One of Durrell’s goals is to better connect people with nature, improving their wellbeing and promoting a sense of care and responsibility for our planet. Nature connection is an emerging field of study, and recognised pathways for people to feel connected include “beauty”, “emotion”, “contact”, “compassion” and “meaning”. A walk-through butterfly house could theoretically initiate these pathways. In addition, they wanted to drive zoo visitation for modest capital outlay. A butterfly house, also housing a pair of Galapagos tortoises, was designed and built with a nature connection aim inherent from the outset.
The exhibit is walk-through and incorporates an outside area for native butterflies and other wildlife in addition to the main indoor exhibit for tropical butterflies and tortoises. Signage is minimal but volunteers are available to answer questions and help visitors engage with the animals in the exhibit.
Following the opening of the house to visitors in October 2018 there was a subsequent 93% admission increase against the average of 2015-2017. Retail and café revenue have also increased. Durrell evaluated the nature connection impact of the exhibit by direct observation of dwell time and behaviour, and used questionnaires to investigate visitors’ perceptions and attitudes. Engagement with a volunteer significantly increased dwell time, and visitors’ responses to semantic differential questions were overwhelmingly positive. Additional qualitative data indicated that visitors were primarily accessing the “beauty” and “emotion” pathways to nature connection.