Balloons that kill wildlife

Balloons that kill wildlife

By guest writer Amy Motherwell

For years we’ve seen the balloons go up at big events in news stories. In times of celebration and in sadness; hundreds of colours released into the air, seemingly no one considering what lies beyond that moment. If they knew the journey a balloon takes once it has floated off into the distance, surely they’d think twice?

A balloon can travel many kilometres before it reaches a height at which it bursts into fragments and falls back to the earth as litter where it becomes a danger to our wildlife.

facebook-20140404-095823Balloons are easily mistaken for food by many species of wildlife and when ingested they can block the digestive tract causing the animal to starve resulting in a slow and painful death. Animals can also become entangled in the balloon and/or its ribbon rendering them unable to move or eat and, again, slowly starving to death.

Sea turtles are especially vulnerable as they naturally prey on jellies which balloon fragments can easily be mistaken for. Six of the world’s seven species of marine turtle occur in Australian waters three of which are considered to be critically endangered.

But it’s not only sea life that is at risk, many terrestrial species are also falling victim to this threat.

On June 14th, 2014 the Australian Platypus Conservancy reported on the death of a platypus which had become entangled in the streamer of a deflated helium balloon. Birds too are extremely susceptible to entanglement as well as many other animals. Penguins and even seals have been documented as being injured or killed by becoming entangled in a balloons ribbon.

NoBalloonsLatex balloons marketed as biodegradable are unfortunately misleading as they take months, if not years, to degrade and even then they never entirely break down.

So is it time to start treating balloon releases for what they are, deliberate littering, detrimental to wildlife, marine life and the overall environment?

I think so and it was with this in mind that I started a petition calling for a nationwide ban on ceremonial balloon releases.

If you believe in this cause and would like to sign the petition it can be found at:

Ecotourism: Preserving the Heritage of Our People

Ecotourism: Preserving the Heritage of Our People

Gemma Hunt, January 2015

Ecotourism is one of the most important concepts to be introduced in the 20th century – a vigilant effort to preserve the precious wildlife resources of the world while empowering local communities to have a better say over the future of their environment. While ecotourism itself has been around for centuries – in the national parks following the visionary principles of Emerson in the United States, and the fundamental life practices of indigenous peoples from all over the world, it is only within the last few decades where its value has been recognized on a corporate and governmental scale. The value of ecotourism should not be underestimated – its contribution to conservation projects on a global scale is paramount. But it is also a crucial endeavour for helping communities across the planet – especially in Australia – preserve their own heritage.

One of Ecotourism’s Most Important Principles

Encouraging a more conscientious approach to travel involves several factors: conscientious travellers and businesses that reduce their carbon footprint where possible, exerted efforts for conservation projects to be put into place, promotion of local economies, and a better access to off-the-beaten track experiences. All of these go hand in hand with one another, and protecting local communities who have a direct influence on decision-making is key. By empowering local communities, ecotourism provides a basis for respecting old and valuable traditions, the opportunities for tourists to learn and discover a different way of life, and an economy which is sustainable and non-invasive to both the societies and cultures within a particular environment.

Whenever a major development project is put into place, it is essential to take into consideration which factors will impact the environment and those who live in its vicinity, and in what way. In the case of tourism, big projects like resorts and theme parks can have a detrimental effect on neighbouring communities when mismanaged. A conscientious scheme, on the other hand, will engage with these local communities to see how such a venture can be non-invasive, provide local jobs, and have minimal impact on the ecosystem. Promoting local businesses here is essential as well. Family-run businesses – whether it is accommodation, food, entertainment, or shopping – provide a better alternative than larger corporate investments, pooling money straight back into the local economy.

Respecting Our People

Industries like ecotourism have the capacity to be highly productive when it comes to drawing awareness to pivotal issues. Because the very essence of tourism is to celebrate what is already there, there isn’t a stronger voice within the travel industry to draw awareness to specific social problems. Many ecotourist ventures work alongside communities and organizations which address such issues. The Respect Our Culture (ROC) Program is a development tool established by Aboriginal Tourism Australia (ATA) whose goal is “to ensure tourism experiences meet customer expectations in a professional and sustainable way. It also encourages the industry to operate with respect for Indigenous cultural heritage.”

This is especially important for countries like Australia where travel comprises a huge portion of the region’s income, and for the aboriginal communities which have experienced devastating hardship since the time of the settlers. Programs like ATA ensure that key areas are protected and that aboriginal communities not only have a say in how these are developed, but are provided with the opportunities and funding to develop their own sustainable tourism infrastructure.

This benefits not only the local community, but the conscientious traveller in many ways. Firstly, it provides a unique opportunity to experience such an environment firsthand, rather than the more contrived settings of holiday resorts. The money spent contributes directly to the local economy, and travellers can usually get more value for money by purchasing local, hand-crafted souvenirs and dining and sleeping by community-run businesses as well. Sustainable travel is considered one of the most budget-friendly methods of getting out and about and experiencing the world, as well as the most authentic – and for this reason, it has become popular. Australia is considered one of the most progressive countries in terms of promoting ecotourism without exploiting land and people, operating on what is a common sense principle for one of its most vital industries. If its natural resources are not protected, then nothing will be left for future generations to enjoy. And while Australia faces strong international criticism for its current policies regarding the Great Barrier Reef, it is ecotourism which will help to give rise to the strongest voice which opposes its destruction.

We often dissociate the words “ecology” and “economy” yet both contain the same root: “eco” which signifies “home.” This is why an industry like ecotourism has the potential to preserve both economy and ecology, and invest in a future which is hopeful not only for travellers, but for the communities which have shaped and continue to shape such an integral part of Australia’s history.

Ecotourism: Packing For An Adventure

Ecotourism: Packing For An Adventure

Guest blog from SocialMonsters writer Milton Herman

Kangaroo jumping on the beach at sunrise

Ready to trade in the bustle of major tourist attractions for the serenity of wilderness? Summer is here and escaping to the temperate south or scaling the mountains will surely fulfill your travel appetite. Must haves for your excursion include more than just woolies and mozzy spray. Take a look at what you need to bring along the next time you’re spotting wildlife or camping under the stars.

Bike When You Hike

Ecotourism trips are a chance to shed the motor powered vehicles in exchange for man-powered bikes and boats. Life’s An Adventure offers mountain bike tours through the Blue Mountains or outside of Sydney. Lunch and refreshments are provided for the half or full day tours. Bike, helmet and glove hire is also provided. Skip the motorcycles and ‘eco’ RV tours if you’re set on eco-travel. Although fun, it’s more of an environmental burden than old fashioned two-wheelers.

GoPro, Bro

If you’re content with just the ol’ camera – you’re ignorant. A GoPro is an ideal tagalong for any safari or water adventure. Choose a mount that fits your itinerary. A suction mount for the kayak or a chest harness for the hike. Even the dog can share his POV with the Fetch dog harness. Still shots can be taken when the moment is right. Easily create slow motion and timelapse videos with the free GoPro Studio software. A little editing allows you to document your trip via a YouTube video or on Facebook for friends and family.

No Fear With The Gear

Facing the elements is a challenging joy of ecotoursim excursions. You’ll need proper gear for living safely outdoors. Be prepared on all survival fronts:

  • Fire. A pack of matches will suffice for starting up your campfire. However, always be prepared by carrying steel wool, which can be ignited without a lighter or matches if you have a battery or makeshift magnifying glass.
  • Food. No matter your taste, a must-have for camp cooking is tin foil. Use it to cook meat and veggies over the coals and to preserve food.
  • Shelter. An extra shelter seems overzealous but it’s more on the practical side. A tarp and rope bundle takes up half the room of a sleeping bag in a pack; haul it along when going on long hikes or day trips.

App Out Before You Camp Out

What separates cold nights from comfortable nights? Proper packing. If you’re new to camping, pack a night early and sleep on what you may have forgotten. Then go even further with an app like Packing Pro. The app will autofill many common items so you can save time as you organise belongings.

Once you get on the go, on-the-go needs emerge. Check the EveryTrail site and app for hikes in your real time proximity. Android users can try out Map My Hike GPS and the BackCountry Navigator app for real time navigation. Check out other useful apps like Campee, which is recommended by Australian Geographic.

Not only does it offer sites of the world’s largest coral reef, but more than 80 percent of plants, mammals, reptiles and frogs found down under are unique to Australia, making it an ideal destination for ecotourism.

Wildlife Tourism Conference 2015

Wildlife Tourism Conference, September/October 2015

PLEASE NOTE: this was an OLD BLOG ENTRY with outdated content now removed

See updated information here

29 September to 2 October 2015 –  Geelong, Victoria


Koala in You Yangs. near Geelong. Photo: Echidna Walkabout


Young people and volunteer research

Young people and volunteer research

WTA Chair Dr Ronda Green presented this 4-minute talk in the “Inspiring the Next Generation” theme at the recent World Parks Congress n Sydney:

birdwatchgirlIt’s great when young people get ‘switched-on’ to nature, but they can then become frustrated and discouraged by not knowing others who share their enthusiasm, a lack of opportunity to actually do something for conservation of the animals and forests or reefs they have come to love, and a lack of confidence in their ability to do something useful if such opportunity does arise.

The Australian Wildlife Research Network was founded by Wildlife Tourism Australia, originally for communication between tour operators conducting or assisting with research but not knowing of each others’ existence, but has been expanded to include networking between tour operations and academics for mutual benefit, and between tour operators and volunteer tourists, including young adults, teenagers and families with children.

The network website also includes information on identification guides, field equipment, monitoring methods, literature on working with volunteers and other guidelines for academics, tour operators and the volunteers themselves.

Young folk can be inspired and encouraged by opportunities to experience wild places and wildlife, socialising with other enthusiasts and interacting with researchers, and knowing they are contributing to useful research or monitoring for conservation management or to the general understanding of our wildlife ecology and behaviour.

The network, which includes tours, ecolodges and wildlife parks involved in research, is the only one we know of that focuses on wildlife research and monitoring connected with tourism throughout Australia and including projects for all budget levels and ages to join in with.

A successful project involving volunteers has to be well-planned, including clear explanation to participants on what to expect, friendly greeting, effective training on what needs to be done, appropriate assignment of tasks, from carrying or cleaning equipment through helping to find animals to actually taking measurements or recording observations, opportunity for participants to socialise, and where possible to safely experience being alone in nature, and to learn about the animals and ecosystems they are experiencing, and also whether the data is to be collected in a way consistent with valid analysis or comparison (for instance between seasons, or the progression of a restoration plot) and for valid conclusions to be made, and how the information collected will ultimately be used. Feedback from participants and stakeholders is also important

It’s not enough to ignite a fire, we have to keep the flame alive amongst our youth, and the Australian Wildlife Research Network is one vehicle to assist with this.

To find out more, please visit

Moonlit Sanctuary wins Victorian Tourism Award

Moonlit Sanctuary wins Victorian Tourism Award

Friendly betting on night tour

Friendly betting on night tour in Moonlit Sanctuary

Pearcedale’s Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park has been named as the state’s best Eco Tourism business at the 2014 Victorian Tourism Awards, held last Monday night at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre.

The most prestigious event on the Victorian tourism industry calendar, which was attended by 1000 people, celebrated the outstanding tourism businesses, attractions, events and individuals from all corners of the state.

Since opening in 2001, Moonlit Sanctuary has engaged and delighted visitors with an outstanding wildlife experience, while at the same time promoting the conservation of Australian animals through breeding, research and education.

The 10 hectares of bushland is home to over 300 animals from 80 different species, where visitors can meet endangered species, feed kangaroos and wallabies, cuddle up to koalas and enjoy encounters with mammals birds and reptiles such as Tasmanian devils, cockatoos, pythons and dingoes. The sanctuary also comes alive at night with its famous lantern-lit tours, with birds actively swooping overhead and endangered quolls, gliders, pademelons and bettongs foraging for food under the cover of darkness.

Director Michael Johnson said he is very proud that Moonlit Sanctuary was recognised with this award, which strengthens its position as a leader in the Eco Tourism sector.

“It is extremely gratifying to receive this award as recognition the immense respect for our animals and the environment we operate within. We have spent a lot of time and effort caring for endangered species and educating visitors about our amazing flora and fauna.”

“In addition, we have always been committed to implementing sustainable practices in the management of the sanctuary. Some of the measures we have taken include solar cell electricity generation, a worm farm for composting, black and grey water treatment, greenhouse-neutral pellet fire heating, planting over 10,000 native trees and plants, as well as an entry building that was constructed using environmentally-sensitive materials,” Michael said

Moonlit Sanctuary will join all the Victorian winners to take on the best tourism businesses across the nation at the Australian Tourism Awards ceremony in Adelaide next April.


Echidna Walkabout wins international award

Echidna Walkabout short-listed for international award -
***They Won! Get The Update Here

koalaEchidnaWalkaboutWTA member Echidna Walkabout has been short-listed for an international award in responsible tourism, and even have their koala photo (see pic on right) heading the page of the website:

The category they are short-listed for involves commitment to the conservation of habitats and animals in the wild and using tourism to achieve conservation objectives.

From the website:

The winners will be announced in a special ceremony as part of the World Responsible Tourism Day celebrations at the World Travel Market, the leading global event for the travel industry, in London on Wednesday 05 November before a packed audience of the media, industry and responsible tourism professionals. – See more at:

WTA offers hearty congratulations to Janine Duffy and Roger Smith for the short-listing

At time of writing Janine is on her way to London for the awards dinner on 5th November 2014

Read more on Echidna Walkabout’s own webste:



AND THE WINNER IS:  Gold award: Echidna Walkabout Nature Tours

Congratulations Echnida Walkabout Nature Tours!

Read more here:  Best for wildlife conservation

Echidna Walkabout Nature Tours

WTA at Australia’s first national Bird Fair

WTA at Australia’s first national Bird Fair

Australia’s first national Bird Fair has just been held over the weekend of 25-26 October

More accurately, it is the Australasian Bird Fair (that is, including not just Australia but also New Guinea and New Zealand)


Wildlife Tourism Australia held a display on wildlife tourism, birds and minimal-impact wildlife-viewing, and promoted many of our members’ products

It was also a great event for networking with folk from around Australia (including Christmas Island) and the rest of the world (including PNG, New Zealand, India, Guyana, Colombia and Africa). Displays included birding tours, conservation and natural history groups (not just birds – bats, reptiles and frogs were there as well), retailers of binoculars and spotting scopes, and some delightful arts and crafts. Events included many talks, films, bird walks and children’s activities.

It was good also to catch up with some WTA members who attended, from Cassowary House, Sicklebill Safaris, O’Reilly’s and Boutique Tours

We found many visitors to our display were surprised and pleased at WTA’s commitment to environmentally-responsible tourism, supporting the protection of wildlife habitat and minima-impact wildlife-viewing.

We hope this Bird Fair is just the beginning of a line of valuable annual events

Venus Bay Eco Retreat selected!

Congratulations Venus Bay Eco Retreat!

Venus Bay Eco Retreat has been selected as one of four finalists in the Victorian Regional Achievement and Community Awards in the Parks Victoria Environmental Sustainability category.  The final category winners will be announced this coming Friday, and you’re invited to attend the awards night!

Awards Gala Presentation Dinner:
The Gala Awards Presentation Dinner is an event where finalists from all over Victoria come together to celebrate the fantastic achievements of those in regional and rural areas. The Gala Dinner consists of a 3 course dinner, feature presentation of finalists and winners from each Award Category.

Date:  Friday October 24th 2014
Times:  7.00pm – midnight
Location: Etihad Stadium
Admission:  $99 (includes three course meal, beer, wine and softdrink)

More info on the awards night here:

Good luck Mae from everyone at Wildlife Tourism Australia!

Moto-Safari Australia: What You Need to Know to Stay Safe & Eco-Friendly

Moto-Safari Australia: What You Need to Know to Stay Safe & Eco-Friendly

K.C. Dermody 

K.C. Dermody is an experienced freelance writer dedicated to creating high quality articles, web content, copywriting, e-books and more. She has published work on numerous sites and printed publications including Yahoo! Travel, Sports & News, RunLiveLearn and The Sherpa Report.

Australia is not only a spectacularly beautiful nation, its home to an incredible amount of wildlife, including 450 species of mammals like echidna, koala, kangaroo and kookaburra. What better way to experience it than on the back of a motorcycle?

The Outback

Traveling through Australia’s outback offers the opportunity to travel across open spaces that seem to stretch forever as well as to glimpse wildlife like the red kangaroo, which inhabits Australia’s driest regions, like the deserts of the outback. At the same time, a road trip through this area is not for the inexperienced rider. Be prepared for long distances as well as quickly changing road conditions, fatigue and hazards like animals and road trains.

Avoid riding at night, dawn or dusk as animals are often feeding near roadways at this time. Headlights can blind and panic them, causing the animal to leap towards it. If you hit a kangaroo, wild pig or cattle, the most frequently encountered animals in the outback, it could not only total your bike, you might end up seriously injured or worse.

Carrying plenty of water and filling water containers at every opportunity is a must, and when traveling through any remote area, riders should also inform authorities of their destination, route and arrival time.

Northern Territory

The Northern Territory is home to some fascinating wildlife, as well as some of the most dangerous, like fresh and saltwater crocodiles [editor’s note: freshwater crocs are not man-eaters, but could give a damaging bite if handled or cornered]. This means you’ll want to be extra-cautious at water crossings, looking carefully before proceeding without rushing in. During the wet season, from November through April, water levels can rise quickly and the force of that water is often stronger than you might think. If you get stuck between two rivers, it’s best to wait it out as water levels often go down just as fast as they came up.

This area is also home to snakes, spiders, mosquitoes and other biting insects, so be sure and wear protective clothing and sturdy shoes, particularly when venturing on off-road trails.

Australian Alps

Located in the country’s southeast region, the Australian Alps are home to a number of endangered creatures like the alpine skink and mountain pygmy possums. Kangaroos, wallabies and corroboree frogs can be found living in the granite landscape of Namadgi National Park. The summit of Australia’s highest peak, there are 20 plant species found nowhere else on earth.

As the weather here can change quickly, particularly when climbing in altitude, you may want to pack a pair of leather pants to help keep you warm, as well as some thermal underwear.


With that in mind, it’s important to be well-prepared for your exotic motorcycle journey in order to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip. Bringing a helmet is essential and required by law in Australia. At the same time, you don’t want your helmet to interfere with your experience of seeing animals and the beauty all around you, which means purchasing a helmet with protection along with high visibility is really a must.

When you encounter wildlife, use common sense by keeping a safe distance and never feed them. If animals, like kangaroos or wallabies get used to being fed, they may start approaching people with the expectation of receiving food, and when there isn’t any, they can become aggressive. Be sure to follow all guidelines and best practices for wildlife conservation when you travel.