Although interactions between humans and wild animals have been explored in the literature, the mechanism for how such experiences influence wellbeing is an area needing further examination. This research used Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis to explore the narratives of wellbeing from eight semi-structured interviews with people who had experienced intense close encounters with dolphins. Despite idiographic differences between narratives, a common theme of Relationships and Connectedness between participants and nonhuman animals emerged. The expression of this indicates that human–dolphin experiences fulfill aspects of the human need for connection and relationships and that the experiences promote wellbeing and environmental behaviors. This is contextualized within an ongoing nature relationship and the importance of a lifelong connection with wildlife, to ensure that humans see themselves as part of the natural world. Such a dynamic is discussed within the frame of the biophilia hypothesis and the importance of human contact with nature to ensure wellbeing. The narratives reported here describe strong emotional connections, transmitted through both tangible and perceived contact with dolphins, which translate into positive senses of emotion and wellbeing. The connections described are powerful: perceptions of communion and mutual exchange become articulated through rhetoric of friendship and kinship. Importantly, it appears that dolphin encounters are signifiers of wider relationships, both with nature and people. In this case, participants are reinforcing established habits of nature connectedness, habits reflecting a lifelong involvement with nonhuman animals. How connection with wild animals as a part of nature can promote wellbeing and in turn encourage environmental behavior is discussed in the context of the contemporary need for human responsibility to ensure the protection of nature and the survival of nonhuman animal species and habitats.
Yerbury, RM & Boyd, WE 2018, 'Human–dolphin interactions : relationships, connections, and the reinforcement of an ongoing nature relationship', Anthrozoos, vol. 31, no. 4, pp. 443-458.
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