Stress, a New Side Effect of Dolphin Tourism

Offbeat, Travel News — By Jules Auger on March 24, 2010 at 10:19 am

Many vacationers feel there is no better way to enjoy the breezy heat of the Bahamas than a cooling dip in the lukewarm waters of the sky-blue ocean, including swims with dolphins. However, new research proposes a stark contradiction to the relaxing emotions this kind of outdoor activity provides for tourists and locals alike. Scientists have taken it upon themselves to perform several different studies on the bottlenose species of dolphins living off the coast of Zanzibar, based on some suspicions that dolphin tourism could be stressful, and potentially harmful to the dolphins subjected to this world-famous attraction.

Scientist watched a group of dolphins vigilantly over a period of forty days. Their conclusions were dramatic – when tourist boats were present, the time dolphins spent resting dropped from almost 40 percent to only ten percent, leading scientists to believe that the presence of tourists is a major source of stress for the dolphins themselves. When divers entered the waters, the time dolphins spent swimming went from a normal 33 percent to almost eighty percent, dominating dolphin activities during their interaction with tourists. All other dolphin behaviors nearly halved when visitors were present.

As most vacationers will attest to, dolphin tourism is one of the most popular experiences for those with the time and the money, and is considered to be practically mandatory when entering places where it is offered. For places like Zanzibar, tourism is one of the most important sources of income. Research like this could potentially be harmful to the industry, as knowledge of the situation gets out and the dolphin industry becomes a target for animal rights groups and activists. Scientists fear that if dolphins do not feel comfortable and safe in their natural habitat, they may relocate, stripping places like Zanzibar of their marine habitants.

Photo courtesy of dolphcom

Tags: dolphin, research, stress, tourism, zanzibar

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