kind of connection with the dolphins. This connection can inspire more care and compassion for dolphins and the environment they live in.