Archive for the ‘Wildlife Conservation and tourism’ Category


Young people and volunteer research

Young people and volunteer research

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To find out more, please visit wildliferesearchnetwork.org.au


Echidna Walkabout wins international award

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

koalaEchidnaWalkaboutWTA member Echidna Walkabout has been short-listed for an international award in responsible tourism, and even have their koala photo (see pic on right) heading the page of the website:  http://www.wtmlondon.com/press/Announcing-the-Shortlist-of-the-World-Responsible-Tourism-Awards-2014

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

From the website:

The winners will be announced in a special ceremony as part of the World Responsible Tourism Day celebrations at the World Travel Market, the leading global event for the travel industry, in London on Wednesday 05 November before a packed audience of the media, industry and responsible tourism professionals. – See more at: http://www.wtmlondon.com/press/Announcing-the-Shortlist-of-the-World-Responsible-Tourism-Awards-2014#sthash.7Lt4w0Xr.dpuf

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

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

Read more on Echidna Walkabout’s own webste: http://echidnawalkabout.com.au/world-responsible-tourism-awards-2014

 

UPDATE:

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

Congratulations Echnida Walkabout Nature Tours!

Read more here:  Best for wildlife conservation

Echidna Walkabout Nature Tours


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

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

K.C. Dermody 

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

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

The Outback

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

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

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

Northern Territory

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

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

Australian Alps

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

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

Safety

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

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

 

Heroic Tourism

Heroic Tourism

Heroic tourism“Saving the world one holiday at a time”

Two environmental graduates, Gemma Lunn and Jessie Panazzolo have recently uncovered a new and exciting method of achieving global conservation through nothing more than mass tourism and some changed perspectives. Heroic Tourism is defined as the art of saving the world whilst travelling and it stresses that becoming a tourism hero is no more difficult than deciding which pair of socks to put on. The fundamental difference to sock choices is that heroic tourism aids in not footwear decisions but rather decisions on what tourism ventures tourists should be and shouldn’t be partaking in, with the intentions of education and good decision making influencing a few saved animals and ecosystems here and there.

Heroic Tourism currently stands as a website (www.heroictourism.com) and a facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Heroic-Tourism/283099415225246), both of which have been developed to provide all the knowledge needed to make conservation conscious decisions while on holiday.

The theory behind Heroic Tourism is that western societies contribute to supporting a vast array of tourism ventures worldwide, and thus with the right decisions, ethical tourist destinations can be supported and thus some unique wildlife and habitats may have a chance of survival.

Many critically endangered animals all around the world are currently being negatively impacted by tourism such as endemic Madagascan lemurs, Asian elephants and many many more species which fall threat to tourism ventures such as feeding parks and elephant rides.

Hopefully with Heroic Tourism, people will have all the tools needed to choose the right venture to suit their holiday, and also the lives of animals and habitats on a global scale.

So check out Heroic Tourism and be a hero, save the world on your next holiday!


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.

shorebirds

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.

Toondah_Revised_Perspective1

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

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: www.redlands2030.net

Author: Chris Walker


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.

 

 
 

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?

Report

General
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.

Management
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.

Education
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.

Research
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.

General
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.

Interpretation
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)

Sub-questions:

  • 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?

General
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?

Sub-questions:

  • 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 http://www.wildliferesearchnetwork.org/)

General
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.

Also please visit:

http://www.wildlifetourism.org.au/information/research-literature-2/

http://www.wildliferesearchnetwork.org/

http://www.wildlifetourism.org.au/conservation/policies/

 

Organisers:

Logo Parallel Partner IUCN WPC Logo SMALL

wta-logo-b                            NSWParks_logo


Green tape can be useful!

Green tape can be useful!

This is a 90-sec talk given by WTA chair Ronda Green as part of  an ‘opinion-leader’ panel at the Global Eco Asia-Pacific Congress in November 2013:
So, we’re cutting green tape and opening our national parks to ecotourism. I hate red tape. One example. was applying to trap frogs for an impact assessment and told the ethics officer I was was already identifying some by their calls. He said “Don’t tell me that – it’s not legal.’ ‘What? It’s not legal to listen to frogs?’ ‘Oh you can listen but you can’t identify them for consultancies without a permit.’ ‘But I’m not doing anything to the frogs.’ ‘Don’t expect ethics legislation to have anything to do with welfare.’ ok, so red tape, even green tape, can be infuriating and ludicrous. But half a century ago I enjoyed galloping horses through the national park, not realising the extent of the weeds and erosion. I never did like my father’s duck-shooting buddies laughing about the eagles and swans they were shooting, or seeing whole hillsides cleared of bushland for tax rebates, and was very happy when legislation stopped a lot of that. Now wildlife are facing climate change, habitat destruction for urbanisation and various industries and – please – let’s not make ecotourism one of the threats. Let’s use our knowledge, our imagination and technological advances to give our tourists wonderful experiences without increasing impacts. Some regulations do make a lot of sense. While we’re unraveling tangles of ridiculous red tape, please let’s not throw the green baby out with the bathwater
 

An Eco-Friendly Travel Guide to Australia

An Eco-friendly Travel Guide to Austraia

by Dustin Casey

(Dustin is a corporate travel agent who spends his free time seeing foreign lands and writing about his experiences)

To protect Australian wildlife, we must protect our environment as well. The sustainable development and survival of wildlife depends on a vibrant and thriving ecosystem (and vice versa). Whether you’re about to tour the Australian rainforest or get up close and personal with the big red kangaroo, an eco-conscious trip will help ensure that this country’s beautiful natural habitats and creatures continue to thrive. Help support wildlife conservation by participating in eco-tourism in the following ways:

Green Lodging

Green hotels are eco-friendly properties that support environment sustainability, including water conservation and energy reduction. Green practices like water-saving techniques and waste recycling programs can help preserve the natural habitats that are home to Australia’s beloved wildlife.

For example, every month in the U.S., the New Orleans InterContinental recycling program kept $1,000 worth of establishment-related materials, such as napkins and towels, out of waste streams, according to the Green Hotels Association. Similarly, a Chicago Hyatt experienced waste hauling reduction by 80 percent.

Search for hotels that are committed to using energy-saving measures such as LED light bulbs, low-energy lighting, low-flow shower heads and toilets, solar-heated amenities, composting and local food sourcing. For luxurious eco-lodging in Australia, Greenbang.com spotlights the Daintree Eco Lodge & Spa, Kingfisher Bay Resort on Fraser Island and Allawah Retreat. Explore more green hotels and eco-friendly lodgings by visiting itsagreengreenworld.com.

Illegal Trading

Town locals may attempt to illegally sell you historic artifacts, items from endangered species or even living organisms, such as flora or fauna. Not only is trading flora and fauna a risk to biodiversity, it’s an environmental crime.

The importation and exportation of exotic and native species threatens Australia’s wildlife, agriculture and ecological communities. As you explore villages, be aware of dealers who may try to sell you prohibited and restricted goods. Visit Australian Customs and Border Protection Services for more information on restricted imports, such as heritage goods from Papua New Guinea, cosmetics and even credit cards. In addition to counterfeit credit cards, thieves may target a vulnerable traveler and try to steal personal information by “shoulder surfing.” Visit Lifelock for information on shoulder surfing and other scams that could quickly end your green vacation.

Eco-Tourism Steps

Make a difference with even the smallest eco-tourism efforts:

  • Embark on your trip with the bare essentials and challenge yourself to simple day-to-day living
  • Feast on local cuisine and home-grown produce from farmers markets; in the words of Beautiful Accommodation’s Travel Blog, become a “locavore”
  • Use green transportation, such as the Indian Pacific, Ghan and XPT trains, Greyhound Australia bus or Coral Princess boat
  • Participate in cultural traditions and become immersed in local music and art; embracing and understanding a local region’s culture helps support their way of life
  • Volunteer at an orphanage, help clean up a community affected by a natural disaster or give back to local communities by donating school supplies or other basic necessities

Book Review. Nature-based Tourism and Conservation

Book Review. Nature-based Tourism and Conservation (Tisdell and Wilson)

book covrTisdell, C. and Wilson, C. 2012. Nature-based Tourism and Conservation: New Economic Insights and Case Studies, Edward Elgar, Cheltenham

Review by Ronda Green, Chair of Wildlife Tourism Australia

Ecotourism is often cited as a saviour of wildlife and their habitats, a view that is regarded with skepticism by others. In general the ideas are commendable but we often lack the necessary knowledge of local situations to effectively enhance conservation efforts as well as offering great experiences to tourists and financial gain to operators and the local community.

This volume, based on research since the turn of this century, offers valuable insights and information on the connection between nature tourism and biodiversity conservation from an economic perspective.It is an important bridging aid that should be read by all who are interested in this topic. Those more familiar with the economics of the tourism industry will gain many insights into the complexities of biodiversity conservation, and those more well-versed in conservation biology will be introduced to many aspects of the role of economics in achieving conservation aims through tourism.

Useful economics tools are described, but their limitations for particular situations are also discussed. Assumptions such as consumers always being fully informed and making rational choices for instance are not always valid. Models used for one purpose may need modifications to be used for others. Difficulties of finding answers to what would seem like simple questions are also discussed – e.g. visitation rates to World Heritage listed sites, when some of these sites cover vast areas and have multiple entry points.

The authors point out that many tourists travel to experience natural wonders and to enjoy nature in various other ways, and that such experiences can form an important part of their travel even when not the primary purpose. They ask whether the growth of nature tourism has a positive or negative effect on nature conservation, and caution from the start that there is no simple answer, a theme that is revisited multiple times throughout the work. One case discussed at some length is that of hatchery-raised sea-turtles as a combined tourism-conservation project, demonstrating that it can certainly create an economic return, but although there is potential for positive conservation outcomes, the actual conservation impact (positive or negative) depends very much on how the industry is managed in any particular region, and that there are relevant factors we don’t as yet know in sufficient detail (e.g. survival rate of young turtles hatched in the wild as opposed to those raised in hatcheries, including those kept for lengthy periods before release). A survey of the tourist activity based on turtles coming ashore to lay eggs at Mon Repos in Queensland resulted in a more favourable report for conservation, both in terms of education of visitors and of lack of adverse effects (the authors note that the turtles indeed seem to be increasing there).

An interesting point raised in the first chapter is that Birdlilfe International encourages its members to travel to demonstrate the value of bird and habit conservation. This may at first reading sound a little manipulative, but I see it more as a way of nature-lovers showing the concern they already  feel, and their support for local conservation projects, while being rewarded by an enjoyable holiday or day-trip. Bird watchers and other nature enthusiasts don’t always make it obvious that they are visiting a region (and thus spending on local products and services)  for this pleasure, and so tourism providers, travel agents and local councils may well be unaware of their reasons for being there: maybe  nature-loving tourists could develop a habit of chatting more with hotel staff, service station attendants, waiters and others!

Some of the topics are very relevant to changes happening in Australia’s legislation in the current decade, with several governments wanting to ‘open up’ national parks to increasingly more kinds of tourism activities and facilities, and to downplay the role of biodiversity conservation as opposed to recreation. A survey showed that visitors to a reserve in Far North Queensland were largely opposed  to the development of commercial services and facilities in national parks, although they mostly favoured guided tours within national parks. World Heritage values are hailed in the book as important for national pride in natural areas, and enhancing protection by the federal government. Recent proposed changes to our legislation may see a watering down of the ability of federal government to intervene in matters related to World Heritage, and to the de-listing of some sites.

Conservation costs money, and the concept of national parks making money to be used for conservation management is essentially sound, but the details of how to do so are problematic. Increasing the tourism dollar may not have to depend on introducing more 4WD, horse-riding and accommodation into our national parks. The book points to  a number of opportunities as yet under-utilised, such as more provision for the under-supplied and growing demand for opportunities for sea-bird viewing, and possibilities for insect-based tourism such as butterfly- or fire-fly watching. The authors also present findings on surveys on willingness of visitors to pay for entry into national parks: opposition to the idea includes a feeling that ‘nature should be free’,  that charging for national park entry makes it a more elitist  activity, and that proceeds from those that do charge entry fees go into general government revenue rather than specifically towards conservation management.

Contributions to local economies is an essential component of ecotourism, and also provides incentives to local government to protect natural areas. Research discussed in the book shows where this is well established and places where it is not (for instance the lack of local restaurants and souvenir shops near natural attractions such as glow worm sites).

There are many examples where tourism is contributing to conservation either directly or indirectly, or has a real potential for doing so. There are other cases such as tree-kangaroo viewing in Far North Queensland where group sizes need to be small and the activity is labour-intensive for the guide and to some extent for the tourists themselves, where the tourism dollar is thus currently insufficient to pay for conservation, and government assistance is necessary. The very title of the tree-kangaroo chapter suggests that more revenue could perhaps be raised if the species became more famous amongst tourists. Doubtless there are many other species that could achieve more tourist demand, but many others that never will, and will always need additional sources of revenue.

The concluding remark by the authors in the final chapter is that “Nature-based tourism should not be regarded as a substitute for other policy measures designed to sustain wild biodiversity, but it can be a useful supplement to such efforts.”

The chapters are as follows, and even a casual lance shows what a wide range of topics are addressed:

Part I: Background

1. An Overview of Nature-based Tourism and Conservation

2. The Growing Importance of Nature-based Tourism: Its Evolution and Significant Policy Issues

3. The User-Pays Principle and Conservation in National Parks: Review and Australian Case Study

Part II: Tourism, Protected Areas and Nature Conservation

4. World Heritage Listing of Australian Natural Sites: Effects on Tourism, Economic Value and Conservation

5. Antarctic Tourism: Environmental Concerns and the Importance of Antarctica’s Natural Attractions for Tourists

6. Rainforest Tourists: Wildlife and Other Features Attracting Visitors to Lamington National Park, Australia

7. Are Tourists Rational? Destination Decisions and Other Results from a Survey of Visitors to a North Queensland Natural Site – Jourama Falls

8. A Case Study of an NGO’s Ecotourism Efforts: Findings Based on a Survey of Visitors to its Tropical Nature Reserve

Part III: Particular Wildlife Species or Groups of Species as Tourist Attractions

9. Tourism as a Force for Conserving Sea Turtles Under Natural Conditions

10. The Role of Open-cycle Hatcheries Relying on Tourism in Sea Turtle Conservation: A Blessing or a Threat?

11. Whale-Watching as a Tourism Resource and as an Impetus for the Conservation of Whales

12. Little Penguins and Other Seabirds as Tourist Drawcards

13. Yellow-eyed Penguins and Royal Albatross as Valuable Tourist Attractions

14. Glow-worms and Other Insects Entice Tourists

15. Tree-Kangaroos, Tourism and Conservation: A Study of a Little-known Species

Part IV: This Study in Retrospect

16. General Conclusions

Where to purchase the book (or ask your library to do so)?

A couple of options are Google (a e-book option is by far the cheapest) and the Book Depository

 


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