The Effects of Dolphin Education Programs on Visitors' Conservation-Related Knowledge, Attitude, and Behavior
Zoological institutions typically exhibit dolphins in educational programs such as dolphin shows and interaction programs. The goal of these programs is to entertain visitors while increasing their conservation-related knowledge, attitude and behavior towards dolphins and the marine environment. The purpose of the current study was to examine dolphin shows and interaction programs in terms of their effectiveness in meeting these goals. A multi-institutional study was conducted at six different facilities throughout the United States. A repeated measures design was used to examine the knowledge, attitude and behavior of visitors before, immediately after and three months following participation in dolphin shows or interaction programs. Participants of dolphin shows reflected a significant short-term increase in knowledge, attitudes and behavioral intentions. These participants' attitudes and behavioral intentions returned to entry levels three months following the shows. However, knowledge and reported behavior were significantly higher three months following the show compared to entry levels. Participants of interaction programs had a short-term increase in knowledge, attitudes and behavioral intentions immediately following the program and levels were significantly higher three months following the program when compared to entry levels. Additionally, these participants also reported engaging in more conservation-related behavior than during the entry surveys. Results from the current study suggest that both dolphin shows and dolphin interaction programs can be an important part of a conservation education program within zoological facilities. Understanding the aspects of these types of programs that lead people to conservation action will help zoological facilities in meeting their goals.