Archive for the ‘Interpretation’ Category

New book on wildlife tourism for guides, job-seekers, ecolodge staff, business start-ups etc.

Wildlife Tourism: A Handbook for Guides, Tour Operators, Job-seekers and Business Start-ups [Kindle Edition]


As I’m the author of this one I can’t really give a review as such, but you can take a look inside it at: The description on this page is:

This is a guide for tour operators, eco-lodge managers, wildlife park staff, students and others interested in a career in wildlife tourism or in adding a wildlife component to their tourism businesses. The emphasis and most examples are Australian, but the principles are relevant to all countries. The book is packed with information on skill-sets of tour guides,learning about wildlife, finding and observing wildlife, interpreting wildlife, interacting with tourists and colleagues, conservation issues and some of the financial and legal aspects of setting up your own business. Many references to other books, articles and websites are included.
From the Araucaria Ecotours blog:

Introducing people to wildlife and helping them appreciate their beauty, understand something of their ecology and behaviour, get curious about things we don’t yet understand, and realise some of the conservation thetas currently facing them, has been a lifelong passion. It is one of the major reasons I sarted our wildlife tourism business.

Coming more from an academic background than a business one (although I did run a holiday farm focussing on nature studies and horsemanship many years earlier), the business of starting and running a small business took me and my family into a very steep learning curve. I knew little of the red tape involved,  how much time and money was needed for advertising (or how to reduce some of that), or about book-keeping, insurance,  or working with booking agents. One of the aims of the book is to help others who may be in the same boat, starting out with loads of enthusiasm for  wildlife and sharing their enthusiasm with others, but lacking experience in running a business venture.

Others come from the other direction – they’ve been running a tourism or related business but have an interest in wildlife and want to brush up their knowledge, so there are chapters devoted to getting a grasp of the basics and leads to finding more of the sort of information you’ll need to run good tours in your locality, as well as guidelines or interpreting this to your guests.

For students and job-seekers there are guidelines on what will appeal to your prospective employers, and most of the book will be very relevant for any who seriously want to work in this field.

Most of the examples are Australian, but there is ample general advice to be applicable anywhere in the world.


1 Introduction

  • Is this book for you?

  • The big picture: does wildlife tourism matter for our economy or for conservation?

  • Not just the facts ma’am (but not ignoring them either): why good interpretation is so important

  • What this book will do for you

2. The basics

  • Skills you will need as a guide

  • Going a bit further: how to excel as a tour guide

  • Becoming self-employed as a tour operator or using your skills in other areas

3. Wildlife Skills 1: knowing the wildlife

  • Getting the ‘big picture’ of wildlife in Australia (or other countries): a good start for avoiding major errors and showing your guests what is different from their own homelands

  • Identifying wildlife: how to know what you’re looking at (or at least narrowing down the possibilities)

  • Finding out what species to expect in your district

4. Wildlife Skills 2: finding the wildlife

  • Knowing when and where to search

  • When you can’t see the wildlife: tracks, scratches, scats and sounds

5. Wildlife Skills 3: understanding the behaviour and ecology of wildlife

  • Why should you understand ecology?

  • Population ecology: why populations of animals of a particular species increase, decrease, stay the same or never enter a particular area.

  • Community ecology: interactions between species living in the same locality

  • Further notes on wildlife behaviour

6. Wildlife Skills 4: not disturbing the wildlife

  • How much disturbance can animals tolerate without changing their behaviour, avoiding you or even disappearing from the region?

  • How should we approach wildlife?

  • What happens to the wildlife you never see?

  • Feeding animals

  • Other interactions with animals

  • Wildlife habitat

7. Wider conservation issues

  • Getting it straight

  • Some threats to wildlife

  • Learning about conservation problems while still enjoying a holiday

  • Knowing the legislation.

  • Contributing positively to conservation

8. People Skills 1: Attending to customer needs and desires

  • Not making them unhappy – general etiquette

  • Making them happy – Changing customer satisfaction to customer delight

  • Dealing with problems: avoiding them if possible, acting appropriately when they do happen

  • Feedback from customers, and what to do about it

9. People Skills 2: Interpretation

  • Enjoy your creativity

  • Not a school-room: remember people want to learn but are also here to enjoy themselves

  • Clarifying your goals: what would you most like them to remember and talk about?

  • What to tell them and how to tell it: the guided walk, drive or cruise

  • What to tell them and how to tell it: the information display

  • What to tell them and how to tell it: the self-guided nature trail

  • Learning about Interpretation techniques: links to further information

  • Testing: what best holds their interest and stays in their memories?

10. People Skills 3: Workplace, networking, and public relations

  • Why network?

  • Making face-to-face networking effective

  • Keeping records

  • Social media

  • Don’t forget your customers

  • Employer/employee and workmate relations

11. Financial matters

  • Starting an ecotourism venture

  • Staying afloat through the bad times

  • Hiring yourself out as a guide

  • Keeping records and projecting costs

12. Health and Safety issues

  • Food and water

  • First aid courses and kits

  • Driving

  • Walking

  • Other modes of travel

13. Legal matters

  • Licences and permits needed for starting and running a tour business

  • Public liability – nowadays it’s risky not to have insurance, and there are some things you can’t legally do without it

  • Copyright (yours and others), slander and related topics

  • Hiring staff

  • Indigenous culture

  • Conservation legislation

14. Final note: Never-ending Learning and Innovation

  • Learning about wildlife

  • Nature interpretation and guiding techniques

  • Wildlife tourism literature

  • Market trends: keeping up to date with what your potential customers are looking for

  • Thinking creatively: it’s fun and often productive!

References and further reading

Wildlife tourism interpretation and conservation attitudes

Wildlife tourism interpretation and conservation attitudes

A recent paper has just been added to the Wildlife Tourism Australia  research bibliography:

Hughes, K. (2011). Designing Post-Visit Action Resources for Families Visiting Wildlife Tourism Sites. Visitor Studies, 14(1), 66-83.

The article explores what prompts visitors to a Queensland turtle rookery adopt conservation actions after their visit

Does wildlife tourism have a future? Good guiding is essential!

Does wildlife tourism have a future?  Good guiding is essential!

Interesting article here on the future of wildlife tourism and the role of guides and other interpreters:

Male goannas are very well-equipped!

By Denise Lawungkurr Goodfellow

In the 1980s I ran a guiding course. One day a trainee operator and I came across a large goanna, lying freshly dead in the burnished iron pisolate gravel on the side of the road.  “Shall we see whether it’s a boy or a girl?” I asked this rather sweet, gentle man.  He agreed.  As we both bent over the corpse I pressed gently behind the goanna’s vent, and behold, two large toadstool-like appendages, the hemipenes, sprang into view.  My operator jumped back, startled.  He never said a word all the way home, and  I thought I’d upset him.  But his wife later assured me that he was ‘so impressed, he was struck dumb’!

Around that time the tourism industry asked me to address operators regarding the course.  On the whiteboard, I drew a shape that somewhat resembled a pair of lumpy-headed toadstools.  Not one of the operators present could identify my sketch, and so I told them.  “That, ladies and gentlemen, is what you get when you sex a dead goanna”.

I knew that at least one in the audience wasn’t past putting the hard word on more attractive clients.  But when it actually came to talking about sex in the context of wildlife, that was a different kettle of fish!  Few were interested – unlike the operator mentioned previously most thought the topic irrelevant if not downright bestial.  After all, tourism was a glamour industry, all about spotless sun-drenched beaches, picture-postcard waterfalls and air-conditioned coaches, and polite, professional, spotlessly-attired staff. That was the image the NT wished to promote.  And of course, that’s what many visitors wanted.  But not all.

Some visitors were very interested.  There were two glamorous Americans whose main goal was to see the reproductive organs of a female marsupial.  We found a freshly dead female Antilopine Wallaroo near the turnoff to Fogg Dam and opened her up.  Marsupial reproductive organs are fascinating, having a bipartite uterus and the equivalent of three vaginae.  The women were ecstatic.  As the air-conditioned coaches drove past on the way Kakadu National Park, their passengers waved at us.  We waved bloody arms in return.

Then there were the couple of women who sat in the dirt with me dissecting Black Whip Snakes so we could examine their reproductive organs.

Were these people perverts?  Well, one of the first two was the Curator of Primates at the San Francisco Zoo and her sister, a biology teacher.   The fellow snake-sexer was a church minister, who, along with her companion, was also a wildlife carer.  To the adults I guide, the topic of sex, if it arises, is part of life, a small part, but present and important at the same time.

And this is why sex is mentioned in my fauna books.  I sometimes do this with humour.  For example, in Fauna of Kakadu and the Top End (1993), I compared a goanna’s hemipenes, with its little bumps and frills to the tickler condoms one could buy at a sex shop.  I also included a chapter on sex in Birds of Australia’s Top End, published in 2000 and 2005.

When the Northern Territory tourism industry discovered I was showing visitors, not just dead animals, but their private parts, many were horrified.

The fauna book was reviewed in the Northern Territory News as a ‘sex manual’.  More enlightened was a review of BOATE by the respected American Birdwatcher’s Digest. Praising the book the author added that it contained ‘the most detailed description of bird sex I have ever seen in a book of popular ornithology”.

Some in Top End tourism did like the books; tour guides considered both, along with a plant book by Brock, as their ‘bibles’.  But I have the distinct impression that many still consider wildlife as sexless, as well as harmless.  The Bambi syndrome still reigns!

Habituation of wildlife to tourists

Tourism and wildlife habituation: Reduced population fitness or cessation of impact?

An interesting new article in Tourism Management 2011 - in what circumstances is habituation to humans  a negative or a positive effect on wildlife?

New research reports on learning experiences in wildlife tourism

The following represents new research reports on the importance of  learning experiences in sustainable wildlife tourism

These references, along with others,  have been added to the bibliography on the WTA resources pages

Ballantyne, R., Packer, J. and Falk, J. (in press). Visitors’ learning for environmental sustainability: testing short- and long-term impacts of wildlife tourism experiences using structural equation modelling. Tourism Management.
Ballantyne, R. and Packer, J. (in press). Using tourism free-choice learning experiences to promote environmentally sustainable behaviour: the role of post-visit ‘action resources’. Environmental Education Research.
Ballantyne, R., Packer, J. and Sutherland, L. (in press) Visitors’ memories of wildlife tourism: Implications for the design of powerful interpretive experiences. Tourism Management.
Packer, J. & Ballantyne, R. (2010) The role of zoos and aquariums in education for a sustainable future. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 127, 25-34.