Top 5 Wildlife Destinations for Caravan Travel in Australia

Top 5 Wildlife Destinations for Caravan Travel in Australia

Australia offers travellers a cornucopia of potential wildlife experiences, with many diverse ecosystems spanning across our great nation. Here are the top 5 best caravan holiday destinations for getting amongst the wildlife.

Daintree Rainforest (Mossman Gorge)

Daintree Rainforest (Mossman Gorge) CC Image Courtesy Francisco Martins

1. Daintree Rainforest (Mossman Gorge)

The Daintree Rainforest is the biggest tropical rainforest in Australia. It spans some 12,000-square-kilometres and it’s one of the most diverse and complex rainforests on earth. As such, the habitat is home to thousands of living creatures, including 90 per cent of Australia’s bat and butterfly species, and three per cent of our reptile and marsupial species. It is perhaps the best vantage point to see some of Australia’s more exotic creatures.

Although you can’t actually caravan within the rainforest area, the Daintree Riverview Caravan Park is just around the corner, sitting beside the Daintree River.

If you would like fun and informative commentary while traveling through the Daintree Rainforest, take a look at the Self-Drive audio guide. Here is a great library of images displaying the beauty of the Daintree.


Kangaroo Island

Kangaroo Island (Vivonne Bay Jetty) CC Image Courtesy Roger Smith

2.  Kangaroo Island (Vivonne Bay Jetty)

When it comes to Australian animals there is hardly a better place to visit than Kangaroo Island, off the coast of Adelaide.

Named after one of the country’s mascot animals, the island is not only home to countless kangaroos and wallabies, koalas were introduced there to the point where they are now eating up all of the gum trees.

If you’re lucky you’ll catch a seal sun baking on the beach, or you’ll spot a goanna rummaging in the bush.

Kangaroo Island Shores Caravan Park is the closest park to the mainland, just off the Sealink ferry.

Find more great parks in South Australia here.


Great Ocean Road (Twelve Apostles) CC Image Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Great Ocean Road (Twelve Apostles)
CC Image Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

3.  Great Ocean Road (Twelve Apostles)

You can’t devise a list of Australia’s best driving trips without mentioning the Great Ocean Road in southern Victoria.

It is regarded as one of the country’s most scenic and interesting routes. It’s also home to the Great Ocean Road Wildlife Park, which is 20 minutes from the iconic Twelve Apostles.

You can expect to see almost all of Australia’s much-loved animals, including kangaroos, koalas and wombats.

On the shore there are excellent whale watching opportunities, as well as the chance to see dolphins frolicking and seals basking in the exquisite surroundings.


Kimberly (Z Bend) CC Image Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Kimberly (Z Bend)
CC Image Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

4.  Kimberley (Z Bend)

If you’re up for a bit of adventure, the Kimberley region in northern Western Australia is one of Australia’s treasured areas, and one of the earliest settled parts of the country.

Arid landscape, exotic reptiles including snakes, lizards and crocodiles, and a plethora of birds species, the Kimberley is a spectacular place to visit.

In terms of places to stay, you have the option of camping in outback style or you can go for a bit more luxury and book a site at one of the many fine caravan parks such as the Kimberleyland Holiday Park on Lake Kununurra.


Cradle Mountain CC Image Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Cradle Mountain CC Image Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

5.  Tasmania (Cradle Mountain)

Once you get over Bass Strait, Tasmania is an incredibly tranquil and relaxing place to caravan.

There are plenty of opportunities to see some of Australia’s cutest and shyest animals. Have you ever seen a platypus? Your chances are significantly higher in Tasmania, where there are loads of crisp freshwater creeks.

Wombats and pygmy possums (the world’s smallest possum) also enjoy living in Tassie, and being nearer to the South Pole, there’s also a great chance to see penguins on the beaches.

Driving around parts of the mainland is easy and there are heaps of caravan parks, including top-rated BIG4 parks in Hobart, Bicheno, and across at Ulverstone.


Author - Brett Davis

Author – Brett Davis

Author: Brett Davis is obsessed with driving and travel, having played with Matchbox cars until he was tall enough to drive a real one. After earning a degree in journalism he started his career as an editorial assistant at Top Gear Australia magazine and then moved on to Currently he is an editor at

Wildlife Tourism Workshop Perth 25 November

Wildlife Tourism Workshop:

Innovation and diversity of experience in Sustainable Wildlife Tourism

 Perth 25 November 2014

Half-day workshop conducted by Wildlife Tourism Australia, at Murdoch University, Perth, attended by almost 30 people from diverse backgrounds. Thanks to Professor David Newsome of Murdoch University for arranging the room and afternoon tea for us (and attending part although extremely busy organising the ITSA conference that week).

This report is still somewhat in draft form, and we would appreciate feedback from hose who participated, especially if we have left anything out or misinterpreted any of the notes from our scrubes

Innovation and diversity of experience in Sustainable Wildlife Tourism

What wildlife species are fascinating and appealing but not well promoted for tourism? Why?

Suggested discussion points:

  • What features of these animals would appeal to visitors? All visitors or a subset of visitors?
  • Ae there some that would be easy to show visitors but just not yet ‘famous’ enough?
  • What makes some of them difficult to view? Consider small vertebrates, invertebrates, nocturnal animals, cryptic species, marine, aquatic and terrestrial, animals in remote areas, etc. Can these difficulties be overcome?

Results from discussion:

Animals that are not well promoted for tourism:

  • Numbats, honey possums, tammar wallaby, bilbiesunique species but with a restricted range, not easy to find and not well-known by tourists (or Aussies!)
  • Rock-wallabies, phascogales, ringtail possums, woylie (bettong), chudditch (quoll), mulgarras, quendas, bandicoots, water rat, other small and medium-sized mammals
  • Echidnas (should be better-known as the ‘other’ egg-layer, not compared to porcupines or hedgehogs)
  • Many mammals are very active – don’t hang around for long – ths hard to predict where to view them
  • Emu – common in Australia but exciting for visitors
  • Malleefowl – unusual breeding behaviour and handsome bird
  • Black cockatoos – not as well known as other cockatoos (not used in pet trade) but are striking birds (and cockatoos are an Australian group of birds – very few outside of Australia)
  • Thorny devil (Molloch horridus) – bizarre appearance and movement, and intriguing adaptations for moisture retention, but can be hard to find in wild
  • Perentie (largest Australian reptile other than crocodile), bob-tailed gecko
  • Dragons
  • Shark Bay sea-snakes – endemic and non-tropical, need to find out whee and when to view them’
  • Frogs can be very appealing, but are nocturnal, some are only seen or heard seasonally, and it can be difficult to predict when conditions will be right (e.g. warm wet evenings). They sometimes need to be handled for identification but a permit is needed for this. Chytrid fungus and other diseases could be spread if not very careful, and frogs can start dehydrating from the saltiness of human hands if held too long. If keeping captive frogs, their progeny can not be released, but if keeping only females (to prevent breeding) they won’t call, as only males call.
  • Blue-ringed octopus (not for petting though! Venomous)
  • Insects – e.g. spider-eating wasps: large, colourful and conspicuous, quite common, and not aggressive
  • Plants shouldn’t be ignored as being part of our wildlife – e.g. wildflowers, orchids, mangrove tours at Dolphin Discovery Centre, Christmas bush
  • Bush tucka (wild foods)
  • Feral animals – camels, dogs, cats, pigs, rabbits (for interpretation about conservation problems?) Some suggestion of recreational hunting as a way of controlling these, others felt it better to employ professional hunters as needed, not promote hunting as a sport
  • Reasons for research often not well communicated

Places deserving more attention in or near Perth:

  • Birds at Blue Gum Lake, dusk and early morning
  • Lake Joondalup – many birds are feeding as it dries up
  • Busselton Wetlands (Ramsar-listed Vasse-Wonnerup System) – Wetlands with open water and salt marsh. Peak of 35,000 birds of 60 species plus ‘feeding frenzies’ of egrets, herons, etc. in Dec-Jan each year. Largest regular breeding colony black swans (mid-July – late Sep/Oct) in SW WA. Limited public access. Trails Masterplan developed and first stage of construction commenced.
  • Milyu in South Perth (
  • Melville Waters ( Bibra Lake (,_Western_Australia)

Other notes:

  • Attributes that make tourists want to see animals – cuteness, danger/adrenalin (snakes, crocodiles, sharks), uniqueness (kangaroos, platypus), peculiar/bizarre (platypus, thorny devil),
  • Attributes of birds: new, lesser-known birds for twitchers, large flocks of birds (or bats), spectacular birds, unusual birds (for visitors) such as cockatoos, malleefowl, jacanas
  • Cost can make travel prohibitive – e.g. going north for crocodiles, from east to west coast for whale-sharks
  • Some good wildlife viewing areas are on Indigenous lands with very limited access, permits needed (but the permits are possible, and there is great potential for tours by Indigenous guides), or on private lands which would be very suitable if public liability costs were not so prohibitive
  • Some locations are difficult to access due to remoteness, difficult terrain, lack of experience etc. or potentially dangerous (ocean, other water, desert). 4WD needed to reach some areas – and we need protocols for off-road driving.
  • There are some quarantine areas because of infectious diseases of plants or animals
  • More education is needed for tour operators and tourists on opportunities for new experiences and on appropriate behaviour etc. (for safety and environmental sustainability)
  • Feeding or other habituation to bring animals close for viewing can sometimes alter behaviour to the extent that the experience is less satisfying for those who want to view authentic wild behaviour
  • Critically-endangered species should not be disturbed (we need some no-go areas, or seasonally no-go, or remote viewing)

How can we enhance the viewing experience without increasing negative impact?

What are some existing innovations in wildlife viewing that could be more widely employed? What are some potential ones that haven’t yet been tried?

Suggested discussion points:

  • Think of those that are difficult to view. Can we view them
    either directly or indirectly (remote-sensing, tracks and burrows …)?
  • Can conventional ways of viewing better enable closer views without disturbance – educating of small groups of tourists before approaching animals, habituating shy animals before bringing in tourists, better understanding of behaviour of animals, to work in with their behaviour patterns
  • Underwater hotels
  • Ziplines through forest canopy (if done well, they can be unobtrusive and quiet journeys through the canopy with emphasis on interpretation rather than adventure)
  • Apps that lead you on a nature trail that also takes you ‘out of the app’ and really experiencing nature
  • incorporating wildlife-related experiences into theme parks – e.g. fly like a bat, glide like a gliding possum, explore underground worlds or deep ocean, travel through a platypus tunnel ….)
  • new ways of experiencing wildlife in zoos? In national parks? On private lands?
  • webcams at outback waterholes, reefs or treetops for hotel guests to watch animal behaviour while enjoying dinner or breakfast …)

Results from discussion:

Ideas for viewing and interpretation:

  • Frogs – they can (with a permit) be handled with clean, moistened hands, viewed in terraria or identified by their calls. Should there be some research into the safe release of un-diseased captive-bred frogs so more can be kept and bred in captivity. Frog tourism would appeal only to small subset of tourists, but frogs could be combined with other features such as platypus-watching or nocturnal birdwatching, or situations such as the terrariums at Cedar Creek winery and glow caves
  • Handling of wildlife generally – may be okay for trained tour guide to handle animals and show guests if linked with research project. Consider qualifications, certificataion of competency.
  • Mammals that can be hard to find (e.g. numbats, honey possums) can be ‘matched up’ with searches for easier creatures (e.g. woylies in the west, or fruitbat colonies on the east coast)
  • Trapping can be used – especially if this can be part of a conservation or research project, not just trapping solely to show tourists. Some animals can become trap-shy – or trap-happy (knowing they’ll get a free feed!).
  • Marine petting pool – can expand, and used in more sites
  • Nocturnal tours – can combine animal-viewing with star-grazing, and include invertebrates (fire-flies, spiders ) and luminous fungi, not just mammals and birds. Night-vision goggles are a novelty for many and allow unobtrusive watching of animal behaviour.
  • Feeding can be used in some ‘sacrificial sites’ as long as tourists are told clearly not to feed them elsewhere, and if they are not fed enough to become dependent or seriously alter behaviour. Some could be fed for a while and weaned off it to see if they still hang around.
  • Indirect evidence of animal presence can be used as a backup plan for times the animal itself doesn’t appear- e.g. scats, tracks, nests, burrows, hollows, food-plants, scratches on trunks
  • Recorded bird calls can be used either for identification or to call up birds, but there are problems with the latter if it wastes too much energy of birds coming to defend their territories (e.g. 40-spotted pardalote in Tasmania), or scares some birds by playing predator calls (such as powerful owl)
  • Bat detectors, Anabats and apps can be useful for microbats – identification will improve as more calls are added to a reference library, but even demonstrating the variety can be of interest without necessarily identifying all
  • ultraviolet light can be used to view scorpions, torches (flashlight) show spider eyes, red light can be used for mammals and turtles as they don’t see it as well as white light (although Robyn Wilson found that for several species of possum the dimming of the light was more important than the colour of the filter)
  • Radio-tracking is very useful for showing where animals are, and could be useful to research and monitoring if linked with suitable projects
  • Remote-controlled drones with cameras could be used if eco-friendly and ecotourist-friendly, especially for colonies such as sea-lions – if not too loud
  • Use of webcams at water-holes, treetops, underground burrows etc. – important to place in area where viewing is likely, to show there really is wildlife around. Film from webcams can be viewed remotely – best used as supplement rather than substitute for direct viewing (tourists have travelled to see animals, don’t want to only view what they could see on internet back home), but could be very useful when direct viewing is not possible, or to demonstrate the presence of animals in nearby habitats to travellers who would otherwise be unaware of it. Once they are aware they may see the habitat as more interesting, and be more prepared to subsequently support its conservation.
  • dung-cams (? David Attenborough mentioned in connection with these), other cameras used by DA, endoscopes in burrows, hollows or logs, scopes in nestboxes with plug-in laptop attachment for viewing and monitoring
  • live footage with explanatory notes, narratives – could be of anials outside vehicle, being shown at visitor centre, accommodation or within vehicle (if not readily viewed directly – e.g. leaf-tail geckos on high tree-trunk, shy animals that would flee if people leave vehicle)
  • Could a go-pro be attached to an animal??? Dolphin bird, wombat … (probably wouldn’t get permit to do this with wildlife – what abut go-pro on domestic animal on a farm stay or cattle station open to ecotourism, e.g.a sheep or cow that might wander through the bush amongst emus, kangaroos and flocks of parrots etc.)
  • Viewing platforms could be used in trees, underwater and perhaps underground
  • Underwater observatories at Busselton Jetty? Monkey Mia?
  • Submarines to 100m Perth crater/canyon
  • more walkways at Mt Franklin, Poronorups, Albany
  • Organise different categories of tours – less interactions, less cost, more interactions, more cost; take small groups to see nocturnal animals and provide vale-for-money experiences
  • Hovercrafts?
  • Zip-lines? (they can be environmentally-sensitive and used for serious viewing of camopy flora and fauna, not Tarzan-style)
  • Eco-friendly cable-cars, and live footage from these
  • Fear (e.g. of sharks) can be a drawcard, and visitors can get an adrenalin rush even when not in danger (swimming with reef sharks, enhanced by a feeling that underwater is not our natural habitat, taking us out of our comfort one). Interpretation can be effective while the emotional arousal is high. Recent interest in sharks in WA (because of attacks and culling) can be used for PR. Consider hotspots for shark presence, swimming restrictions, link with whale migration patterns
  • Invertebrate sampling, as used to be done by Ribbons of Blue.
  • Include flora amongst wildlife – flowering, fruiting plants, fungi (great variety, including ‘ghost fungi’)
  • Take people walking in water in wetlands through routes where impact is minimal
  • Alternative forms of transport – e.g. quad bikes used responsibly on establish trails (as in Local Bay at Monkey Mia)
  • Consider different factors appealing to different kinds of tourist (adventure-seekers, backpacker volunteers, passive natural experience) – endangered, dangerous, size (e.g. pigmy possum)
  • nature walks (developed and undeveloped), walking safaris
  • bird hides, overnight hides, tree-houses (accommodation, also act as hides)
  • Nocturnal hotels?
  • underground tunnels to viewing platforms at waterholes
  • Science safaris – volunteers pay to participate in research that allows them to see animals otherwise difficult to view (e.g. Whiteman Park, Karyana, Mallefowl Centre, Dryandra)
  • Apps for nature trails, info on animals you see, where animals are now, butneed more reception for mobile phones and wifi in many regions
  • Geocaching (including earth-caching and puzzle-caching with wildlife theme)
  • Hot air balloons

Other notes:

  • Shires need to promote their “treasures”
  • WA tends to attract more eco-minded tourists (those wanting city life tend to go t east coast) – so may have subgroup of tourists already more disposed to nature tourism, visiting remote areas, seeing rare wildlife, voluntourism etc.
  • Main market seems to be 20- to 40-year-old foreigners (but there is also market for families, gap-years and middle-age/seniors
  • Breeding programs for conservation can be supported by tourists wanting to see the rarer creatures (in captivity)
  • Tour operators need to educate visitors through website information on the animals, on difficulties of finding some (so their expectations are not too high and they know they need to be patient) and on appropriate behaviour when viewing them
  • Must develop correct protocols and make these known
  • Animals live in wide territories, so ourists need to be taken or directed to specificic sites where probability of sighting is increased
  • if viewing aquatic species, special skills may be needed – diving, boating etc.

What seasonal spectacles could we make better use of?

Suggested discussion points:

  • Migrating birds, mass irruptions of insects, coral spawning …
  • Direct and indirect viewing
  • Linking with another experience (evening cocktails under the moon waiting for outdoor screen showing live-streaming of coral spawning …..)

Results from discussion:

Species that migrate

  • Are there some butterflies or other insects that migrate predictably like the monarchs in North America?
  • Bogong moths in alpine areas, and the small mammals that feed on them
  • Birds – regular migrants and nomads (e.g. Broome, Rottnest Island, saltlakes in wheatbelt or outback)
  • Whale sharks – already well-known

Other seasonal events:

  • Flora flowering/fruiting, emergence of fungi after wet season
  • Birds and butterflies that come in for wildflowers, interpretation can include plant-animal interactions, and inclusion of wildlife in promotion can have wider appeal
  • Coral spawning??? But water top murky to see anything
  • Turtle nesting (already well-known)
  • Other reptiles – snakes, goannas etc. more active in warm months
  • Rhianthella – underground seasonality
  • At change of wet/dry seasons – big scorpions, phasmids etc


How do we best employ tour operations in wildlife research to enhance our knowledge of wildlife and monitor for conservation?

Suggested discussion points:

Wildlife Tourism Australia’s Australian Wildlife Research Network connecting tour operators, researchers and volunteer tourists

What can tourists, professional researchers and operators gain from this?

What are some of the problems involved in using volunteers and tour operators

without a science background for research projects and how do we best overcome these?

What are some of the wildlife research projects we most urgently need to pursue?

Which projects would most lend themselves to collaborative research between

operators, both within a region (e.g. to get enough data on similar observations for valid analysis) or between different regions (e.g. migration routes)

What kinds of research do we need for different kinds of tourist? Ways of communicating to people of different nationalities, ages and personality types? Etc.

Results from discussion:

How do we fund the research?

  • Crowd-funding – contributors can be rewarded by having animals named after them, being allowed to participate in special research activities, being sent t-shirts etc. Website connected with this
  • Grants
  • Lotteries West (for not-for-profits)

Most urgent research:

  • How much public awareness exists of particular animals, interesting sites, conservation issues etc.?
  • What kinds of wildlife experience could encourage travellers to stay an extra night, make repeat visits etc. (thus assisting tour operators and local economies), including regional areas?
  • Research on impacts of tourism on species and on natyre generally
  • Research likely to bring financial gain to tour operators, or indirectly helping with their businesses, is most likely to be supported by them
  • How does disease spread between humans, domestic animals and wildlife? How do we then best get accurate messages out to the public without the media distorting and sensationalising?
  • What are the potential impacts, both in general and at particular sites, including unintentional side effects that could result from new activities? (e.g. provision of more water could bring in common animals displacing rare ones, as used to happen at GluePot Reserve in SA, planting more winter-fruiting plants in high altitudes in NSW resulted in currawongs staying in the mountains for the winter and then preying on nestlings of other birds in the spring)
  • Research into effective interpretation, including a variety of interpretation methods and styles to suit different individuals and groups.
  • Research on fisheries to be opened up in the Abrolhos
  • Rehabilitation projects


  • Dryandra
  • Project Eden – most of the year
  • Project Fairy Tern already use Volunourism
  • Whale-watching at Ningaloo
  • Bird projects – 2020 bird counts, Peel Harvey 2-day workshop (research projects, lots of people on ground), cocky count
  • Cat sterilisation (we were told it is happening, but what part does research or voluntoursm play?)

Other matters

  • Some research may be costly in resources that could better be used for viewing or conservation purposes, especially if the results of the research are not likely to be acted upon
  • collate statistics via questionnaire/feedback forms – e.g. how many animals seen. Share this information.
  • Can we take people out into less-travelled regions using iconic animals to bring in voluntourism research (myrtle rust etc)
  • Conservation activities can be based on research fndings o iconic species, endangered or priority species, and their survival or disappearance
  • Results of research should be communicated for use in management plans and projects
  • Collaborate with research groups, universities – e.g. feeding dolphins by volunteer groups, educate people of nature of animal benefits and potential problems (e.g. disturbance to ecosystem, spread of disease, misinformation)
  • Consider whether it is worth the cost to employ specialists
  • Much research by academics stays in the academic literature and is not readily available to travellers or tour operators. Much needs to be distilled and communicated in appropriate language to various end-users. One-page reports ar best for busy readers.
  • Citizen science brings in a new tourism audience
  • Appropriate methodology is essential for research and monitoring if results are to be meaningful and useful. Research must be robust, repeatable, rigorous: identify those parts of research that tourists can do, to ensure this is adhered to.
  • Identify attractive wildlife to get punters. If the research that really needs doing doesn’t sound attractive, marry it to something that does – e.g. if studying Phytphthera on Banksia, marry this to honey possums and colourful nectarivorous birds that depend on the banksia, and nclude some spotlightin/birdwatching or at least videos of the animals amongst the experience of observing fungi on plants.
  • Tourists need ‘cliches’ to attract them – e.g. Pinnacles Tour
  • Tour operators can be trained to participate in research with government (and academia)
  • Better communication is needed between researchers and managers, so researchers know what managers need and managers better understand the scientific process or valid monitoring methods
  • voluntourists in conservation monitoring
  • international tourists can bring their own experience and perspective (scientists travel too – and also people who have had voluntourism experience elsewhere, as well as general background knowledge and experience in their homelands or elsewhere)
  • DPAW signage is important
  • Tourists can gain much from participation – ‘warm and fuzzies,’ work experiene, acknowledgments in paper, improve English, lose weight (!), hands-on experience
  • Professional researchers gain free labour, new ideas, get to educate others, mney for research, free food and wine
  • Operators gain knowledge, unique selling points, reputation, eco-accreditation, income and employment, expansion f operations
  • Australian Wildlife Research Network – it was asked whether this is an entity. It is a service provided by Wildlife Tourism Australia, with its own website. See
  • Volunteers contribute to conservation by ‘spreading the word’ afterwards


Also see:



WTA member Moonlit Sanctuary rewarded for animal welfare standards

Moonlit Sanctuary leads the way with positive animal welfare 

ZAA-Logo-AccreditedMoonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park in Pearcedale, Victoria,  has been recognized for meeting positive animal welfare outcomes.  Recently assessed by the Zoo and Aquarium Association’s (ZAA) Accreditation Program, Moonlit Sanctuary has successfully achieved Accreditation.

The Zoo and Aquarium (ZAA) Accreditation Program has lifted the bar for animal welfare standards, and is for all ZAA member zoos and aquariums.  With a positive animal welfare focus, the new Accreditation Program is a world first for the zoo industry.

“The Accreditation Program is creating a new standard for animal welfare,” said ZAA President Karen Fifield.  “Being accredited means our members can be proud of providing our animals with the best possible care.”

Rather than simply making sure animals are not experiencing negative welfare states, the new program goes a step further to focus on delivering positive welfare outcomes.  This new standard is a result of the Animal Welfare Position Statement released by ZAA in early 2013.  This contemporary framework looks at the Five Welfare Domains – from the four physical domains of nutrition, environment, health, and behavior through to the fifth domain of mental affective state.

“The Animal Welfare Position Statement provides a strong foundation for zoos and aquariums to maintain and improve welfare for all animals in their care,” explained Ms Fifield.  “The Accreditation Program gives us a tool to assess that level of care provided at ZAA institutions.”

bettong holding leg on night tour

Bettong holding leg on night tour

For Moonlit Sanctuary to gain this accreditation means that they are ensuring the animals in their care live in a positive welfare state.

“The Accreditation Program really celebrates and validates animal welfare states,” said Ms Fifield.  “This means the wider community can be certain that ZAA member institutions provide the best level of care for their animals, not just a minimum standard.”

ZAA member institutions are assessed every three years, with accreditation based on a principle of ongoing development and better practice.  This means criteria for assessment will be refined for each cycle to make sure that new understandings about animal welfare can be included.

For further information about Moonlit Sanctuary please contact Michael Johnson on 0409 021 843.

For further information about the ZAA Accreditation Program, please contact the Zoo and Aquarium Association at 61-2-9978-4797.

Michael Johnson

Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park

p +61 03 5978 7935


Moreton Bay’s 50,000 Frequent Flyers

Moreton Bay’s Ramsar Wetlands

Moreton Bay Frequent FlyersEach summer, Moreton Bay near Brisbane is visited by some 50,000 migratory shorebirds. To get here, they fly thousands of kilometres from wetlands in the northern hemisphere along the East Asian–Australasian Flyway.

More than forty shorebird species frequent Moreton Bay including thirty species of migratory birds such as sandpipers, tattlers and godwits. The largest and most easily identified visitor is the Eastern Curlew notable for its long curved bill.

At low tide, shorebirds wander over exposed sandbanks, seagrass beds and mudflats to feed. When these areas are covered by the rising tide, the birds move to viewable roosting areas where they gather in hundreds.


Eastern Curlew

During the southern hemisphere’s winter, when migratory birds are visiting China, Siberia and Alaska, there are still plenty of resident seabirds and shorebirds in Moreton Bay including terns, oystercatchers, herons, egrets and cormorants.

Moreton Bay’s diverse wetlands ecology has been internationally recognized under the Ramsar Convention since 1993.  An area of 113,000 ha, including most of the southern Bay, is protected for many reasons including environmentally important populations of shorebirds, dugongs, green turtles and loggerhead turtles.

mapHumpback wales occasionally enter Moreton Bay on their southern journey each September before heading down the ocean side of North Stradbroke Island which can be accessed by vehicular ferry from Cleveland’s Toondah Harbour.

Redland City (including North Stradbroke Island) embraces southern Moreton Bay and its Ramsar wetlands. The 10 km coastline between Cleveland Point and Redland Bay is largely unspoilt by the development that has blighted many other coastal areas in Queensland.  Parks and extensive foreshore walkways provide excellent opportunities for viewing Moreton Bay’s rich bird life.  As a bonus, the coastal vegetation includes many trees that are home to Redland City’s significant population of koalas.


Artists Impression of Toondah Plan

This area of national environmental significance is threatened by the Redland City Council and Queensland Government’s plans for massive coastal development at Toondah Harbour in Cleveland and Weinam Creek in Redland Bay.  Proposed developments at Cleveland include a 400 berth marina which would destroy seagrass beds, mudflats and mangroves all of which are important habitats for the area’s shorebirds, dugongs and turtles.


Koala in Cleveland

Local resident and environmental groups would prefer the Council and Government to focus on sharing Moreton Bay’s Ramsar wetlands and unique wildlife with tourists from around the world. Where else can you drive less than one hour from a major international airport to vantage points where you can easily view an amazing variety of shorebirds and often see koalas as well?

For more information go to:

Author: Chris Walker

Savannah Guides School

Savannah GuidesSavannah Guides have scheduled a new workshop

“Guiding Skills In The Kimberley”

Date:  9th to 12th October

This is a four day workshop which will showcase the dramatic landscape of the region as well as it’s history and enormous tourism future.

Savannah Guides Limited develops the skills and careers of tour guides.  It is a non-profit, member based network of tourguides and operators that works with its partners to support “Protectors and Interpreters of the Outback”.

This El Questro Savannah Guides School will provide valuable skills training and networking for guides and friends from across northern Australia.  Most of the time will be spent in the field exploring spectacular landscapes and learning about the incredible Kimberley region.

***Download the pdf for more infoInfo-El-Questro

How networks lead to breakthroughs!

 How networks lead to breakthroughs!

EchidnaWalkaboutKoalaKARENWildlife Tour Operator’s koala research paper accepted by scientific conference.

Sixteen years of looking up koala’s noses. Sixteen years of hand-drawn diagrams of nearly 100 koalas, and over 19,000 photographs. Thousands of koala sightings on hard copy maps in the early years, then the wonderous ease of GPS locations on mobile phones. Sixteen years of wondering whether a discovery made on a wildlife tour would ever be useful for the protection of koalas Australia-wide.

Finally, a breakthrough.

Echidna Walkabout’s first scientific paper: “As plain as the nose on their face: Efficacy of nostril pigment patterns in identifying individual koalas” has been accepted for presentation at the Pathways 2014 conference on Human Dimensions Of Wildlife in Colorado, USA. This is a huge leap for the Melbourne-based wildlife tour operator. For non-scientists, presenting and publishing a wildlife discovery to the scientific community is difficult. It couldn’t have happened without the input and encouragement of one very special man – Assistant Professor Jeff Skibins of Kansas State University.

EchidnaWalkabout_koalabookJanine & Roger of Echidna Walkabout met Dr Jeff Skibins at the Wildlife Tourism Workshop in Darwin in 2013. Jeff delivered the most inspiring presentation: a call to action for wildlife and eco-tour operators to upsell, publicize, and shout out to the world about how great wildlife tourism is for people, wildlife and the planet! Janine & Roger were so motivated by Jeff’s talk that they stayed in contact, and ultimately took Jeff on their tour. On tour Roger explained how they had discovered a method of identifying wild koalas from their nose patterns. Later Jeff did some research, and found that this discovery was a first for koala science. He encouraged Janine to write the paper, with himself and a colleague – Dr Peg McBee – as co-authors. Jeff and Peg have checked the data collected by Echidna Walkabout on their wildlife tours and pronounced it to be ‘very strong’.

pat250214p01textThe Pathways conference brings together wildlife professionals from all over the world to discuss how human behaviour affects wildlife management and conservation. Over 100 researchers presented at the 2012 conference, and around 500 delegates attended. Great Bustards in Mongolia, lions in Kenya, tigers in India, Monk Parakeets in Argentina and coyotes in US were all discussed. Jeff Skibins lectured on the influence of wildlife tourism on tourists, particularly on their subsequent conservation behaviour. For 2014, Janine, Jeff & Peg’s paper has been accepted by the conference committee, who proclaimed it to be ‘both interesting and relevant’.

Echidna Walkabout’s presence at the 2014 conference will be an exciting voice demonstrating that Australian wildlife tourism is a leader in the field of conservation tourism.

Wildlife Tourism Australia brought the network together that made this breakthrough.



Flying Foxes in Cairns

Spectacled flying foxes by the library before their trees were hacked into.

Spectacled flying foxes by the library before their trees were hacked into (photo Araucaria Ecotours).

Flying Foxes in Cairns

Maree Treadwell (WTA committee member)

Australia has a high biodiversity of wildlife, much of which can actually be found in our cities, which is great for our international visitors. While birds provide plenty of opportunities to see the more common varieties in the city, mammals are mostly cryptic or nocturnal or both. However there is one type of mammal, the flying fox a large mega-bat, that calls our cities home.
Flying foxes are not found in Europe, non-tropical Asia or anywhere in the Americas so they are a novel experience for many  of our visitors. Their spectacular evening fly-outs are a wildlife highlight of many a traveller’s Australian trip.

Flying foxes are keystone species moving seeds of rainforest and other trees from one isolated patch of rainforest to another and are a significant long distance pollinator of rainforest and hardwood forests particularly of eucalypts and related trees. They are migratory or nomadic, following the flowering of their food trees, many of which have irregular flowering which varies from year to year in both quality and quantity and in distribution. So a single flying fox can travel 40 km in a night and over 1,000 km in a year. The flying fox you see one year in Brisbane may be the one you see in Melbourne the next.

There are four species of large flying fox in Australia, found from northern WA, across the top end and down the east coast of Australia from Queensland to Melbourne and west to Adelaide. One species, the little red flying fox is also found in inland Australia following flowering along water courses but often visits the camps of its coastal cousins as far south as northern Victoria, stays a few weeks and then moves on. Two of the four species, the Grey-headed Flying-fox and the Spectacled Flying–fox, are listed as vulnerable under the Commonwealth EPBC Act, the main environmental protection act in Australia. The grey-headed flying-fox ranges from Ingham in Queensland down the east coast of Australia and west across Victoria to Adelaide, many of its camps located in cities, often in botanical gardens or by rivers or coastal mangroves. It is the only endemic flying-fox. The spectacled flying-fox is confined to wet tropics in Queensland in Australia but extends into Papua- New Guinea. The remaining species, the Black Flying-fox, is found in northern Australia, from WA across the Top End, throughout Queensland and south down the east coast to about Sydney. The different flying fox species often share roosts- In Ingham earlier this year you could see all four species roosting in the botanical gardens.
The great thing for visitors to the major capital cities is that not only can you see the spectacular flyouts, but you can also visit the camps in daytime and observe their daytime behaviour. But in Melbourne and Sydney the flying foxes are no longer in the botanical gardens in the centre of the city, so while you can see them foraging at night in the city you need to travel to the suburbs to see their daytime camps or evening flyouts. This is no hardship because they have selected roosts with both natural beauty and historical significance. Some of our Australian suburbs are worth visiting, especially so when flying foxes are involved.
But in Cairns, a Queensland city that acts as a gateway to both tropical north with its world heritage rainforests and the world heritage listed Great Barrier Reef, you can see Spectacled flying foxes in the middle of town, roosting in the grounds of the beautiful library. You can even stay in the adjacent Novotel hotel and overlook the camps and watch the evening flyout in comfort from your room.
However, there is a sad story to the bats in Cairns. Despite nightly photographing of the flying foxes flying out over Cairns from tourists, despite pleas from well known ecologist, Jane Goodall, and film stars like Glenn Close, despite interstate tourism industry delegates and operators who can see the potential of bat tourism in Cairns, despite the success of bat tourism in North America and other countries, one of the best known being the emergence each summer evening of free tailed bats from under a bridge in Austin, Texas which brings in thousands of visitors per year, Cairns Council dismisses flying foxes as a tourism attraction, one councillor saying that “there may be other places that are reduced to bat tourism …”. (Cairns Post April 2014).

Cairns Council has applied to remove the flying foxes from their roost in heritage listed trees at the Library and has begun a program of “tree trimming”. Because the spectacled flying foxes are listed federally, there are a number of criteria that must be adhered to, one being that work cannot take place if flying foxes are present in the tree. Local film maker team, Noel and Michele Castley Wright, allege that this criteria has been breached, and they have filmed this breach.
The trimming began a few weeks ago (late April 2014) and the bats have come back. Dispersal as a management tool is an ineffective and costly exercise. Most dispersals have not worked- the bats not leaving the local area but becoming scattered and roosting in smaller groups often in inappropriate places. Unless alternative good quality roosting sites are found, the flying foxes will return so long as there are trees to return to Roberts et al 2011).
The Council intends to move them on again, regardless of the stress this may cause to a Commonwealth listed vulnerable species and regardless of the cumulative other dispersals some of which include spectacled flying foxes are happening throughout Queensland. Unfortunately for the flying foxes, while listed at national level, they are not considered threatened at Queensland state level.
Because spectacled flying foxes within Australia are only found in Queensland, continued dispersals of their camps could cause local extinctions and possibly extinction within Queensland and thus Australia. And how are the extra-liminal populations going?
What will this mean for the wet tropics in Queensland? The loss of a keystone species will have an impact on our remaining tropical rainforests.
In the meantime in Cairns, you can still see the flying foxes but the trees they are in are a mess and the street scape once so nice and treed is now so ugly- what must tourists and visitors to Cairns think?

Roberts B.J., Eby P., Catterall C.C., Kanowski J.K. and Bennett G. (2011) The outcomes and
costs of relocating flying-fox camps: insights from the case of Maclean, Australia, pp. 277-287 in
The Biology and Conservation of Australasian Bats, edited by B. Law, P. Eby, D. Lunney and L.
Lumsden. Royal Zoological Society of NSW, Mosman.




An interesting seminar to be hosted by the University of Sydney next month

16 June, 2014

This is a Free Event.
RSVP Essential

Seminar Featuring John Miller and Robert McKay

From their website:

To whom does extinction matter, why, and how? Answers to these questions often rely on a principle of concealed usefulness. In this outlook, biodiversity represents a vast data bank of genetic information that contains an array of undiscovered possibilities for medicine or industry. A striking contrast to this hard-nosed, market-driven approach resides in the emotional attachment to certain species, or to the natural world more generally, that motivates many conservation campaigns. Such reasoning, though widely on show, has the disadvantage of appearing vague, sentimental and under-theorized. What it highlights is the urgent need for a humanities perspective on the question of biodiversity loss as a key part of the global challenge of responding to climate change.

3 Simple Ways You Can Support Wildlife Conservation at Home

3 Simple Ways You Can Support Wildlife Conservation at Home

by guest wrier Jessica Grospitch

Jessica is dedicated to sustainability and loves to share her eco-friendly initiatives.

You may already donate to wildlife charities and support eco-tourism, but there are some changes you can make in your day-to-day life to help local wildlife and the environment. Home upgrades such as solar panels, energy-saving appliances, green construction practices and other earth-friendly solutions are excellent, but they’re also expensive and time-consuming. While these are good goals for homeowners to work toward, you can begin making these simple changes today.

Home Decor

Think about where your furniture and decor come from, and furnish your home with wildlife and the environment in mind. Deforestation and pollution are major problems that are partially caused by logging to make furniture and other wood supplies. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, around 18 million acres of forest are lost each year to deforestation. reports that Australia has lost 38 percent of its forest coverage since European settlement (that’s 1.5 times the size of Tasmania). Only 15 percent of forests in Australia are currently protected, and 132 of plant and animal species in the Adelaide region have gone extinct since 1836. Forests and natural land provide homes to animals and are important to our delicate ecosystem.

Search for home items that are made from sustainable materials, like bamboo or recycled materials. features many brands that use recycled materials and environmentally friendly manufacturing practices, including Nova Solo, Australia Matting and Raki. Be sure to research any company before buying a new product, so you know exactly where it came from. You can also buy secondhand furniture and decor, repurposed pieces and items made from recycled material or reclaimed wood. Not only are these stylish options, but they cut down on waste that fills our landfills and harms the habitats of endangered wildlife.

Updating Lighting and Saving Energy

Traditional florescent, incandescent and even CFL light bulbs either contain mercury or produce it in their coal factories. When mercury enters the atmosphere, it can be dangerous for humans and wildlife. According to the U.S.’s Natural Resources Defense Council, the fluorescent tubes you see in offices, schools and hospitals contain up to 100 mg of mercury each. These traditional bulbs also use more energy and need to be thrown out more often, creating waste hazards.

LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs not only produce a small fraction of the mercury that incandescent bulbs do, but they reduce energy use and waste. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, LED lights use 75 percent less energy and last at least 25 times as long as standard incandescent bulbs. They also produce very little heat, which saves on cooling costs. Completely switching your home to LED lighting can take some time, but it will save money and energy in the long run.

Create a Wildlife-Friendly Backyard

Many species of native Australian wildlife are threatened by loss of habitat. No matter how large your outdoor space is, keep local wildlife in mind when landscaping and gardening. Providing water and shelter is the most important part of making your yard wildlife-friendly. Consider what kind of animals are native to your region when landscaping.

Photo by Drs via Wikimedia Commons

The South Australian Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources offers some guiding principles for creating a wildlife-friendly outdoor space, including:

  • Use native plants that range in height. Trees and bushes that grow abundantly in your area will provide natural cover for native animals.
  • Use a variety of flowers, and choose types that bloom in different seasons. Having flowers year-round will attract birds, bees and other pollinators and provide food for other animals.
  • Monitor your pets. If you have outdoor pets like dogs and cats, keep them away from your wildlife area. Cats, of course, hunt birds, lizards and insects, while dogs can damage habitats by digging and urinating—and both may scare away birds and other animals.
  • Don’t use chemicals in your lawn and garden care. Use nontoxic, natural solutions when trying to control weeds, pets and fungus. Not only can the chemicals harm your animal visitors, but they can run into water sources and pollute a larger area than just your yard. Attract birds and helpful insects to minimize harmful pests and pull weeds by hand.

Wildlife Tourism Workshop in Sydney, November 2014

Wildlife tourism and conservation of biodiversity in parks

wta-logo-bLogo Parallel Partner IUCN WPC Logo SMALLNSWParks_logo

Viewing a king parrot in Lamington National Park near O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat, photo by Araucaria Ecotours

Viewing a king parrot in Lamington National Park near O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, photo by Araucaria Ecotours

Report on Discussions at the Workshop

This workshop was a parallel event of the World Parks Congress,  held the day before the start of the World Parks  Congress, at the Office of Environment and Heritage in Sydney).

The event was  organised jointly by Wildlife Tourism Australia Inc. and the Office of Environment and Heritage, New South Wales.

Topics were briefly presented, delegates discuss the following questions in groups of approximately 8 participants, then all came together into a final plenary discussion to share ideas and information.

Topics discussed included:

  • how can we ensure the conservation of biodiversity as more people flock to our national parks, expecting new kinds of activities and facilities (e.g. accommodation within the parks)
  • how can we best use both old and new technologies for low-impact wildlife viewing that will delight the visitor and enhance understanding of wildlife behaviour and ecology?
  • under what circumstances should interaction with wildlife be allowed within or near parks?
  • what research is most urgently needed in the next five to ten years to ensure adequate conservation of biodiversity, and how can Wildlife Tourism Australia’s research network best contribute to this?
Shingleback skink, Currawinya National Park. Photo Araucaria Ecotours

Shingleback skink, Currawinya National Park. Photo Araucaria Ecotours

Discussions were animated and productive.

Below is my attempt to collate all points made by participants and recorded by the scribes assigned to each breakout group.

I would welcome feedback from our delegates as to whether I’ve left anything out.

Comments at the foot of this page are also welcome by delegates and by others who were unable to attend.

Please note: The following report is very basic.  After the wildlife tourism workshop to be held in Perth on 25th November, I’ll be collating reports on both, and sending some compilations to politicians, tourism associations and wildlife associations. 


1.  How can we ensure the conservation of biodiversity with increase in visitation?

Suggested sub-topics:

  • Research and conservation monitoring associated with new projects – but leave the details of this one for the final discussion point
    Learning from case studies from other regions, including other countries.
  • Should we spread the tourism load throughout a protected area, or concentrate it in limited areas of parks, leaving the rest relatively untouched?
  • How can we reduce tourism impact on parks by making it easier to start nature adventure activities on private and leasehold lands (including assistance with insurance)
  • Surveys of attitudes of domestic and international tourists and local residents, and brainstorming on how to satisfy their wishes while minimising impacts on biodiversity
  • Cumulative effects – tourism effects don’t happen in isolation – what other threats could compound problems?
  • How can tourism revenue best assist conservation?


We need to get the balance right – enough tourists to bring financial support and receive educational and other benefits of the parks experience without impacting too heavily on the wildlife and other biodiversity values.

Baseline surveys of fauna, flora and habitat quality should be undertaken and a comprehensive monitoring plan be designed and regularly implemented to watch for impacts and adjust management where necessary.

Policies are needed from our own government and international bodies, and incorporated into law, to ensure the protection of biodiversity.

Criteria for new activities in the parks should include

  • not spoiling the values of the park
  • not increasing waste and other undesirable bi-product
  • not decreasing the biodiversity value of the park
  • not impacting on breeding and feeding grounds
  • no negative impacts on waterways

Partnerships and linkages could be developed with neighbouring landowners for off-park conservation and sustainable tourism. This could include the development of buffer zones involving willing participants surrounding parks, and involve mutual benefits (land-owners benefitting from the proximity of the park bringing custom and increasing the biodiversity values of their own property, and the park benefitting from the tourism pressure being spread, additional education of visitors, and perhaps some financial donations from adjacent commercial activities, as it was pointed out that when facilities are located outside of National Parks the Park doesn’t get so much revenue from them to use within the parks as they do from private enterprise paying to operate within the Park).

Green internships, green jobs, and other initiatives can assist with such partnerships, and for conservation monitoring, habitat restoration etc. within parks.

The expense of public liability premiums here in Australia is a major stumbling block for landowners who would otherwise welcome tour operators bringing guests in for wildlife-related experiences on their properties. This appears to be less of a problem in many other countries. It was suggested that we review South American and African models.

Philanthropic needs are different between soft adventure’ activities and ecotourist activities – different motivations are involved.

Revenue for conservation – the concept of user-pays is good, but those paying (and other interested stakeholders) should have clarity on where the money goes.

Zoning is important – we need some no-go areas in vulnerable sites, also where relevant seasonal, time of day and other temporary restrictions (e.g. during breeding seasons of some vulnerable species).

‘Sacrificial’ management can establish zoning to provide for added protection in high traffic areas and discourage mass visitation to other parts of the park which will then retain higher conservation value and wilderness experience.

Management of visitor numbers to vulnerable areas does not always need to be imposed by enforcing no-go areas, but can often be controlled by planning so that the majority of visitors will naturally congregate in the ‘easier’ areas, with only a small minority making the effort to go beyond the main tourist area.

Many visitors will have unrealistic expectations of the variety of animals they will see, especially in a day visit, or how close they will be to them. Managing visitor expectations and experiences is important, before and during their visit.

Conservation and tourism can go hand-in-hand – e.g. wildlife rescue areas

Governments are pushing for accommodation in protected areas which can provide revenue (e.g. for control of weeds and feral animals) but also generates additional problems for wildlife management (water supply, sewerage etc.) and must be very carefully considered in respect to the kinds of criteria mentioned above.

Some activities may have impacts not immediately obvious to their participants – e.g. possible impacts of night-time mountain bike-riding on nocturnal animals.

Managing visitor expectations and experiences is important.

We need to educate politicians as well as the general public on biodiversity and conservation principles. Politician education could involve:

  • on-ground involvement
  • invitation and demonstration of parks to politicians
  • showing connectedness of public to parks

Participation by visitors is an important part of education for understanding – getting people involved in conservation activities, citizen science etc.

The role of guides in promoting conservation is important, and we need more information on this (what works, effects on visitor understanding and awareness etc.)

Education should go beyond the actual visit and include pre-visit and post-visit interpretation.

Tour operators providing good interpretation can decrease the need to actually see all animals species of interest. The Dolphin Discovery Centre in WA appears to be good at this, and guides who show signs that animals have been there (scratches, tracks, scats etc.) and showing habitat features used by them.

Authenticity of experience for visitors is important for impact of interpretation – including interaction with community, rangers, indigenous, researchers, tourism.

Good story-telling is an important part of interpretation.

Good training of guides and other tour operators, ecolodge staff etc. is important. There is probably much to learn from the training of rangers in South Africa, who learn about animal ecology and behaviour etc.
Exchange of park staff, students, ecotourism staff etc. between countries and between regions within a country would be very useful to earn from each other and exchange ideas.

We need adequate baseline studies for subsequent monitoring of impacts. This may commence before proposed new activities or facilities are introduced, or may be “pre-emptive,” gathering data now for any future comparisons even where no changes are yet planned.

Presence/absence of animals is the first essential in a fauna survey, but where possible data on behaviour, health condition and group size can be invaluable.

We know far too little about what happens to animals we don’t see (e.g. small ground-frequenting native rodents and marsupials, low-nesting birds and other creatures tourists and tour operators may be unaware of when spotlighting for owls and possums etc.

Research needs to include areas other than scientific – i.e. effectiveness of management, surveys of visitor expectation, satisfaction and effectiveness of education efforts.

We need to monitor entire tour experience not just the wildlife experiences
Tourism in parks generally seems to be moving from ‘conservation’ experience to ‘wildlife-related’ soft adventure – experience expectation is changing, and we need to understand and monitor this for effective planning and management.

2. How can we best use both old and new technologies for low-impact wildlife viewing?

Suggested sub-topics:

  • How do we best communicate guidelines for behaviour to visitors of all ages and nationalities, before they leave home, on their way and on arrival?
  • Minimal impact viewing. Night-scopes, telescopes, hides etc. What else is coming?• Remote viewing of endangered species or those in places difficult or impossible to reach. Webcams at hides in South Africa can be viewed the world over on an online forum, webcams at osprey nest in Brisbane allow viewing at information centres. As discussed at a previous workshop, hotels in remote areas could use webcams or motion-sensing cameras displaying activities e.g. outback water holes or bat fly-ins at dawn, at dawn, nocturnal activity of forest or desert animals, for guests who can’t or don’t wish to make the effort to get close, these could be watched “live” in bedrooms or the hotel restaurant. This might also mean a quieter viewing session at the site itself for those willing and able to make the effort to watch directly.
  • Can we offer rewards for good behaviour? e.g. if children can follow a trail quietly for half an hour they get access to a special area.

Older technologies (still valuable, and some of which could be used in innovative ways) – viewing platforms, guidebooks, visitor centres, interpretive signs, story-telling (e.g. Indigenous groups), guide only or other restriction.

Newer – apps, other digital communication (including digital story-telling), digital maps, live-streaming cameras, night cameras, cable cars, ziplines (which can be environmentally sensitive and educational if well-planned and managed), webcams.

Whole-of-tour models can be used, especially using online social media – pre-tour, during the tour and post-tour.

Experience can be enhanced during the course of a day by providing more information on what is seen by visitors, using new technologies.

Research is needed on the extent of experiences enjoyed in one day.

We need to remember the impact on wildlife of any new development.

Can we encourage selfies with posters of animals rather than with the animals themselves?

Equipment for viewing
Infra-red motion-sensing cameras can be used for non-intrusive viewing (less impact than some of the current spotlighting activities).

Bat detectors can awaken awareness of the variety and numbers of microbats in a region.

Webcams can be used for customised experiences.

How do you manage the pros and cons of social media usage in ‘tagging’ wildlife, e.g. rhino tagging in Africa?

Wildlife hides can allow visitors to be unobtrusively close to animals.

Live-streaming of animal activity (e.g. at eagle nests, outback waterholes, fruiting or flowering trees both day and night) could be displayed on screens in visitor centres, local hotels etc. to awaken visitor awareness and appreciation of animals many would otherwise not see, and have less impact than encouraging large numbers of visitors to view them directly.

Digital story-telling extends the age-old practice of traditional story-telling
Apps are being developed that can identify from calls or images recorded by visitors and then give interpretation, including stories about the animals. This is good for education of tourists as well as for research.

Google glasses – spectacles with cameras, connected to web – can be further developed for interpretation.

GPS-driven apps are useful.

There is however some move from apps back to website-driven information (Vic tourism).

Use of social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram), can be valuable to enhance information and appreciation.

Facebook pages for wild animals can capture people’s hearts and imaginations.

3. Under what circumstances should interaction with wildlife be allowed?

Feeding rosellas at O'Reillys (photo Araucaria Ecotours)

Feeding rosellas at O’Reillys (photo Araucaria Ecotours)


  • Some get great satisfaction from interacting with animals (talking to them, feeding, patting, swimming with them etc.), others say we should have no contact. Is it really all- or-nothing?
  • What are the pros and cons for tourism, the animals, public education and support for conservation?
  • What is the evidence for effects on animals and on tourists?
  • What are the most important aspects to consider when making decisions in particular areas?

Whatever we do we have some impact, but tourism will not go away and we need no impact as an ideal goal, but realistically minimise.

Some visitors have unrealistic expectations, wanting to get close to everything either for photography or interaction, and to be able to feed, cuddle or be photographed with anything.

Tourists (and some tour operators need to learn that animals are not for human entertainment.

We need to consider differences between various modes of interaction with wildlife – e.g. viewing dolphins from boats compared with swimming with dolphins: differences in impacts on animals, differences in visitor satisfaction and education.

Is it necessarily all or nothing? Are there some situations where feeding or interacting is acceptable?

Effects on animals
We must consider where it could interfere with animals’ natural behaviour

Consider using a precautionary approach.

People who want a authentic wildlife experience don’t want to see altered behaviour.

It is generally best not to feed animals – it can alter their natural behaviour patterns, make them dependent, favour some aggressive species over others etc.

Wild animals being fed are probably better off than those kept in captivity, in that they appear to be making a free choice -e.g. wild dolphins coming in for a feed at Tangalooma or Monkey Mia and parrots coming in to be fed at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary and O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat as opposed to those kept in dolphinariums or aviaries.

If planning to feed wildlife for tourist experience, it is important to observe available ‘wildlife encounter’ guidelines available from protected area managers and others (e.g.Wildlife Tourism Australia’s best practice guidelines).

Consider providing plants that provide fruits and flowers for wildlife instead of feeding them – remembering that even this can cause problems if it favours some animals over others, and even the provision of water can do this. If well-planned however it can serve the function of bringing animals close and increasing the probability of viewing them (although not the feeling of interaction with a wild creature that some visitors want).

Vigilance and constant monitoring are needed where animals are fed.

Research at Griffith University on bird feeding has indicated less problems than expected in nourishment, dependency etc.

Where education against feeding is not likely to be entirely effective (e.g. family camping grounds), some rangers have developed signage and leaflets to influence visitors to generally avoid feeding but if they can’t resist doing so to use appropriate foods and list those which are acceptable.

Effects on visitors
Does interaction prompt more support for wildlife in some visitors who otherwise would be less interested?

Is it legitimate to create artificial ‘animal encounters’?

For conservation purposes, some “ambassadorial” or “sacrificial” animals or habitat areas might be useful in bringing people close to animals and habitats for educational purposes and for a positive bonding and subsequent support for conservation.

Education programs (e.g. telling people that although it is okay to feed carefully-selected foods to the animals in a specific site, it is not acceptable in other places and especially in wilderness areas) must be designed to reach all languages and ages and be appropriately repeated (including written signs as well as speech) – many of the people enjoying the feeding experience do not understand rapidly-spoken English, and sometimes the message is given so quickly.

Feeding is often used to ensure tourists will get the ultimate experience of viewing the wildlife, but some of the pressure can be taken off this demand by other kinds of experience – e.g. scats and tracks, web-cams to see what is going on outside, to avoid disappointment of not seeing the animals themselves.

The use of photos with animals is demand driven – we need public education on being alert to conditions that are not acceptable where captive animals are used for this and animal welfare principles are neglected.

4. What research is most urgently needed?


  • Impact assessments – how much time is needed for adequate fauna surveys, who asses the assessors, how do we fund the studies? Paid staff plus volunteers plus research students?
  • Pre-emptive research to enhance understanding of ecological needs (including possible needs for habitat corridors or trans-locating, and the needs of migratory and nomadic species, both terrestrial and marine, and international considerations).
  • Single species studies and ecosystem/community studies
  • What animals that tourists and even tour guides are unaware of (e.g. shy understorey birds, small native ground-dwelling mammals) could be impacted while looking for the popular species? How do we find out?
  • Effects of extreme events on wildlife? Can tourism compound impacts? Can volunteer tourists assist after disasters?
  • What role can tour guides, tourists and local volunteers play in research and monitoring? (see

We need research on baseline conditions and good monitoring plans, for ecological sustainability of tourist activity.

How can local people benefit from local tourism opportunities? (e.g. does wildlife tourism assist local economies? Can it induce people to stay longer in regional areas?).

Where should Vietnam (and other developing countries) start with wildlife tourism?

Rather than just focus on ecology, it is important to integrate ecosystem and social research studies.

We also need research into how to make connections with nature and wildlife-related creativity, and research into inspiration.

How do we extract more money from tourism operators and travellers to fund research? Is there a move towards philanthropy?

How do we prioritise research needs when there are limited funds available for wildlife research from park management?

Research into the use of new technologies would be useful.

Can we promote ecotourism research as an industry, leading to increased political advocacy for researchers.

There is much potential for low-cost research by marrying scientific questions with the kind of information needed for conservation management for student projects (final-year undergraduate projects and postgraduate research).

Wildlife Tourism Australia’s Australian Wildlife Research Network includes promotion of citizen science by tourists as well as networking between tourism operations conducting research, and between tourism operations and academic and other professional researchers for mutual benefit.

Impacts on Wildlife
What are the impacts of tourism activities and new infrastructure on animal behaviour, including both immediate and long term impacts?

Inter-disciplinary research is needed – e.g. linking visitor behaviour with impacts.

Ecological impacts on population numbers are important, but so are welfare impacts on individual animals.

We don’t know enough about impacts of tourist activities on cryptic species – e.g. small reptiles and mammals of the undergrowth that are not noticed by tourists or tour operators.

Tourism impacts do not occur in isolation to other effects. Which sites are especially vulnerable to climate change that tourism could potentially put additional pressure on?

Under what situations does habituation to human presence happen? When is it good and when not so good? Examples of good: animals use less energy needlessly running away whenever a human appears, birds less likely to desert nests, visitors more likely to see animals. Examples of not so good: animals that learn to associate humans with food and become a nuisance demanding it, predatory animals that become less fearful and may see human children as prey, small animals that become so accustomed to cars they may frequent parking areas and increase danger of collision.

Research on Tourists

What do visitors expect from wildlife tourism? What kinds of travellers expect viewing to be easy and immediate? How close do they expect to get to animals? What proportion of tourists are interested only in iconic species as opposed to seeing a variety of animals?

Where are the wildlife tourism hotspots?

How do we best interpret relevant concepts for specific sites and different groups of people?

What are the most effective ways of communicating messages to different ages and cultures (including emotional impact and conservation messages, not just simple information about the animals)?

What are the challenges and possibilities for transforming “mass tourism” into ecotourism?

What is the value of good guiding? (visitor satisfaction, conservation messages, changes in visitor behaviour …)

What are the “tipping points” for attitudinal/behavioural change of visitors?

What is the value of “art” in interpretation?

Citizen Science
Citizen science occurs in a different context to usual research requirements
How do we best promote citizen science through tourism?

Research and monitoring can make use of social media – e.g. cockatoo wingtag research in Sydney, Fluker posts, bird atlas, Wild about Whales.

Legal requirements for research should make sense but they can be counter-intuitive. In Queensland one can identify frog calls as a hobby but if such identification is to be used for research there is a legal requirement for prior approval by an ethics committee, and the same goes for observation of birds etc. In Victoria, even where photographic and GPS evidence is given that an endangered species is present, this evidence is dismissed if the reporter did not first get ethics approval for research, so forest can still be cleared even where presence has been logically established. Where do citizen science observations stand amongst such requirements? (delegates from other countries indicated that these anomalies seemed to be more extreme in Australia than elsewhere).

Ecotourism Australia is now taking control of the National Landscapes program, enhancing the potential for asking big corporations to support important research, and perhaps ultimately giving National Landscapes the status of museums and universities for valid wildlife and wildlife tourism research.

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