Report on Roundtable Discussions,
Wildlife Tourism Conference 2015, Geelong
Ronda Green (chair)
Delegates launched vigorously into discussion of each topic (it was difficult to stop them at the end of reach session!) and their comments were recorded by our volunteer scribes. They had been divided into groups of about eight, each group discussing the same set of questions for around 40 minutes.
The following is an integration of all groups for each set of questions. To those who attended: please let me know if I’ve missed anything out or misinterpreted any of the notes.
This report is not yet complete. It is taking a very long time to go through and decipher all notes, correct grammar being careful not to alter meanings, and get them into a logical order.
Discussion: International wildlife travels: opportunities and challenges
What are the main wildlife features attracting visitors to Australia from other countries and vice versa?
- Uniqueness and collective oddness of animals
- Koalas, kangaroos, other marsupials, crocodiles, other birds, marsupials and reptiles
- Great Barrier Reef, other diving
- Whale watching
- Large expanses of land, iconic landscapes, remoteness of outback, very diverse habitats
- The Ghan, Indo-Pacific Railway
- Relative political stability (e.g. compared to some African countries)
- Sporting events, 4WD treks etc. attract visitors but then they also view wildlife
- Importance of media: Many overseas tourists want to see species that have been made famous by film and TV (e.g. Skippy, Crocodile Hunter)
- Half of NZ’s visitors are from Australia. 75% said they are interested in wildlife in natural habitats (but the question was raised: what is perceived as ‘natural’?)
- Whale numbers are increasing, so there is potential to increase whale-watching tourism
- Komodo dragons
- Once they visit for other reasons, they then often want to see rainforests, marine ecosystems
- snow monkeys, unique behaviour
What lesser known wildlife and regions could be better promoted?
- Insects (including native bees)
- Frogs, lizards etc. ‘Herping tours’ for fogs and reptiles
- Bats, including flying foxes: they have batman and vampire appeal
- Birds: Malleefowl, Plains Wanderer, Shearwaters on Phillip Island, Migratory birds, Murray River birds, Wetlands in general
- HighCountry habitats
- Multi-day real experience in regional localities
- Many outback regions are little known and rarely visited but could offer good wildlife experiences
- Connecting with Aboriginal heritage, including understanding how the original communities lived with wildlife could be of great interest to visitors.
- Wildlife tourism for locals: locals want to reconnect themselves and their families with nature for a day or a holiday, to work with nature
- Massive opportunity for citizen science
- More marketing to grey nomads
- Developing a Dream Bucket List of wildlife experiences
What are some of the problems involved in opening up new regions to tourism?
(e.g. access and facilities for tourists, increasing pressure on natural resources, changes to local lifestyle, illegal wildlife trade)
- Problems with regulations overseas when taking international tours
- Aboriginal heritage: you need permission to use the land, to build on it or enter some areas [ed’s note: we need to find out which regulations really do protect the interests of the Indigenous, and whether some could be altered to mutual benefit of all].
- Australia has stricter regulations than some other countries. Programs that are cheaper overseas because of Australia’s more stringent regulations, means we have to compete with similar products in other countries
- Government duplication by departments taking resources from small business [ed’s note: not sure what exactly was discussed, but I know it can get expensive for small businesses taking tours interstate and needing to duplicate driver authorisation, permits for commercial activities in atioal parks etc.]
- Challenge of multi-layers of government departments [ed’s note: several reported lack of communication between departments within a state and between states]
- So many small and large operators are segmented, we need a united voice [ed’s note: this can be a role for WTA]
Competition within and between regions
- If one region is successful marketing for more tourism, other regions with similar wildlife could miss out [ed’s note: this is where looking for your region’s key strengths come in, and providing services around the wildlife tourism]
Impacts on wildlife and habitats
- Increasing tourism could increase pressure on habitats
- How do we manage these? What kind of marketing to give realistic expectations and still attract visitors?
- Should we be promoting permits for hunting etc. which then pay for conservation measures? Including domestic hunting/safaris, permits for crocodiles, feral animals
- We still have captured dolphins in Australia, suggesting we have different values for marine world than land animals in zoo
Practical issues: access, facilities etc.
- The main problem in developing tourism in some places rich in biodiversity is quality of access in those regions [ed’s note: this is a major problem in some developing countries, but also in Australia where sometimes the only access is by unsealed road that hire vehicles are not permitted on, and some are not safe for normal vehicles after heavy rains. Also there has bee a recent call from Shane O’Reilly that even in the Scenic Rim just south of Brisbane the quality of even some of the sealed roads to national parks etc. is more off-putting to visitors than the distances traveled]
- Distance: size of country [ed’s note: can’t do much about that one except to warn people of the distances, and find or develop regions where a diversity of experiences can be found relatively close by, and possibly promote more train travel between widely dispersed centres?]
- Dangers: in Australia you can walk everywhere and safely do tours on the ground in most areas, but in some Asian and other countries there are dangers of predatory land animals or political unrest.
- We need to develop better marketing of wildlife products.
- There is a perception that Australian wildlife is dangerous, when actually it is safer to walk in our forests than min many other world regions
- Where regions with similar wildlife are competing, there is need to specialise on local features [ed’s note: this does not mean ignoring the icons: a region could promote koalas or kangaroos plus their own specialties]
- How do you get return visitation, to get back to that area?
- Shortage of funding for education of tourists
- We need to manage people’s expectations, e.g. touching wildlife etc. Holding koalas, is banned in NSW, only two keepers are able to touch the koalas, but allowed in some Queensland wildlife parks. WA has strict rules in terms of animal treatment. Tourists want to see wildlife, promised deals that they see animals, disappointed if they don’t appear in he wild. TV, movies and other media have an impact on how people see animals
- Indonesia: need to explain benefits of wildlife tourism to communities and to ensure a stable social order as tourism grows
- Australia has a lot more safety and environmental regulations around animal viewing: this means we compete with other countries because their safety levels and other restrictions aren’t as high, and offer cheaper experiences.
- We need to reach potential Australian customers who take nature for granted. Australian wildlife lovers are exited to go abroad for different species but not so much our own. While international interest is high and growing, there is resistance in suburban Australia to nature and Indigenous culture
- How do we get Urban to appreciate wildlife, things that most would consider pests. We need to promote interest in generations after us to appreciate nature and embrace it. How do we bring the kids up to speed with this information, run collective campaigns to collectively promote the wildlife?
- Extracting economic benefit for communities: need to ensure this happens
- People are often willing to pay a premium for additional special experiences. Other visitors may object to having to pay extra.
- Cheaper for Australian to fly abroad than visit far-flung areas of their own country
- How do we make experiences ‘affordable.’ [ed’s note: a similar discussion grew from one of the other discussion groups. There are people who could well afford travel for wildlife experiences in their own country but choose to spend on other things, and we should try marketing more effectively to them. There are others with very real economic hardships that we can still try to reach with educational tools to get them appreciating the wildlife and habitats of their own region]
- Should we have different costs for locals (e.g. national park entry) and for internationals? [ed’s note: could include attractions, even accommodation and tours, some establishments, such as Gold Coast theme parks, offer special passes for the year to people with local post codes]
External (to tourism) threats to wildlife
- Koalas are starving in some areas, due to habitat loss and population increases: what should be done? (nothing, relocation, culling …?)
- Climate change: what are we going to do? (massive problem needing far more discussion)
- The Government (Indonesia in particular in this discussion? Could apply to many others) fears the economic impacts of protecting species
How can these problems be tackled by the tourism industry and governments?
Minimizing impacts on wildlife
- The Great Barrier Reef Marine Authority uses zones to help protect diversity and number of species by allowing different activities in different zones
- Regulations are needed to protect habitats minimise disturbance of nesting/breeding animals
- We need more research on impacts, including impacts on lesser known animals
- We need research on carrying capacity, and on what tourists want to see so we can combine the two into a good conservation plan that also satisfies the visitor. Carrying capacity depends not only on numbers of tourists but also their behaviour.
- Small regional areas need plans to increase protection of wildlife and an economic resource for the area
Marketing, education and promotion of responsible wildlife tourism to tourists
- Australians have more regulations and we could share this with the rest of the world. Wildlife tourism operators should promote that we do take better care of our wildlife than some places and this is why we need to charge more (a plus for extra regulations)
- Learn from others but don’t just copy what others have done: create your own success in your own way
- Promote to various groups: grey nomads, local Indigenous communities, dream bucket lists for Australians and others
- Volunteer tourism has great potential (beyond the usual weed pulling, although this has continued value). We should facilitate volunteering interactions. Citizen science thinking, naming and photographing animals, encourages people to emotionally connect with the animals, making them interested in the animals, making them less likely to want to hunt or kill them later.
- Education can increase curiosity about wildlife in Australia. We need more shows, films and documentaries that highlight our wildlife. Many international visitors are now more knowledgable, partly because of David Attenborough etc.
- Make perceptions realistic, give them the correct information. e.g. teaching them how far away you need to stay from the animals. Information about animals can be provided in accommodation venues before visiting parks etc.
- There is often opportunity for better briefing of tourists while on-site
- Environmental psychology can be used [ed’s note: not sure what was intended here]
- We need to make their experience feel good and get them to come back. If you have empowered them and educated them, they are more likely to return.
- Great potential for apps. A new app called “coastal walk about” lets you talk about the animals you see, and snap a picture
- Educate Australians about neighbouring countries so they behave as welcome guests through better understanding
- In Indonesia, there is a need to explain the benefits of wildlife tourism to communities and ensure stable social order as tourism grows
- Wildlife and Aboriginal culture could be compulsory topics in school. Scotland ensures schooling about such things at he local level
- We need a single peak body [ed’s note: WTA?] and to share resources
- Governments should find ways of extracting economic benefits for communities
- Educating government on the value of wildlife tourism in Indonesia: Hans Rosling was mentioned [ed’s note: http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2013/may/17/hans-rosling-data-population-fertility or http://www.britishcouncil.org/education/ihe/knowledge-centre/global-landscape/going-global-rosling-question-answer may be relevant, or googe for more]
- The Philippines provide a good example of integrated government departments working together with one policy plan for tourism
Discussion: Citizen Science by tourists
- The research topic should be something of interest to the tour operator and useful for conservation management. [ed’s note: it is also possible to marry a theoretical research topic with collection of local data that serves more than one purpose]
Leaders should make connections and show passion
We need to show respect volunteers as intelligent human beings
The scientists should be concerned about ethical issues concerning tourists, tour operators and animals.
The tour business should make a commitment, not just launch into the research for marketing purpose.
The experience gives visitors a deeper insight into country and culture
Has to be ‘sexy’ and provide a longterm pleasant experience to have appeal
The biggest barrier for citizen science is the cost. A lot of people are interested in being volunteers for scientific research, but we may need to lower the price for doing so in Australia.
How do we assure valid and useful data are collected?
- Goals should be well defined. Why are you doing it? Tourism or conservation? What are you trying to achieve?
- Ask the right research questions. Design of the project is critical. Quality of research depends on quality of structure (criteria, methodology), and needs a science collaborator to validate. A good supervisor is important.
If data is to be of use to the local community we need to understand what the community wants/needs
The most difficult parts are setting the research question and analyzing the data, between that, it’s often an easy task for tourists or volunteers, such as picking up the leaves, or sitting and watching the animal’s behavior [ed’s note: complex behaviours and subtle movements can be more difficult to record, and interpretation of behaviour problematical (e.g. are you observing courtship or aggression between two birds, foraging or play by a young animal?) but obvious behaviour such as time of arriving in or leaving a transect could be easily recorded by responsible and sensible volunteers with a short training time].
Tour operators need guidance on what kinds of data are of most value to researchers. Mentors may be needed
- Volunteers need to be trained to record the right kind of data, to be objective and accurate and adhere to rules throughout. Ata needs to be of a kind that is easy to collect and record. Continuous training may be needed for some projects. There may be a huge investment of time using tourists instead of local community who are going to stay in the district.
- Unless strict guidelines are followed and shown to be followed, academics may not be receptive of data collected by volunteers, doubt validity and may not accept it
Sea Search was mentioned – Marine NP / Deakin Uni See http://dro.deakin.edu.au/view/DU:30018227
- Funding grants may be needed for training of volunteers
- Online reporting may be useful, but how do researchers validate this?
- An example was given of 30 years of research on Leadbeaters possum (stag watches for nest hollows, requiring long hours of observation)
How do we assign different tourists to different tasks?
What is the target market?
Volunteers can choose their interests
- Jobs can be based on the tourist fitness/ skills/ age/ and languages. Choose tasks carefully. Know the tourists’ capabilities. Jobs of similar skill level can be rotated or randomly assigned (paper/rock/scissors)
- Not enough time for training unless staying a long time, so some projects may not be suitable for tourists
How useful are bio-blitzes and how do we involved tourists in them?
- The event can be created as a media social thing, giving good PR for the local area.
A lot of projects focus on local knowledge: ibis count, great fish count
Local tourism board and customer database can be used to promote to tourists. It can be packaged as part of an ‘ecotourist experience.’
A lot of time may need to be invested to make it worthwhile
Negatives: too many people trampling vegetation, a lot of training for only 1 or 2 days, scientists can be protective of data ownership, Bioblitzes are generally confined to small areas and particular seasons
Experts (not necessarily academics) need to be on hand to identify the species, and to help find the species or show others how to
There is potential for projects other than species lists: e.g. mapping weed infestations
How can we improve WTA’s research network?
- More information on how to contact others involved, more collaboration between all stakeholders (scientists, tour operators, volunteers)
adequate level of training without going over the top
blog: elementary info, members can access TRIP ADVISOR, eco advisor, need a good filter
get feedback from volunteers, not just from business operator perspective
publicize the network better: too few know it exists, even among members
update the WTA research web page, link isn’t working
Making a difference
What more can wildlife tourism do to enhance biodiversity conservation?
Marketing with the right messages
We need to
- improve on the global marketing images, because a lot of international tourists read brochures with images of people holding a koala, or climbing the Rock at Uluru. This needs to be changed to show activities more respectful to the wildlife and to Indigenous culture
- manage expectations of tourists (not give the impression that they can get closer to wild animals than they should, or that sightings of various species can be guaranteed in short visits
- Wildlife Tourism Australia and individual operations should establish closer links with Facebook tourism sites
Education of tourists while on tour and afterwards
- impart conservation messages to guests, to spread the message
tell stories and link them with explanations of the regulations in place to protect the wildlife
make experiences accessible to all (not everyone wants to camp)
encourage more participation by tourists rather than just observations
- follow up contacts with tourists after they leave, and give them updates of conservation activities etc. Incorporate technology to keep people updated of work they have done (e.g. upload photos of tree they planted year after year)
encourage tourists to ’email a tree’ they have ‘met’
- encourage people to leave with a feeling of awareness to share with their peer groups
- promote the fact that that we do educate tourists and others
- Websites, databases: pages of links for large and small operators to work together, make it easier to connect with each other
- Smaller businesses could have a more collaborative approach instead of working individually and considering each other only as competition
- Smaller sites can network together to reach a wider audience
- Tour operations can share success stories
- Big organizations and operations can be advocates for smaller environmentally-sound tourism organizations and operations
- A small networking division for volunteer tourism could be set up
- There could be more networking with local websites such as ‘Visit Victoria: discover your own backyard birds’
- Internet speed needs to be increased everywhere in Australia, and also mobile phone and internet networks away from major population centres
Certification and regulations can favour operators and individuals who support conservation
- Governments need to create more regulations such as tour operator and marine licensing
- Eco-certification for tour operations and guiding are already processed by Ecotourism Australia. There are also international certification programs such as Green Globe
- More regulations
- There could be good behaviour credits instead of money to get permit (e.g. an operator needs to be demonstrably proactive in wildlife conversation to get credits for permits)
- Sometimes the regulation is not a important as the knowledge and understanding of the animals by the operator: it would be difficult to legislate for all contingencies.
- Government investment in wildlife tourism training and workshops would be useful
Tour operations can:
- create more predator free habitat areas, e.g. more projects like Mt Rothwell, utilizing land for conservation, education and conservation fencing
- Spicers Hidden Vale is an example of what a large operation can afford to do for conservation (could also consider fencing some areas against predators)
- encourage conservation actions by politicians, developers and others
- donate to conservation projects and causes
- donate towards the conservation of any areas we use
- set up infrastructure to encourage conservation in your community (both small and large companies can do this)
- suggest large operators injects funds into the community and create partnerships, or put investments into smaller businesses that are ‘doing the right thing’ but sometimes struggling
- encourage large operators to be more like smaller businesses, e.g. flexible enough and communicative enough to be responsive to customers feedbacks.
What can tourism organizations and government departments do?
- Governments can pave the road to greater sustainability of tour operations
- Wildlife Tourism Australia needs be more active in political advocacy (e.g. to support the Great Forest National Park)
- We need to continue and increase collaboration between the different groups as we have at this conference: tourism, landholders, government, environmental bodies
- We should lobby for close relationships in government consultation with different departments and conservation experts and keep ‘bureaucracy’ up to date, aiming at legislation that is modern and relevant and effective for both tourism and conservation
Peak body?? Annual meeting: landcare, tour guiding, WTA
At present three levels of government
- Make the government and public realize the economic value there
- A follow email can recall the message
What the Government can do:
- Make the permit easier or reducing fee for setting up eco-tourism
- Compulsory certification.
- Coordinate with tourism organization, raise the bar and make the standard to the same among different states, such as the year of license valid.
- Good operator might get benefit and the bad operator might get punishment
- More transparency for funding
- Some of the obstacles might be the insurance covered area is not clear. For instance, a dolphin swim tour operator got insurance but it can’t separate from what they can do on land and what they can do in the sea. This stops them doing land-based conservation activities on the beach.
- Also, the tourism and the environment department have different KPI, it’s hard for the tour operator to follow and indicate their business.
– Implement accreditation programs
– Invest in school, increase educational programs of wildlife conversations, and sustainability actions.
“Up close and personal? Human-wildlife interactions”
Up close and personal? Human-wildlife interactions?
How close should we get, both in the wild and in captivity?
- implement hands off conservation.
- not feed or encourage feeding
- have several sites to take tourists so same animals are not disturbed eery time
- follow code of practice.
How close should we get to the wildlife?
- It depends on the individual species. Different species have different behavior. [ed’s note: as per conversation with delegates outside of the discussions, individuals within a species can also differ due to inborn temperament and background experiences, and their suitability for close encounters can also vary with their moods and physical condition on the day)]
- The key point is to let the wildlife approach you, instead of you approaching the wildlife.
- Need to educate the visitors on ways in which the human interactions could affect wildlife, and also that the visitors themselves could get hurt or catch a disease from some species
- Some places should stop running tours when it’s the breeding season of species likely to be affected
- There is a need to predict the worst situation and plan to protect the animals against these circumstances.
No notes were handed in on the final two questions:
- What do already know and what do we need to know to assess what kinds of interaction are acceptable in terms of both animal welfare and conservation?
- What do we know and what do we need to know about interactions with animals leading to support for their conservation?
[Ed’s note: I am now exploring the literature on these two questions, and will then write a blog for the WIldlife Tourism Australia website, giving links to relevant references]
“Solving human:wildlife conflicts with wildlife tourism” (plenary discussion)
- What are the real wildlife problems that people face (danger to crops, human safety, limited access to protected and private areas etc.)?
- What problems may be exaggerated?
- How do we get accurate information to all stakeholders (local residents, politicians, tourism operations, NGO’s)?
- How can wildlife tourism contribute to solving the problems?
Once again no notes were handed in
It was pointed out that:
- farmers do face real problems in Australia from crops raided by cockatoos, fruitbats, rodents and other wildlife species, and we need to explore nonlethal means of protection
- in other countries the problem may be more severe: e.g. lions killing cows (and people), elephants raiding crops and food storage centres that may leave locals facing starvation
- there are some exaggerated fears: e.g. some people still seem to think that just by being near a bat colony it is possible to catch lyssa virus (which can only be transmitted from a bite or scratch from an infected bat) or hendra virus (which first ha to pass through a horse)
- Big Life Foundation in Africa accumulates funds to compensate farmers and graziers for losses of livestock to lions, and pay rangers to help drive elephants away from crops. Can other schemes be established elsewhere to benefit both the farmers (by protecting their crops and wildlife) and the wildlife (by using nonlethal means) and to what extent can the tourist dollar funds this?
- Some attempts at ecotourism have failed in African countries, but others have been successful (e.g. Abercombie and Kent lodges which fund local conservation measures as well as building hospitals and other much-needed community facilities, and Daktari, a small animal orphanage in South Africa which gives supplementary lessons to children from neighbouring schools and also teaches them about their local animals
I would like to see this discussion continued on the Wildlife Tourism Australia website.
Where to from here? (final plenary discussion)
First there were two announcements (next year’s workshop and plans for the website), then an open discussion on other directions for WIldlife TourisAustralia.
Wildlife tourism workshop in South Australia next year
A group of us had met prior to this discussion, including members from South Australia and members who had been on the organising committee for the 2015 conference, and the outcome was reported:
We will aim at holding a 2-day workshop in winter or spring, probably at the University of South Australia in Adelaide, although part of it may be held at the Cleland Wildlife Sanctuary the Adelaide Hills
There will be optional pre- and/or post- workshop excursions to Flinders Ranges and Kangaroo Island, including discussions relevant to the theme of the workshop
We discussed possible themes and will later announce a decision
Website and social media
Wildlife Tourism Australia is attempting to develop search engines within our website specifically for users to:
- find information on wildlife species or families
- seek out different kinds of wildlife experiences, including geographical or habitat searches (e.g. birdwatching in the outback, whale-watching near Sydney)
- find relevant literature (we have a very long list of references on wildlife tourism and related topics on our website, and want users to be able to more easily find what they are seeking through keywords such as birdwatching, nature interpretation, impacts on wildlife, captive breeding etc.)
- find research programs of interest in our wildlife research network: including tourists looking for programs involving volunteers, researchers looking for discounted accommodation or transport or for volunteer assistants, and tour operations interested in collaborative research projects
It was pointed out that there was a lot of collective wisdom at this conference, and it would be valuable to continue discussions. Facebook group, forums, wiki, google hangout and other possibilities were discussed. It was decided that a closed Facebook group would be a good start, that we would re-visit the attempt to start discussions on the Wildlife Tourism Australia website, and that we would be participating in at least one google hangout with Ron Mader of planeta, who had already offered to organise one.
[Ed’s note: the Facebook group has now been set up. Wildlife Tourism Australia thus has two Facebook sites, the original page, with over 10,000 members across the world including many travelers as well as people within the tourism industry https://www.facebook.com/Wildlife.Tourism.Australia, and the group started by Roger Smith for those within the industry, conducting relevant research or working in related fields, primarily for delegates from the conference but others can also ask to join https://www.facebook.com/groups/Wildlife.Tourism.Australia. We have also now held one Google Hangout discussing the conference. Wildlife Tourism Australia has also been listed already on a Planeta Wiki, and we can add more details to this as time permits]
Several delegates volunteered to help with social media and the website, and it was also suggested we engage students volunteers (or students willing to work for a low casual wage). We are already doing this to some extent, but could do more. [Ed’s note: we would very much welcome those who offered assistance that day to remind us who they are and in what way they would lie to help]
Research needed, and potential for tourism involvement in research
Impacts on wildlife. We know quite a lot in general about possible impacts of tourism activities on wildlife, but there is a lot of detail for particular species or localities that would be valuable to understand.
Effect of tour experiences and interpretation on tourists. Follow-up contact with tourists after their visits could be valuable, reaching out to them after 3 or 6 months, asking what do you remember most from your experience, what did you learn, and are you doing anything differently as a result? (e.g. using less plastic bags after realising how many of these are being swallowed by marine animals)
We already know that many wildlife tourists would like to be involved in assisting the wildlife they see. Tour operators could collaborate and combine results on a research project that asks clients what they would be prepared to do for conservation, to assess potential for future interpretation, advice to visitors and coordinated projects
More economic analysis of wildlife tourism in various localities would be useful to find the actual and potential value to local communities.
Citizen science possibilities were discussed. Volunteers can assist research in a number of ways: physically while on tour (whether taking notes, helping to find animals, carrying equipment etc.) or online (data collation etc.)
Wildlife distributions and seasonal movements. Data sheets for wildlife can be filled in during tours or ecolodge stays (checked for accuracy by knowledgable operators or researchers). We shouldn’t attempt to reinvent the wheel where other databases already exist but instead encourage data to be sent by operators or the tourists themselves to Eremaia, Australia’s Living Atlas etc.
There are many proposed or potential projects needing good baseline data with longterm documentation from then on: these could be included on Wildlife Tourism Australia’s wildlife research network, calling for operators, researchers and/or volunteers to join in.
A report of the conference will be presented on the website [ed’s note: a full report, of which this page is part, is currently still in preparation, but one of our keynotes, Christopher Warren, has uploaded his own report http://www.chriswarrenonline.com.au/blog/innovations/%E2%80%9Cborn-free%E2%80%9D-not-releasing-wildlife-tourism%E2%80%99s-economic-potential]
Letters and emails will be sent as appropriate to various politicians, tour associations and others including all or part of the report.
Specific issues that will be addressed with reports to media, politicians or other could include:
- Moolap Saltfields: should it be saltmarsh or high quality waterbird conservation ad tourism [ed’s note: a press release has already been sent, and he Geelong Advertiser published an article: http://www.geelongadvertiser.com.au/news/geelong/wildlife-tour-operators-call-on-support-for-sustainable-tourism-development-at-moolap-salt-fields/news-story/05186793c4acc183018956a339e2989a]
- Fruitbat colonies in Far North Queensland and elsewhere that could be seen as tourism potential instead of focusing on nuisance values and attempting to disperse them (especially without establishing other sites for them to settle)
- Mountain ash forests are needed for leadbeater’s possum and many other species, and are themselves magnificent
- the need to protect habitats of all kinds
- potential effects of climate change on wildlife and their habitats
The question was asked as to whether putting a dollar value on wildlife, while temporarily protecting it, could make it less safe in the future. What happens when wildlife that is seen only as a money spinner is no longer doing so? We need to simultaneously educate people to have respect for the animals that goes beyond their monetary worth.
It was pointed out that we should not forget to use our knowledge of existing legislation and policies when point ing out where current or proposed actions are in conflict with conservation goals.
To achieve a low Carbon future, we need to retain all our old growth forests: felling them and then re-seeding is inefficient and costly, and very detrimental to wildlife populations.
Can tour operators who provide quality wildlife education also reach people who are not tourists? How do we provide education abut our wildlife for people on low incomes who can’t afford the tours? This led to a brief discussion on whether some just don’t value the tours enough to book for them although they actually could afford them, while others genuinely can’t afford to do so. We can use public signage, wildlife expos, bioblitzes, offers of free or discounted tours to locals when there are spare seats on the tour bus, and other ways of reaching the public and instilling interest and pride in their local wildlife and awareness of conservation issues.
If not enough good tour guides available, videos or audios could be prepared for use on buses, boats and other transport used by tourists
Free information can be offered by tour guides (e.g. in public places or in accommodation venues) to increase awareness and interest in wildlife amongst those not booking tours, and this could also lead to additional bookings.
Forming synergies between Wildlife Tourism Australia and various environment groups could be valuable
Jeffrey Skibins gave us a quick summary of the conference and the following advice:
- Blur boundaries: visitors don’t care about political boundaries or petty differences between regions or associations. If something is worth achieving don’t impede it with rivalry.
- Be bold: find pro-active things your guests can do to help the environment, push the envelope, cultivate the right attitudes before they visit (e.g. Galapagos visitors know not to harass animals and the animals are consequently very relaxed about human presence, Echidna Walkabout guests know not to try to get near koalas)
- Storm the ivory tower: get scientific data out to the general public; operators (collectively) give data to researchers to analyze; use postgrad students to assist with projects
All in all, we had some excellent discussions at this conference, providing much to think about and start acting on!