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How ordinary wildlife makes local green places special

Summary


Wildlife experiences during childhood strongly influence people’s bond with local natural places

Personal experiences and memories influence people’s relationship – or bonding — with the place where they live. This bonding, in turn, plays a role in shaping one’s life and self-identity. This research focused on how ordinary wildlife adds to developing a bond with local green places.

Thirteen adults participated in walk-along interviews as they visited a favorite green place near home. Their favorite places included urban parks, rural areas, wooded estates and protected natural areas. Topics addressed during the interviews covered three main themes: the type of wildlife encountered, the type of experience, and the bond with the local green place. Transcripts of the interviews were then coded using these three themes.

While the wildlife experiences of the participants varied greatly, experiencing birds was noted by participants as something that mattered in each favorite place. Results also indicated that individual animals (ducks and swan) played a role in the development of place attachment. Unexpected encounters with wildlife (fox, deer, snakes, flamingos) were perceived as “gifts” – and, at times, led to “feelings of being privileged and rewarded by a place.” Wildlife encounters considered to be “rewarding” occurred mainly in rural and natural green places versus in urban settings. Wildlife encounters tended to trigger meaningful childhood memories, especially in places similar to where participants had grown up.

Overall results showed that experiences with local wildlife can lead to three different types of place bonding: the localized self, the internalized place, and feelings of embeddedness in “Panta Rhei.” The localized self is the “the real self” which includes ties to childhood memories, especially memories shared with significant others. Concepts related to the internalized place include the feeling of being rewarded or singled out with special wildlife experiences. This feeling makes the place “their place.” Feeling embedded in “Panta Rhei” means feeling connected with the flows and cycles of nature and life.

This research indicates that ordinary wildlife can make local green places special, even in highly urbanized settings. This research also indicates that childhood memories of encounters with wildlife play a role in bonding with local natural places.

Citation

Folmer, A., Haartsen, T., Huigen, P.P.P., (2019). How ordinary wildlife makes local green places special. Landscape Research, 44(4), 393-403.

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