Today more and more people are interested in experiencing the environment having contact with wild animals. In addition, activities that are performed to generate environmental awareness suggest that people change the type of relationship with the environment. For example, the ecotourism follows this line to generate environmental awareness; however, it has to be managed in order not to stress the environment. When managing tourist activities we need to know people’s motivation and culture it is related to the way they relate to the environment and wildlife. In order to understand more about tourist relation with environment, and particularly about how the people interpret dolphins behavior, a study was performed in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand. The researcher analyzed how people’s beliefs, knowledge and age that participated of the ‘Swim with Wild Dolphins’ program were related to their interpretation of dolphins behavior. They found out that the majority of the people that swim with dolphins tend to anthropomorphically interpret dolphin behavior, and people think that dolphins’ social structure is sociocentric. The tourists that were interviewed did not have much scientific knowledge about cetaceans; they did not know the values of wildlife in terms of philosophy, education, economic or ecologic. During the interviews, researchers found out that people associated dolphin behavior with attributions of spirituality, altruism, interspecies sociability and perceptions dolphin society. After finishing their study, researchers suggested that more studies are need to understand the tourist beliefs, expectations, and satisfaction in order to promote better management of ecotourism activities and to improve educational programs.
To know more information about this study read: Verna Amante-Helweg, 2005. Ecotourists’ beliefs and knowledge about dolphins and the development of cetacean ecotourism. Aquatic Mammals, 22.2, 131-140
Photo Credit: SAPPHIRE Project, Duke University and Murdoch University under permit from NOAA Fisheries