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Zeppel, H. & Muloin, S. (2008). Conservation Benefits of Interpretation on Marine Wildlife Tours. Human Dimensions of Wildlife, 13, 280-294.



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Conservation Benefits of Interpretation
on Marine Wildlife Tours
Heather Zeppel
& Sue Muloin
Tourism Program , School of Business, James Cook University
Cairns , Cairns, Queensland, Australia
Equity Officer , James Cook University Cairns , Cairns, Queensland,
Published online: 09 Jul 2008.
To cite this article: Heather Zeppel & Sue Muloin (2008) Conservation Benefits of Interpretation on
Marine Wildlife Tours, Human Dimensions of Wildlife: An International Journal, 13:4, 280-294, DOI:
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Human Dimensions of Wildlife, 13:280–294, 2008
Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
ISSN: 1087-1209 print / 1533-158X online
DOI: 10.1080/10871200802187105
UHDW1087-12091533-158XHuman Dimensions of Wildlife, Vol. 13, No. 4, May 2008: pp. 1–31Human Dimensions of Wildlife
Conservation Benefits of Interpretation on Marine
Wildlife Tours
Conservation Be nefits of Marine Wildlife ToursH. Zeppel and S. Muloin
Tourism Program, School of Business, James Cook University Cairns, Cairns,
Queensland, Australia
Equity Officer, James Cook University Cairns, Cairns, Queensland, Australia
Marine wildlife tours provide a range of education and conservation benefits for visitors.
These benefits derive from interpretation programs and close personal encounters with
marine wildlife. Interpretive information covers the biology, ecology and behaviors of
marine species, best practice guidelines, and human threats to marine life. There has
been limited assessment of interpretation on marine wildlife tours to identify whether
these increase tourist knowledge and promote changes in environmental attitudes. This
article reviews the educational benefits of guided marine wildlife experiences with dol-
phins, whales, and marine turtles using Oram’s (1999) framework of outcome indica-
tors to manage marine tourism. The key indicators assessed in this article are
education/learning and attitude/belief changes in visitors that benefit marine wildlife.
This analysis found tourist learning during mediated encounters with marine wildlife
contributes to pro-environmental attitudes and on-site behavior changes, with some
longer-term intentions to support and engage in marine conservation actions. Areas of
research are suggested to examine the causal links between wildlife interpretation and
pro-environmental outcomes.
Keywords marine wildlife tours, interpretation, education benefits, environmental
attitudes, conservation actions
Marine wildlife tours provide a range of personal, education, and conservation benefits.
The educational benefits of marine wildlife tours include visitor learning and knowledge
from information presented about marine species and ocean environments. The conserva-
tion benefits include increased protection of marine species and habitats. This article eval-
uates the educational benefits of marine wildlife tourism experiences to identify
interpretive programs that increase tourist knowledge, promoting attitude shifts that aid
marine conservation and help to conserve marine wildlife. It reviews the education bene-
fits of guided marine wildlife experiences with dolphins, whales, and marine turtles using
Oram’s (1999) framework of outcome indicators to manage marine tourism. The key indi-
cators for tourists assessed in this article are education/learning and attitude/belief changes
that benefit marine species along with allied indicators of positive conservation outcomes
for the marine environment. This article analyzes whether tourist learning during mediated
encounters with marine wildlife contributes to pro-environmental attitudes and behavior
changes. Case studies focus on tourist experiences of whale- and dolphin-watching tours
in Australia and New Zealand, whale watching in the United States and marine turtle
encounters in Australia.
Address correspondence to Dr. Heather Zeppel, School of Business, James Cook University,
P.O. Box 6811, Cairns, Queensland, 4870 Australia. E-mail:
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Conservation Benefits of Marine Wildlife Tours 281
Marine Wildlife Tours
Marine wildlife tourism is defined as “any tourist activity with the primary purpose of
watching, studying or enjoying marine wildlife” (Masters, 1998). It includes marine wild-
life watching holidays; wildlife boat trips in marine or estuarine areas; guided island or
coastal walks; observing marine life from land viewpoints; visiting marine or coastal
nature reserves; participating in a marine life study tour or conservation holiday; and visit-
ing marine wildlife visitor centers and marine aquaria. This article focuses on mobile free-
ranging marine animals such as whales, dolphins, sea turtles, and penguins. Marine mam-
mals, in particular, are a key tourism attraction (Beasley, 1997; Birtles, Valentine, &
Curnock, 2001; Stokes, Dobbs & Recchia, 2002; Duffus & Dearden, 1993; Higham &
Lusseau, 2004; Orams, 2003, 2005; Muloin, 1998; Samuels et al., 2003; Valentine et al.,
2004). Popular marine mammals include dolphins (Orams, 1997a, 1997b), whales and
porpoise (i.e., cetaceans); dugong and manatee (Sorice, Shafer, & Ditton, 2006); and seals
and sea lions (i.e., pinnipeds) (Barton et al., 1998; Booth, 1998; Kirkwood et al., 2003;
Scarpaci, Nugegoda, & Corkeron, 2005). Other marine wildlife of tourist interest includes
whale sharks and other shark species (Birtles et al., 1996; Davis et al., 1997; Davis et al.,
2000; Dobson, 2006); fish and rays (Lewis & Newsome, 2003); sea turtles (Macgregor,
2006; Tisdell & Wilson, 2001a, 2001b; Wilson & Tisdell, 2001); and penguins, albatross,
gannet, and other seabirds. Worldwide, 500,000 divers a year now feed, photograph, and
swim with sharks (Topelko & Dearden, 2005). Nesting or rookery areas for seabirds and
marine turtles (Higham, 1998, 2001; Schanzel & McIntosh, 2000; Tisdell & Wilson,
2002) and haul-out areas for seals and sea lions (Orsini & Newsome, 2005) also attract
visitors. In Australia in 1999, there were over 70 marine species targeted for marine tour-
ism, from whales (e.g., humpback, southern right, and dwarf minke), dolphins, turtles, sea
lions and seals, to penguins, fish, sharks (e.g., reef, grey nurse, great white, and whale
sharks), rays, sea dragons, and cuttlefish (Birtles et al., 2001). A survey of 376 marine
tourism operators in New Zealand found viewing marine wildlife was a key attraction,
focusing on marine mammals (44%, with 22% on dolphins), sea birds (42%), fish (30%),
penguins (18%), and other marine wildlife (16%) (McKegg, Probert, Baird, & Bell, 1998).
Interpretation on Marine Wildlife Tours
Environmental interpretation is often promoted as a key element of sustainable visitor inter-
actions with wildlife (Blanchard, 1995; Foxlee, 2001; Moscardo, 1998; Orams, 1994, 1995a,
1995b, 1996a; Orams & Hill, 1998; Ham & Weiler, 2002; Moscardo, Woods, & Saltzer,
2004, Russell & Hobson, 2002; Schaenzel, 1998; Woods & Moscardo, 2003). Interpretation
activities or education programs in marine areas involve talks by tour guides, interpreters,
and rangers onboard boats or at shorelines, along with visitor centers, displays, signs, and
brochures. This information covers the biology, ecology, and behaviors of marine species,
best practice guidelines, and threats to marine life. Visitor benefits from interpretation of
marine wildlife tourism experiences can include enhanced educational and conservation out-
comes (Andersen & Miller, 2006; Ballantyne, Packer, & Hughes, 2006; Finkler & Higham,
2004; Heckel, 2001; Higham, 1998; Hughes & Saunders, 2005; Luck, 2003; Madin &
Fenton, 2004; Mayes, Dyer, & Richins, 2004; Muloin, 1998; Orams, 2000; Schanzel &
McIntosh, 2000; Tisdell & Wilson, 2005; Townsend, 2008). The personal benefits of view-
ing and learning about wildlife are the basis for conservation actions (Manfredo & Driver,
2002). On-site benefits of increased understanding or emotional responses to marine wildlife
encounters (Schanzel, 2004) may also lead to off-site benefits such as greater environmental
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282 H. Zeppel and S. Muloin
awareness, supporting nature conservation work, and protecting endangered species
(Amante-Helweg, 1996; Gralton, Sinclair, & Purnell, 2004; Orams, 1997b; Wilson &
Tisdell, 2003). This article explores the links between interpretation programs and educa-
tional benefits for visitors on selected marine wildlife tours. The impacts of wildlife interpre-
tation on the environmental attitudes and conservation actions of visitors are also examined.
Framework for Managing Marine Wildlife Tourism Experiences
This article follows the framework devised by Orams (1995c, 1999) that measures posi-
tive changes in both tourists and the marine environment for effective management of
marine tourism (Table 1). Indicators of tourist benefits from marine animal encounters
include enjoyment and learning contributing to pro-environmental attitude and behavior
changes, along with conservation benefits for marine environments and marine wildlife.
Indicators of conservation benefits include tourists reducing wildlife disturbance, protect-
ing habitats, and aiding the viability of marine ecosystems. The framework by Orams
(1999) was based on a previous model of experiential education in whale watching ecot-
ourism programs in Hawaii (Forestell, 1993; Forestell & Kauffman, 1990). This model
focused on the cognitive states or learning of visitors using interpretation in marine
settings to reduce impacts and promote pro-environmental behaviors on whale-watching
tours. Luck (2003) evaluated the key role of interpretation on swim with dolphin tours in
New Zealand, based on models by Forestell and Kaufmann (1990) and Orams (1997b).
Orams (1999) extended the three-step experiential education sequence of Forestell (1993)
into a four-stage sequence of desirable tourist outcomes from marine education programs
(Table 1). Mayes, Dyer, and Richins (2004) also adopt a model based on changing atti-
tudes, beliefs, behaviors, and actions through wildlife interaction and interpretation with
benefits for animals, the environment, and visitors. This article applies Oram’s (1999) key
outcome indicators of education/learning and attitude/belief change in visitors to review
the educational and conservation benefits of interpretation on marine wildlife tours.
Educational Benefits of Marine Wildlife Tours
The educational benefits of marine wildlife tours include visitor learning, knowledge, and
new information presented about marine species and marine or coastal environments. Positive
Table 1
Indicators for managing marine wildlife tourism
1) Satisfaction/enjoyment
2) Education/learning
3) Attitude/belief change
4) Behavior/lifestyle change
Marine environment
1) Minimize disturbance
2) Improve habitat protection
Contribute to long-term health & viability of ecosystem
Source: Orams (1995c, 1999).
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Conservation Benefits of Marine Wildlife Tours 283
visitor interactions with wildlife lead to mindful, satisfied, and conservation-oriented visitors
(Moscardo, Woods, & Greenwood, 2001; Moscardo et al., 2004; Woods & Moscardo, 2003;
Zeppel & Muloin, 2008). A survey of 5,000 visitors at 15 wildlife sites in Australia and New
Zealand found a knowledgeable guide (19%) and wildlife information (18%) were strong
supporting factors to the close viewing of unique wildlife species behaving naturally in natu-
ral areas (Moscardo & Saltzer, 2004). A survey of 96 wildlife tour operators in Australia
found half (53%) considered education an important factor in protecting wildlife, with 36%
relying on information from scientists (Rodger, Moore, & Newsome, 2007).
Education and Learning Changes
Educational experiences were important for visitors on dwarf minke whale tours in the
northern Great Barrier Reef; at the Mon Repos turtle rookery in central Queensland; and
on swim with dolphin tours in New Zealand (Table 2). On the dwarf minke whale tours,
14% of visitors stated that learning about dwarf minke whales and marine life on the Great
Barrier Reef, the educational experience and research conducted about these whales were
highlights (Birtles et al., 2002). At Mon Repos, visitors learned about sea turtles at a visi-
tor center display and during interpretive talks on the beach about turtle egg laying or
turtle hatchlings. This included knowledge about the life cycle of turtles, their need for
protection and current threats to sea turtles (Tisdell & Wilson, 2002, 2005). Luck (2003)
found that, whereas most visitors on swim with dolphin tours increased their knowledge of
dolphins and wildlife (66–69%), both in general and from tour staff, only 29% strongly
agreed the dolphin tour was an educational experience. One dolphin operator did not have
a guide onboard and most visitors required more interpretation about dolphins, the marine
environment, and threats to wildlife (Luck, 2003). Visitors on whale watch tours in
Hervey Bay, Queensland, also wanted more information about the marine environment
(Foxlee, 2001). Interpreters or scientists educate visitors about cetacean biology and
marine conservation issues onboard many whale and dolphin watching boats (Andersen &
Miller, 2006; Birtles et al., 2002; Muloin, 1998; Russell & Hobson, 2002).
On wild dolphin feeding talks in Queensland, Australia, visitor knowledge about dolphins
increased by 81% at Tangalooma Resort on Moreton Island and by 47% at the small seaside
town of Tin Can Bay (Mayes et al., 2004). The educational benefits for visitors of the dolphin
interpretation and feeding interaction program at Tangalooma Resort have been well docu-
mented by Orams (1994, 1995b, 1996b, 1997a,b, 1999; Orams & Hill, 1998). The site
includes a Dolphin Education Center and a ranger giving nightly talks about dolphin biology
and behavior to both dolphin feeders and observers. Learning about the dolphins at Tanga-
looma motivated Australian tourists, whereas Japanese tourists wanted to touch and physically
interact with dolphins. Language barriers also impeded the Japanese visitors from understand-
ing the dolphin-feeding program or from adopting more environmentally responsible behav-
iors (Takei, 1998). Beasley (1997) found visitors on dolphin tours in Akaroa (New Zealand)
had short-term increases in their knowledge of marine mammals and ocean ecosystems. Some
55% of tourists swimming with wild dolphins at Bunbury, Western Australia, agreed that the
required pre-tour educational talk reduced inappropriate behaviors such as trying to touch or
follow the dolphins (O’Neill, Barnard, & Lee, 2004). On Penguin Island (Western Australia),
visitors learned about penguins, sea lions, and the marine ecology of the area from information
on signs, displays, pamphlets, and talks by rangers at a visitor center that houses orphaned or
injured little penguins. Rangers feed the penguins and give scheduled talks about their biology
and behavior. All tourists increased their knowledge of penguins after visiting this centre from
55% (pre-visit) to between 69% and 74% (post-visit) (Hughes & Saunders, 2005).
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284 H. Zeppel and S. Muloin
Table 2
Educational experiences and visitor learning on marine wildlife tours
Educational experiences
warf minke whale tours QLD (Birtles et al., 2002)*
More informed about minke whales 21 4.5
More informed about Reef (GBR) and marine life 15 3.2
Increased interest in info on (minke) whales—want to
learn more
A learning/educational experience (non specific) 9 1.9
More informed about/by research 8 1.7
Increased interest in info on marine life—want to learn more 4 0.9
Interested in recent discovery of species 1 0.2
Learned/understood whale watching guidelines 1 0.2
Total-YES-Educational 68 14.6
on Repos Conservation Park QLD (Tisdell & Wilson, 2002)^
Sea turtle viewing informative and educational 514 99
Sea turtle visitor center display 93
Interpretive talks (turtle hatchling behavior) 90
Interpretive talks (egg-laying process) 87
Life cycles of sea turtles 85
Need to protect sea turtles 82
Information on current threats to sea turtles
Amphitheatre 76
Visitor awareness of threats to sea turtles—additional
282 54
Visitor awareness of threats to sea turtles—first time 163 31
Swim with dolphin tours NZ (Luck, 2003)
Teach school courses on conservation of natural resources 72
Dolphin tour staff had good knowledge of dolphins 69
Learn new things/increase my knowledge (general) 66
Learn as much as we can about wildlife 66
Enjoy learning about wildlife on holidays 46
Dolphin tour was an educational experience 29
Learned a lot about dolphins on this tour 17
Learned a lot about other marine life 5
Notes: *Represents total coded themes or elements, not numbers of respondents. Total number of
coded themes/elements = 466.
^Reason to visit Mon Repos: Watch sea turtles (78%), study sea turtles (11%), entertain visitors
(9%), other (2%).
Responses to “Strongly agree” only; n = 733 questionnaires from 3 swim with dolphin tour oper-
ators (New Zealand).
Subscribe to a newsletter with updates on sea turtle conservation work, form a ‘friends of sea
turtles’ group, more access to (translated) material on sea turtles, current threats and conservation
measure, ban photography.
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Conservation Benefits of Marine Wildlife Tours 285
Attitude and Belief Changes
Several studies suggest that marine wildlife tours with a strong educational focus can
change the pro-environmental attitudes and beliefs of visitors (Christensen, Rowe, &
Needham, 2007; Finkler & Higham, 2004; Luck, 2003; Muloin, 1998; Tisdell & Wilson,
2002). Table 3 summarizes the changes in the environmental attitudes of visitors on whale
and dolphin tours. On swim with dwarf minke whale tours on the Great Barrier Reef, 27%
of tourists changed their attitudes to conservation, displaying a greater awareness of
whales, marine life, whaling, and other human impacts (Birtles et al., 2002). In the United
States, land-based whale watchers were more concerned than boat tourists about the
impacts of noise, boats and kayaks on killer whales (Finkler & Higham, 2004). Tourists’
desire for close encounters, then, was matched by awareness of their impacts on whales. A
survey of 229 land-based whale watchers in Oregon, USA, found that visitors who spoke
with volunteer whale interpreters at key coastal viewing points expressed stronger agree-
ment with protecting whales and awareness that human actions affected whales and
marine areas (Christensen et al., 2007). A survey of 236 whale watchers in Scotland found
a high level of environmental awareness, with 83% recycling items, 46% were members
of environmental or animal organizations, and 27% did voluntary environmental work
(Rawles & Parsons, 2005).
Visitors on wild dolphin feeding tours at Tin Can Bay and Tangalooma Resort felt
more strongly about conservation (81%), the state of marine areas (66%), and helping out
with conservation programs (52%) after their dolphin experience (Mayes et al., 2004).
They also disagreed with dolphins in captivity (59%) and indigenous people hunting
dolphins (68% of Australians) whereas 9% also disagreed with the practice of feeding
wild dolphins (Mayes et al., 2004). At the Penguin Experience visitor center (WA), rang-
ers feed orphaned or injured little penguins and give scheduled interpretive talks about
their biology. All visitors had more pro-environmental attitudes after this experience.
Exploration-focused visitors held an attitude of responsible conservation based on intrin-
sic natural values of the area, while recreation-focused visitors moved toward attitudes
that valued nature based on its usefulness to humans (Hughes & Saunders, 2005). A sur-
vey of 1,617 whale watch visitors at three locations around Vancouver Island, Canada,
found that “novice-generalist” visitors required interpretation about whale ecology and
marine habitat issues, whereas “expert-specialist” visitors were more receptive to
broader marine conservation messages (Malcolm & Duffus, 2002). Education, then, is a
key element of managing tourist-wildlife interactions, with the positive outcomes of
changing environmental attitudes and the potential to reduce visitor impacts on wildlife
(Higginbottom & Tribe, 2004; Higham & Carr, 2003; Orams, 1995b; O’Neill et al.,
2004; Schaenzel, 1998).
This article identified a range of education and conservation benefits for visitors on
marine wildlife tours. The on-site benefits of increased understanding or emotional
responses to marine wildlife encounters can lead to off-site benefits such as greater
environmental awareness, supporting nature conservation work and protecting endan-
gered species. Empirical studies about the effect of interpretation on marine wildlife
tourism experiences were assessed against the framework devised by Orams (1995c,
1999) measuring positive changes in both tourists and the marine environment. Tourist
benefits from marine animal encounters include enjoyment and learning contributing to
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286 H. Zeppel and S. Muloin
Table 3
Changes in environmental/conservation attitudes on whale and dolphin tours
Environmental/conservation attitudes
themes* % Response
warf minke whale tours QLD (Birtles et al., 2002)*
Greater awareness/concern/appreciation of
(marine) life/nature
48 10.3
Increased/reinforced conservation awareness 28 6.0
Greater awareness/concern/appreciation of whales 27 5.8
Greater awareness of whaling issues 9 1.9
Increased awareness of human impacts on marine
Greater awareness of need for whale watching
Greater awareness of need for sustainable ecotour-
Greater awareness/appreciation of impacts of
humans on whales
Aware that wildlife needn’t be touched/fed to be
Increased awareness of effects of human coastal
Greater awareness of natural resource exploitation 1 0.2
Total – YES – Conservation Attitudes 129 27.7
Killer whale watching USA (Finkler & Higham, 2004) (land-based/boat-based)
Effects of noise on whales 74/54
Power boats placed in the path of whales 73/56
Disturbance of whales by (other) power boats 69/52
Impacts of kayaks approaching whales 27/18
olphin feeding QLD (Mayes, Dyer, & Richins, 2004)
Felt more strongly about conservation of the
environment generally
Felt they could make more of a difference to the
state of the (marine) environment
Felt more confident in assisting with conservation
Disagreed with indigenous people hunting
dolphins (International visitors/Australians)
Disagreed with keeping dolphins in aquariums 59
Disagreed with feeding wild dolphins 9
Notes: *Represents total coded themes or elements, not numbers of respondents. Total number of
coded themes/elements = 466.
*Total: Yes—Conservation Attitudes (27.7%), Yes—Educational (14.6%), Yes—Personal
Experience (10.1%), Yes—Other (14.4%), No (33.3%). Questionnaires n=527 from 52 trips on 5
live-aboard dive boats in 1999/2000.
n = 105 questionnaires (54 Tangalooma, 51 Tin Can Bay) for visitors feeding wild dolphins.
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Conservation Benefits of Marine Wildlife Tours 287
pro-environmental attitude and behavior changes, and the longer-term intention to
engage in conservation actions that benefit marine wildlife and environments. Marine
wildlife tours with a strong educational focus and interpretation program can create atti-
tude, behavior, or lifestyle changes in visitors (Ballantyne, Packer, & Bond, 2007). This
review of visitor benefits from guided encounters with marine wildlife supports the
framework developed by Orams (1999) for managing marine tourism experiences and
the experiential education sequence model in marine ecotourism programs (Forestell,
1993). The learning benefits obtained from information about marine wildlife rein-
forced the emotional benefits of directly experiencing marine animals in their natural
habitats. There is some evidence that education benefits and visitor satisfaction differ
according to gender, level of previous experience (Neil, Orams, & Baglioni, 1996;
Muloin, 1998) and type of wildlife encounter such as boat, land-based, or in-water
activities with marine life (Birtles et al., 2002; Finkler & Higham, 2004). The level of
recreational involvement or specialization, intensity, and emotional aspects of marine
experiences can also influence environmental behaviors (Thapa, Graefe, & Meyer,
2005, 2006) and receptiveness to marine conservation messages (Malcolm & Duffus,
2002). Whale watch visitors with a strong biocentric orientation may already be more
inclined to participate in interpretation programs to learn about marine wildlife issues
(Christensen et al., 2007).
Quality educational experiences are important for visitors to increase their short-
term knowledge of marine species. Marine wildlife tours with a strong educational
focus changed the pro-environmental attitudes, beliefs, and behavior of visitors. On
whale and dolphin tours, tourists changed their attitudes to conservation, displaying a
greater knowledge of cetaceans and awareness of threats to marine life (Christensen
et al., 2007; Finkler & Higham, 2004; Luck, 2003; Mayes et al., 2004; Muloin, 1998).
Other changes in the personal behavior of visitors on a guided tour of turtle nesting
beaches at Jurabi included better overall adherence to minimal impact guidelines during
the Jurabi turtle experience (Smith, 2006). On-site signs at the turtle nesting beaches in
Jurabi Coastal Park and a brochure also outlined tourist behavior near turtles. Observa-
tions of 96 groups of unguided tourists over three months at Jurabi Park found 77% of
visitors breached at least one component in the turtle code of conduct such as shining
torches, not saying behind or being within three meters of a nesting turtle and walking
below the high tide mark (Waayers, Newsome, & Lee, 2006). In contrast, the structured
interpretive programs for visitors interacting with sea turtles at Mon Repos and dolphins
at Tangalooma Resort in Queensland reduced wildlife disturbance and influenced par-
ticipants to adopt short-term pro-environmental behaviors (up to 4 months later) such as
cleaning up beaches, recycling, and donating money to wildlife groups (Mayes et al.,
2004; Tisdell & Wilson, 2002, 2005). Other conservation benefits were enhanced appre-
ciation of marine wildlife and engaging in actions to reduce human threats or impacts on
wildlife (Howard, 2000). A post-visit survey of 140 visitors at Mon Repos 6 months
later also found support for behaviors supporting wildlife conservation (18%) and spe-
cific actions such as donating money and taking about conservation matters (9%)
(Ballantyne, Packer, Hughes, & Dierking, 2007). Close proximity to marine wildlife
during in-water encounters, near nesting turtles or shore-based feeding interactions with
dolphins magnified these environmental and personal benefits. The level or intensity of
the encounter with marine wildlife needed to change tourist attitudes was linked to
direct, close contact with animals more so than passive viewing from a boat or on land.
The quality of marine wildlife interpretation also influenced conservation outcomes and
other environmentally responsible behaviors as reported by visitors. Therefore, visitor
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288 H. Zeppel and S. Muloin
interactions with marine wildlife on guided tours increased environmental awareness,
changed attitudes, and modified on-site and some longer-term beneficial conservation
These personal, educational, and conservation benefits for visitors, however, depend on
sound management of marine animal encounters and interpretation programs that integrate
knowledge with the emotional aspects of observing marine wildlife. The level of visitors’
commitment to marine wildlife conservation related to impacts on their knowledge, atti-
tudes, and then behaviors. The personal impact of viewing marine turtles on nesting
beaches at Mon Repos and caring about their conservation related to knowledge and interest
(75–100%), understanding and attitude toward turtles (70–74%), general attitudes toward
wildlife and nature conservation (52–67%) and personal beliefs (34%) (Ballantyne et al.,
2007). The benefits for participants on marine wildlife tours are realized when the affec-
tive (emotional) benefits and excitement of seeing unique marine life are integrated with
the cognitive (education) benefits of learning new facts about marine wildlife. Thus, edu-
cational entertainment in marine life interpretation needs to include both cognitive and
affective aspects of experiential learning (Howard, 2000; Schanzel, 2004). Visitor learn-
ing for fun and enjoyment during leisure activities is an important part of tourism experi-
ences (Packer, 2006). Hence, marine wildlife interactions that involve making personal
connections with marine animals in a learning context can provide a range of conservation
and educational benefits. Marine wildlife tourism experiences that increase both environ-
mental awareness and positive feelings in visitors are more likely to generate environmen-
tal actions resulting in conservation benefits for marine wildlife.
Further Research
Further research is required on the causal links between marine interpretation programs
and the conservation benefits deriving from guided marine wildlife experiences. Much of
the research on marine wildlife tourism is site or species specific, focused on biological
impacts, and is limited to one type of encounter. Visitors at aquariums and seaworld parks
need to be surveyed about the conservation and education benefits of marine wildlife
encounters at these captive sites (Adelman, Falk, & James, 2000; Ballantyne, 2007;
Ballantyne et al., 2007; Evans, 1997; Saltzer, 2001; Spotte & Clark, 2004). The environmen-
tal attitudes of marine visitors in regard to whale watching and commercial or subsistence
whaling also require further investigation (Higham & Lusseau, 2007a,b; Orams, 2001),
along with cross-cultural attitudes to wildlife conservation in marine tourism settings
(Kellert, 1991; Takei, 1998; Teel, Manfredo, & Stinchfield, 2007). The conservation
attitudes and behavior of staff and operators of marine wildlife tours also need further
examination (Evans, 1997; Groff, Lockhart, Ogden, & Dierking, 2005), in addition to the
key role of scientists in providing information to tour operators and monitoring wildlife
(Rodgers et al., 2007). The content and effectiveness of marine conservation messages for
novice and specialist marine wildlife tourists needs to be assessed at different sites
(Christensen et al., 2007; Malcom & Duffus, 2002). Developing a standard set of mea-
surements to assess the impact of interpretive programs on visitors would extend the
application of Oram’s (1999) framework. These could identify which interpretive tech-
niques lead visitors from knowledge/learning to attitude/belief changes that affect conserva-
tion awareness and pro-environmental behaviors. Standard indicators are the basis of
environmental management planning tools to sustainably manage visitor impacts (Wight,
1998). Longer-term studies also need to measure ongoing actual conservation actions of
visitors one to five years after marine wildlife interactions, beyond self-reported intentions
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Conservation Benefits of Marine Wildlife Tours 289
to act environmentally. The wildlife experience itself in a scenic natural area may heighten
visitor concern and appreciation for marine wildlife but behavioral changes may not always
ensue. This more in-depth evaluation of educational programs in marine wildlife tourism
experiences will reinforce the types of interpretive experiences and settings that increase
tourist knowledge, change environmental attitudes, and aid conservation actions.
Close personal encounters with selected marine wildlife, especially marine mammals, pro-
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wildlife encounters, need to be considered by the managers and operators of marine wild-
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... The tourism for observation and interaction with animals in nature has been considered a potential conservation measure for faunal species (Vidal et al., 2017). This type of entertainment provides for visitors psychological benefits, emotional connection, fun, and learning (Zeppel, 2008;Zeppel and Muloin, 2008;Silva Juńior, 2017;Patroni et al., 2019), in addition to generating high revenue for the local communities (Beattie, 2005). Many studies have shown the economic and social advantages of whale watching in different locations around the world (O'Connor et al., 2009;Knowles and Campbell, 2011;Cook et al., 2019;Cook et al., 2020;Guidino et al., 2020;Malinauskaite et al., 2020); however, information regarding the effects of manatee watching remains scarce in Brazil. ...
... Tourism is a tool that helps in the national dissemination of the presence of West Indian manatee and can reduce threats to the species. As a result of the recent tourist interest involving marine animals, there has been an increase in consciousness and changes in long-term proenvironmental conservation behavior (Zeppel and Muloin, 2008;Silva Juńior, 2017). As in the case of whales , increasing awareness of the importance of manatees is critical for the creation of conservation policies for this species so negatively impacted by human action (Parente et al., 2004;Meirelles, 2008;Anzolin et al., 2012;Attademo et al., 2015;Balensiefer et al., 2017). ...
... According to Zeppel and Muloin (2008), marine wildlife tours offer a number of education and conservation benefits to visitors. ...
Full-text available
Marine mammals provide diverse and interconnected ecosystem services. According to the literature, the use of these services is associated with human needs related to provision, ecosystem regulation, education, culture, spirituality, and recreation. Tourism with marine animals can provide psychological benefits, emotional connection, fun, and learning, in addition to generating high income in local communities. This study aimed to determine the willingness to pay of the community and visitors for the conservation of the West Indian manatee ( Trichechus manatus ), identify the revenue from manatee watching, and evaluate well-being according to the participants of this attraction. The study was conducted from January 2020 to February 2021, in the Costa dos Corais Environmental Protection Area, Brazil. Data were collected using questionnaires and specific forms for the seven categories of social actors involved with manatee watching. The contingent valuation method was used to evaluate the willingness to pay of the respondents for the conservation of the manatee. The willingness of individuals to conduct voluntary work was also considered and subsequently converted into monetary values. Revenue from manatee watching was calculated through the direct costs of acquiring tour tickets and indirect expenditure on accommodation, food, transportation, and souvenirs. The feelings of the tourists who completed the trip were determined using a semi-structured question and their level of satisfaction was established using a five-point Likert scale. A total of 761 interviews were conducted. Most of the survey respondents were female, with a high level of education, and with a median monthly income of USD 1 800 dollars. The average mean value declared for willingness to pay was USD 3.6 dollars per month. The median hours devoted to volunteer work were 60 hours per year, which is the equivalent of USD 2.59 dollars per month. Direct revenue from this form of tourism was USD 125 595 dollars and total projected revenue was USD 15 392 225.45 dollars in the studied period. The vast majority of tourists managed to see the manatee and declared positive feelings after the trip. We believe that more elaborate promotion of manatee-watching would attract a higher number of tourists to the protected area.
... Education and interpretation as part of wildlife tourism experiences are shown to be important both to the co-creation process that creates value and satisfaction for tourists (Dybsand & Fredman, 2023;Egresi & Prakash, 2019;Xie et al., 2020) and to pro-environmental knowledge gain and post-tour behavior changes (Andersen & Miller, 2006;Lopez & Pearson, 2017;Zeppel & Muloin, 2008), though there are questions about how much tourists actually want to learn, what they want to learn about, and what they consider education (Lück, 2003;Lück, 2015;Poria et al., 2004). WWOs seem to recognize tourists' expectations regarding education and highlight educational opportunities as distinct from other services and amenities offered on board. ...
Full-text available
Digital media, particularly websites, have become a critical component of wildlife tourism experiences, especially during the pre-tour information-seeking stage. With a focus on whale watching, this study used a grounded theory approach to identify, categorize, and investigate the common themes, text, and images used on 178 whale watching operator websites across six geographic regions in the United States. The results of a content analysis suggest that operators, who are predominantly small business owners, focus their marketing strategies on elements of their tour offerings and operator characteristics to distinguish themselves from competitors rather than emphasizing the whales themselves, conservation actions, or educational opportunities, catering to a segment of entertainment-oriented rather than sustainability-oriented guests. Ecolabel certified operators in the sample mentioned conservation and educational topics more, though the information provided could still use improvement. We discuss implications and opportunities for the continued study of media related to whale watching and other marine wildlife tourism activities.
... Some have examined the attitudes of specific societal communities, such as fishermen (Braga & Schiavetti, 2013;Hoehn & Thapa, 2009), tourists (Giglio et al., 2015;Kidd & Kidd, 1997), and students (Dimopoulos & Pantis, 2003). A number of studies have looked into public attitudes toward marine life-related industries, such as aquaculture (Bacher et al., 2014;Freeman et al., 2012;Hynes et al., 2018;Whitmarsh & Wattage, 2006), fisheries (Hayes et al., 2015;Kincaid & Rose, 2014), and coastal tourism (Zeppel & Muloin, 2008). Other studies have investigated the public perception of certain social issues stemming from marine life, such as shark bites (Neff & Yang, 2013), the fish fin trade (Cheung & Chang, 2011), and biodiversity protection (Gkargkavouzi et al., 2019;Halkos & Matsiori, 2017;Tonin & Lucaroni, 2017). ...
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The relationship between people’s concern for the environment and their attitudes toward marine life remains ambiguous, especially in developing countries such as China. This paper reports results from an online survey (n = 500) conducted in 22 Chinese coastal cities regarding the relationship between public attitudes toward marine life and environmental concern, as well as environment-related behavior. The New Ecological Paradigm (NEP) Scale was used to assess respondents’ environmental concern. Attitudes toward marine life protection were measured using a revised version of the Animal Attitude Scale (AAS). Including some questions on demographics and environment-related behaviors and preferences, the survey also aimed to investigate human–marine life interactions in coastal Chinese society. The data revealed that people living in coastal China mostly endorsed a pro-ecological worldview, but they were rather passive in environmental public participation. All five dimensions of environmental concern were positively correlated with marine life attitude and associated with selected AAS content categories (human moral dominance, food, medical research, and hunting/fishing) to varying degrees. Anti-anthropocentrism was found to be the most important dimension of NEP in understanding marine life protection and the use of marine life. It was also discovered that some environment-related behaviors, such as beach visits, NGO membership/donations, and transportation preferences, were predictors of attitudes toward marine life and marine life usage. The findings from this study highlight three significant concepts in shaping public perception of marine life: the recognition of human domination, moderation, and potential environmental risks.
... Education on conservation issues in specific protected areas aimed at visitors and local people can increase their support for nature conservation. For visitors and residents, engaging in tourism activities can raise awareness of local threats, conservation issues, and management solutions [51][52][53]. ...
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Sustainable tourism development within protected areas has been a subject of interest for professionals. The effective development of nature-based tourism can be beneficial to both the environment and people. This work presents the results of research on the positive and negative impacts of tourism in protected areas of Slovakia as perceived by the administrations of individual protected areas of the country. Subsequently, the paper highlights the major issues affecting sustainable tourism development in protected areas in Slovakia, based on a review of recent legislation and strategic documents. The results of the study indicate that the status of a large-scale protected area does not play a role in the perception of the impact of tourism. The most significant impacts of tourism in protected areas, according to their administrations’ perceptions, include an increase in waste production, informing local people about the value of the natural and cultural heritage, the education of visitors, the conflict of interest in using natural resources when doing business in a protected area, and the destruction of natural habitats. However, when linking the impacts of tourism to sustainable tourism development in these areas, current Slovak legislation does not allow for the sufficient development of nature-based tourism in protected areas in Slovakia. In this regard, appropriate measures are required to positively change the recent situation in this field.
... A variety of factors may influence the formation of tourists' perceived efficacy of PCB (PEPCB), including personality and experiential characteristics. Previous work has shown that factors such as engagement with onsite interpretation (Marschall et al., 2017;Zeppel & Muloin, 2008), tourists' Environmental Identity (EID) score (Clark et al., 2019;Clayton et al., 2021), and tourists' past performance of PCB positively correlated with higher PCB intentions (Apps et al., 2018;Mellish et al., 2019). Thus, it can be argued that wildlife tourism can positively impact tourists' perceptions of PCB. ...
A proposed benefit of wildlife tourism is tourists’ participation in proconservation behaviors (PCB). Diffusion theory proposes that one’s perceived efficacy of a behavior will influence rates of behavior adoption. However, empirical data on factors that influence wildlife tourists’ perceived efficacy of PCB (PEPCB) are lacking. This study evaluated experiential elements’ influence on tourists’ PEPCB, and the role of social media as an emerging PCB. Data were collected from in situ and ex situ wildlife tourists (n= 475), presenting a systems-level view of wildlife tourism. Engagement with interpretation, attitudes, and past PCB performance did not influence PEPCB. Data suggests PEPCB are favorable and existing PCB are diffused throughout the wildlife tourism community. Data did support tourists’ use of social media as an emerging PCB, which is not widely diffused. Management recommendations for existing and future PCB are discussed.
... Whalewatching activities then spread to Tribugá and Cupica gulfs (Chocó Department) in 1997, and Tumaco (Nariño Department) around 2010 (Arias-Gaviria et al., 2011). Whale-watching tourism generates income and employment in coastal communities and raises awareness on whale and dolphin conservation needs (Zeppel and Muloin, 2008). In 2008, more than 13 million people took part in whale watching tours in 119 countries worldwide, generating an estimated total expenditure of $2.1 billion USD (O'Connor et al., 2009). ...
Uramba Bahía Málaga Natural National Park is one of the most important places visited by tourists to see humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) in Colombia. Humpback whales arrive from Southern Chile and the Antarctic Peninsula every year between May and December to reproduce, give birth and rear calves. To evaluate the current state of whale-watching in Málaga we analyzed tourist visitation data from 2011 to 2019 during the peak whale-watching season (July–October), and during one week in October 2020. We found that whale-watching activity has increased considerably. In 2019, 21,186 tourists realized whale watching in Málaga. Whale watchers per month increased by 108% and monthly whale-watching boat trips increased by 140%, in the last decade. Currently there are in average 19 boat trips per day (±18.0), and most boats are small (≤15 m). Tourists came mainly from Colombia (90%). August was the most important month for whale watching. Although environmental education activities are undertaken, currently responsible whale-watching guidelines are overlooked. At present, whale-watching activity produces important economic benefits for local people and neighboring sites, with a monthly expenditure of at least $362,409 USD, but to ensure the sustainable continuity of this activity, negative impacts on whales need to be minimized. We classified management challenges into social, economic and biological aspects. From a social perspective, operators should form a whale-watching community association; this would improve cooperation amongst operators, promote good practices in whale-watching and reduce pressure on whales. Economic recommendations include 1) whale-watching trips handled mainly by local people; 2) ticket prices unification; and 3) investment in tourist facilities. Biological recommendations focus on the welfare of whales and include: 1) follow the current whalewatching recommendations strictly; 2) reduce transit speeds to below 10 knots in the area during whale season; 3) use propeller guards; 4) promote land-based whale watching; 5) implement acoustic whale tourism; 6) reinforce environmental education programs; and 7) support long-term monitoring and scientific research. Based on these three aspects, we urge environmental and ethnic authorities, conferring with relevant stakeholders, to determine the whale-watching carrying capacity of the area and to promote a responsible tourism. Authorities need to strengthen the monitoring, oversight and control of this growing tourist activity in order to ensure its long-term persistence.
... Whale or dolphin watching is defined as observing cetaceans in their natural environment, from a nautical, land or aerial base, as well as any practice of swimming with cetaceans [4]. Cetacean watching can serve as a useful tool to raise public awareness of the importance of cetaceans and their conservation, whilst supporting sustainable nature-based tourism [5,6]. However, some cetacean-watching practices can impact the welfare of the targeted species, compromising the sustainability of the activity. ...
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Marine wildlife tourism has rapidly developed in Reunion Island, due to a large demand for interactions with a resident population of spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris). The presence of dolphin-watching vessels close to dolphin groups can cause short-term impacts on their behaviour; cumulative incidences likely result in deleterious long-term impacts on the population. Using scan sampling, we collected behavioural data on spinner dolphins to evaluate the short-term effects of dolphin watching on their behaviour. The dolphins were less likely to begin socialising or diving while travelling and more likely to stay travelling and milling in the presence of vessels. Additionally, activity budgets for resting and socialising decreased simultaneously with increased travelling and milling. Avoidance responses significantly increased with an increase in the number of vessels and non-compliance with the local dolphin-watching guidelines. These behavioural responses are likely to have energetic costs for the dolphins, which may lead to decreased survival and reproductive success at individual and population levels. More restrictive regulations, increased surveillance and animal-based measures are key tools to adapt the conservation efforts in Reunion Island. Further studies on the island’s resident dolphin populations are necessary to ensure the continuity of dolphin-watching activities in a sustainable manner.
... Ecotourism is an economic tool for wildlife conservation [23,24]. Previous studies involving wildlife conservation through ecotourism highlighted conservation learning that focused on captive wildlife, such as in zoos or aquariums [25][26][27][28], and conservation interpretation [29][30][31][32][33][34]. According to Myers [35], tourists are agents in wildlife conservation. ...
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If responsible ecotourists stay in a local homestay, this will benefit local people economically and lead to improved wildlife conservation. This study aims to examine the mediator roles of attitudes between anticipated emotion and intention. It was conducted in Penang National Park, Malaysia, and a stratified sampling method was used for collecting the data. In all, 320 sets of questionnaires were analysed using the SPSS Amos 24.0 Statistical Software Package to test the Structural Equation Modelling. The findings show that economically responsible ecotourist attitudes to staying in local homestays for wildlife conservation partially mediate the relationship between anticipated emotion and intention to stay in a local homestay for wildlife conservation. This study suggests that players in the ecotourism industry should incorporate emotional elements in their marketing strategies to promote local homestays to responsible ecotourists, which would benefit local economies.
... Some of the international research has paid attention to tour guides as potential agents of change (see Zillinger et al., 2012;Jonasson et al., 2013;Rokenes et al., 2015;Vold, 2015;Weiler and Black, 2015;Jonasson and Smith, 2017) and there is evidence of a growing research focus on "the relationship between face-toface interpretation/tour guiding and sustainability" (Weiler and Black, 2015, p. 76), at least in wildlife tourism (see Zeppel and Muloin, 2008;Ballantyne et al., 2009). ...
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This paper investigates how tourists and guides perform sustainability during adventure tourism trips in natural environments. The paper draws on empirical data from an ethnographic study of five different multi-day trips in Norway, each of which used skiing, hiking, or biking as the mode of travel. In our analysis, we focus on how the different actors understood, operationalized and practiced elements of sustainability in their everyday lives while on the trips. The paper applies a micro-sociological perspective to the nature-based adventure tourism scene where the interplay between tourists, guides, adventure activities and nature is understood as multiple dialectic performances co-produced by the different actors. Goffman's dramaturgical metaphors, and concepts of frames, appearance, and manner saturate recent research on tourism and nature guiding. This paper builds on the “performance turn” as a theoretical point of departure for understanding sustainability in nature-based adventure tourism experiences. In participant observations and post-trip interviews with Norwegian and international tourists and their guides, we found that sustainability performances were not a major aspect of the trips. We did find some performances of mainly “light” sustainability and, among them, elements of ambivalence and ambiguity. Our data indicate that some guides tread a fine line between enhancing and deepening tourists' experiences of nature and sustainability or negatively impacting the perceived enjoyment imperative of the trip. International tourists expressed deeper sustainability overall. We reflect on the relative explanatory strengths of Goffman's “frames” and interaction order, and Persson's “framing,” for understanding the interplay between guide and tourist sustainability performances and conclude with pointers for teasing out the complexities we identify.
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The complete collection of papers from the research topic "Whale-watching impacts: science, human dimensions and management"
Interpretation is frequently seen as effective in managing tourist-wildlife interactions because it increases awareness about a species and encourages a conservation ethic (Beckmann 1991, Moscardo 1998). Interpretation has been advocated as the most effective management strategy for wildlife encounters (Orams 1996). Implicit in this belief is that by changing people's attitude, interpretation will change their behaviour (Roggenbuck 1992). Petty et al. (1997) define an attitude as an evaluation of an object (eg. people, animal, etc.) that exists along a dimension ranging from positive to negative. In reflecting on attitude change it helps to conceptualise an attitude as comprised of three main components: affect, cognition, and behaviour. The affective component consists of a person's feeling towards an object, the cognitive component consists of a person's knowledge and understanding of an object and the behavioural component involves a person's actual behaviour towards the object (Knudson et al. 1999). Although attitude is conceptualised as having three main components, most past research on interpretation has focused on changes in cognition (Beckmann 1991). Howard (1998) suggested that as people attend interpretive programs at leisure affective realms are important, and as such, mood theory might improve our understanding of: the intrinsically rewarding feelings that characterise this type of leisure experience; and how interpretation may influence people's behaviour. The influence of affective realms on interpretive programs is poorly understood and not well researched (Howard 1998). This paper contributes to our understanding of cognition and affect in interpretive setting by providing the results of a preliminary study conducted at Mon Repos Conservation Park.
In recent decades there has been an increase in opportunities for people to view wildlife in tourism settings such as wildlife tours, national parks and captive environments such as zoos. This in turn has provided increasing opportunities to educate people of all ages about the value of wildlife and their habitats. One concept useful for enhancing learning is that of mindfulness. This concept suggests characteristics of interpretation that attract and sustain the focused attention of visitors. Using open-ended descriptions of best wildlife experiences from 790 respondents, this study found that 84% of descriptions contained at least one element consistent with the mindfulness concept. This paper argues that a mindfulness model can be used to understand visitor responses to wildlife tourism and direct the design of experiences that enhance learning and enjoyment.