Between 1998 and 2004, a pioneering research program studying Wildlife Tourism in Australia was conducted at the Co-operative Research Centre for Sustainable Tourism, based at Griffith University, Queensland. This program led to a joint initiative between the CRC and Tourism Tasmania to jointly host a Sustainable Wildlife Tourism Convention in Hobart in October 2001.
From that Conference, planning was soon underway to create a national organisation to represent zoos, sanctuaries, wildlife parks and other wildlife operators around Australia. The Organisation’s intention was to further the recommendations of the Conference.
In December 2002, the inaugural meeting of the Australian Wildlife Tourism Action Group was held which was soon officially changed to Wildlife Tourism Australia Inc. with a missions statement of promoting the sustainable development of a diverse wildlife tourism industry that supports conservation.
An inaugural national workshop of this new industry association was held at Warrawong Earth Sanctuary and Cleland Wildlife Park South Australia and was a resounding success. Proceedings of the workshop and the earlier 2001 Hobart Convention and 2003 Adelaide Workshop are available here online.
A further workshop was subsequently held at Binna Burra and O’Reilly’s guest houses in Queensland. The Southern Queensland Wildlife Trail was launched at that time by best selling Australian author and WTA member Bradley Trevor Grieve.
‘Getting Real About Wildlife Tourism’ was the second conference held as a joint initiative between WTA and Western Australia’s Forum on Advocating Cultural and Ecotourism (FACET) in Fremantle in 2006. The national conference attracted keynote speakers and delegates from Australia and the Asia-pacific region and covered a diversity of issues. Conference proceedings may be downloaded here.
WTA continues to work independently as the leader in wildlife tourism in Australia. A series of workshops and a Wildlife Festival were held in SE Queensland in 2008, a third national workshop at Currumbin in the Gold Coast in 2013 and a fourth workshop in Darwin in 2013. Future national workshops are planned for Victoria (2015) and South Australia (2016), and there will also be a number of smaller workshops
A recent innovation has been the development of a network and research toolbox for tour operators and others in the wildlife tourism industry who are conducting or involved with wildlife research
WTA continues to lobby government on various wildlife and wildlife tourism issues, develop policies, and add to literature and other resources for both websites. Our Facebook page is becoming increasingly popular with readers from around the world.