In our book we describe and analyse the cultural influences on zoological developments, using the example of dolphin housing in Western European zoos. Starting point of the study was the renewed strengthening of a romantic view on nature in some zoos. Our study stresses the distinction between cultural approaches and the welfare of non-human animals. By using the example of zoo dolphinaria we refer to a path within the citizen-based zoo history, which is usually quite different from other keeping approaches, zoologically as well as culturally. They are some kinds of theatre in contrast e.g. to immersion landscapes or country style houses with extensive presentations. For the first time in the history of these zoos animal training has become a steady and major issue in many ways at the same time.

Senior lecturer and zoologist Dr. Udo Gansloßer collaborated on this scholarly book project, which had started in 2011 and lasted until its publication in 2016.

Our study is a review, which is embedded in the intellectual tradition of the traditional German university idea, whose advantage is to regard science as a place of free thinking and interrelated knowledge. The zoological paradigms of Heini Hediger and Adolf Portmann served as important reference points. This refers in particular to their interest in the social dimensions of zoological topics and Hediger’s fact based view on husbandry and animal training. For a deeper understanding of the cultural dimensions especially literature of the education researcher Klaus Mollenhauer and psychoanalytical texts were refered to.

The book was published by Schüling-Verlag in Germany on 01 October 2016 and bears the title “Delphine, Menschen und Delphinhaltung: Ein naturhistorisches Manifest für die Tierlehrerkunst in westeuropäischen Delphinarien, Zoos und Zirkussen” [translated title in English: ”Dolphins, humans and dolphin housing: a natural history manifesto for the arts of animal training in Western European dolphinaria, zoos and circuses”].

We had the following goals:

  • demonstrating that a citizen-based and romantic view on nature results in the misleading trial to mix up cultural approaches and the welfare of the non-human animal in favor of a salvation philosophy and its paradise-like approaches, rooted in Christianity,
  • differentiation between language fragments refering to the cultural topic and such refering to the welfare of the non-human animal,
  • analysing and clarifying the aesthetic dimensions of zoos and dolphinaria as well as
  • outlining a zoological language based on a natural history zoological approach, which keeps the cultural factor in mind to prevent the scientist from mixing up culture and the perspective of the non-human animal.

For a detailed English summary please check the profile of Dennis Wilhelm at www.researchgate.net/profile/Dennis_Wilhelm [text "English Summary Wilhelm & Gansloßer 2019"] or contact me by using the contact form of this homepage.