Wildlife Tourism Workshop
Saturday April 19th 2008
Dr Ronda Green introduced the audience to Wildlife Tourism Australia, a national body promoting a diverse wildlife tourism industry that supports conservation. Membership is open to tourism operators, ecolodges, wildlife parks, researchers, government bodies, NGO’s and others interested in wildlife tourism throughout Australia. WTA was well represented at the workshop by several tour operators and accommodation providers within the Beaudesert Shire.
Scenic Rim Mayor John Brent spoke of the importance and potential of tourism, including wildlife tourism, in the Shire. Deputy Mayor Dave Coburn and Councillor Virginia West were also in attendance, as was Innes Larkin of Beaudesrt Country Tourism and others involved in tourism, conservation and education from within the Shire, northern New South Wales and Brisbane.
Barry Davies of Gondwana Guides gave details of the wonderful diversity of birds and other wildlife in the local rainforests, open forests, wetlands and even urban areas, including roadsides and rubbish dumps. He presented many ideas on how local businesses – from specialist wildlife operations through to B&B’s and farms – could take advantage of this abundance of animals that tourists love to see. Birdwatching in particular attracts many enthusiasts to Australia, and the Scenic Rim is one of the richest areas in which to indulge their pastime. The importance of good planning was stressed, a theme echoed by other speakers throughout the afternoon.
Susana Heraud from Tourism Australia had provided a presentation explaining the significant role that nature has in attracting overseas visitors. The presentation included the new National Landscapes campaign featuring a limited number of regions within Australia that is to be internationally promoted to experience seeking tourists. The presentation explained why the Border Ranges region, including the Scenic Rim Shire, is one of the few special areas included in the launch in June 2008 at the Australian Tourism Exchange, Australia’s biggest annual tourism event attracting tourist wholesalers from around the world.
Sue Beckinsale, manager of the David Fleay Wildlife Park, spoke of their role in providing quality interpretation and breeding programs for rare and endangered Queensland wildlife that have been supported by tourism generated income eg the locally endemic northern race of the Eastern bristlebird. It is estimated that only 50 individuals remain in the wild, but dedicated staff have successfully bred an additional 13 birds from the original 2 in captivity and in the process unknowlingly broken a world record by achieving 0% mortality. Much has been learnt about the behaviour and physiology of these and other endangered creatures during their breeding projects.
Michelle Plant of Wildlife Interactions, spoke on behalf of O’Reilly’s Guest House on the role that quality wildlife tourism plays in public education. Both Michelle and Sue Beckinsale have seen many children and adults become much more aware of conservation issues when involved in wildlife activities. Michelle emphasized how essential it was to plan activities carefully and monitor effects on staff, visitors and wildlife, and spoke of O’Reilly’s ongoing support for ecological research.
Krystie Gray of Ecotourism Australia explained the process of applying for eco-accreditation, designed to ensure that certified products are backed by a commitment to best practice ecological sustainability, natural area management and quality ecotourism experiences. Certified businesses were alos required to demonstrate sound economic viability to ensure the continuity of quality experiences.
Ronda Green concluded with a presentation on keeping customers happy without disturbing wildlife and the issue of public liability for landowners allowing wildlife viewing on their private properties. It was discovered that the costs of holding public liability insurance were not as expensive as previously thought. However, landowners needed to be very clear on exactly what their policy covered and under what circumstances.