Assessing the immediate and longitudinal effects on conservation caring and behaviour intent of a human-dolphin interactive programme
Keywords:conservation caring, dolphins, existing connection to wildlife, human-animal interaction, pro-conservation behaviours, zoo
Conservation awareness and behaviour change are some of the main objectives of progressive zoos and aquariums. Among the wide range of visitor experiences these places offer, many also promote animal-visitor interactions as emotional experiences that allegedly promote increased knowledge and attitudes towards conservation. The present study aimed to measure immediate and longitudinal effects on conservation caring and behaviour change of a human-dolphin intervention using the Conservation Caring scale (Skibins and Powell 2013). This scale was originally designed to measure the zoo-goer’s connection to a specific species and to relate this to pro-conservation behavioural intentions following the zoo visit. A total of 291 adult zoo visitors participated in this study. Participants were randomly selected and 124 interventions were assessed. Participants were asked to answer the survey before (pre-intervention) or after (post-intervention) the programme. Twelve weeks after the intervention, a follow-up survey was emailed to all participants who stated willingness to participate in the follow-up assessment. A total of 148 pre-intervention, 143 post-intervention and 32 follow-up surveys were collected. Results show a post-intervention increase in some of the variables under study, notably ‘existing connection to wildlife’ and both ‘species-’ and ‘biodiversity-oriented behaviours’. A longitudinal analysis showed a significant return to baseline values for the ‘existing connection to wildlife’ and ‘conservation caring’ variables. Both ‘species-’ and ‘biodiversity-oriented behaviours’ remained stable three months after the intervention although with a decreasing trend. Future considerations on improving the acceptance of conservation-focused behaviour changes are suggested.
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