Recently, the interest in understanding emotional bonds with protected nature areas has been growing. The role of wildlife in emotional bonds with places has until now not been the focus of many studies. The aim of our paper is to explore relations between the perceived importance of seeing wildlife and emotional attachment to a protected nature area, the Dutch Wadden Sea Area. We investigate to what extent this relation is driven by visitors’ behavioral connections with nature and sociodemographic characteristics. Results of our survey (N = 211) reveal that the perceived importance of seeing birds matters directly in emotional attachment, while the contributions of the perceived importance of seeing seals and small marine wildlife are driven by behavioral connections with nature. Furthermore, behavioral connections with nature contribute strongly to emotional attachment and steer relations between the perceived importance of seeing wildlife and emotional attachment to the Wadden Sea Area.
- ): place attachment, natural environment, animals, outdoor recreation