Using Wildlife for Tourism: Opportunities, Threats, Responsibilities
WTA’s 3rd National Wildlife Tourism Workshop
Results of discussions, presentations, calls to action etc. as well as photos and other information from this very active and interactive workshop can be found here (LOADS of details):
Note: we have a bit of a temporary glitch with some of the reports: see below for some details of our discussions
A pdf of absracts and discussion questions can also be downloaded here:
Draft of discussions at the workshop
A fully edited version will appear again soon, but meantime here are notes from the roundtable discussions:
Discussions May 2012 WTA National Workshop, Currumbin
Is Wildlife Tourism undervalued?
Some of those in government departments tend to see wildlife tourism as involving a bunch of weirdo fringe elements rather than really contributing to the tourist product that visitors come here to experience
Tasmania really promotes wildlife . Tassie really seems to lead the way in recognizing that wildlife is an important component of tourism experience
We could develop an Australian trail along similar lines to the Tassie Trail? (rootourism already exists, and could be expanded to other wildlife)
We could give a ratings measure to various tourism businesses, big and small, dots for low-impact, high education, for different sectors
Other interest groups
Nature tourism is probably over-valued in many surveys (visitors are counted as nature tourists if they have visited a zoo or national park or been on a whale watching tour even if the main purpose of their visit was unrelated) but under-valued in the economy of regional and local areas
Local and rural governments are often not well-informed about wildlife and probably often unaware of the wildlife tourism potential in their areas
Primary industries, mining etc. are important players also. We need to be able to work in together where possible but not support practices or companies that were seriously threatening wildlife and their habitats.
We have Uluru – couldn’t contact and talk with Indigenous people
Could better recognition assist both conservation and small businesses?
Need integration from big businesses (involve local guides, food suppliers etc.)
Royalties for regions – governments should be aware that attractions are out there in remote regions, and assist in promotion and setup
Too many people expect something for nothing
User-pays – e.g. WA, Wilsons Prom, etc.parks there are better managed in this way than many other NPs
Psychological reseach gaps – mental health, connection with nature experience, ‘feeling the wildlife’
Benefit of nature documentaries
Major untapped potential?
Reproductive systems of marsupials
Adding value (to general tours, accommodation etc.) with Wildlife
Great potential for nonspecialist accommodations etc. to add value by promoting the wildlife
Beach with ‘skulkers’ (???)
Info centres, B&Bs etc. can add bid lists, other info on where, when and how to see local wildlife
How do we encourage this? How do we (as WTA or individuals) provide information?
Encourage home-stays to have indigenous plants in their grounds, and provide info on these to their guests (including use by wildlife for food, shelter etc.)
Motel and hotel owners often criticise birders for choosing to camp. Many would actually choose comfort, but the normal schedules of motels and hotels are not geared to birdwatchers – in good birdwatching areas they need more flexibility, e,g., breakfast at 3.00am or packed picnic breakfast delivered the previous night, take-away breakfast or dinner so we can get out into the field to watch birds or nocturnal/dusk creatures, late checkout for those out on a early morning birding session and wanting to freshen up and have a nap before moving on. They could then promote this in their advertising and attract some grateful wildlife enthusiasts
Hire cars – in Northern Territory you are often not premitted to use hire vehicles before sawn or after dusk, thus making things difficult for birdwatchers and other wildlife enthusiasts
Ideas from elsewhere. Tourism with hand lenses (South America) – miniature forest – many invertbrate species.. Chile – biosphere. Map to show where animals had just been seen (as they do for instance in Kruger NP, South Africa). Web-cam to record animals – e.g osprey at a Loch in Scotland
Great Barrier Reef – Eye on the Reef. Tour operators report sightings to go to marine research agencies. Many tour operators have science degrees, but want to be tour operators, and this way can still indulge in sciences and keep in touch with the latest research and contribute to it. This also value-adds to their tours and can be promoted to prospective customers.
Webcams could be placed at outback waterholes – motel guests who don’t want to head out on an early morning drive can have breakfast while watching what is happening
Need to change attitudes of grant-providers
Local media are hungry for good info about wildlife stories
Can WTA become known as authority for B&Bs etc, to turn to for info. We can also give a little WTA sticker to display in their business if they do it well
As visitors land in the airport, can we have pics and sounds of local birds, frogs etc.?
Zoos – discussion
Need to connect to local environment
Major zoos are in cities – can be a catalyst to getting people out into the habitats – brokers for tour operators
Tour operators can partner with zoos – e.g. a display of particular animals could include the note “If you would like to see these animals in the wild, some good tour operators include ….” and the operators pay a commission to those bringing vouchers from the zoo, and also give discount vouchers to visit the zoo
Also connect habitat displays in zoos with community groups out there doing something for habitat restoration
Zoo can also advise: “Are you going bush? This is how to do it best”
Zoos could develop apps that identifies animals, users can feed in which animals they see and learn something about them
Zoos can bridge the gap, humans are part of nature, lose the us/them approach to wildlife
Zoos spend many millions for big exotic animal enclosures
Don’t always need the exotic megafauna
Perth Zoo has high rate
Mobile popup zoos –
Should zoos take risks politically
What if govt says funding must be inked to real conservatiuob outcoes
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) could be used to keep the zoos on their toes for education and conservation
Each state has its own rules, own agenda, zoos in each don’t always cooperatie as well as they could
Develop govt funds for higher education – recognize significance
Emerging threats to wildlife and tourism
Moderator Ronda Green, proprietor Araucaria Ecotours, adjunct research fellow Griffith University and Chair WTA
Some potential changes over the coming years and decades could pose threats to both wildlife or to the tourism that depends on it, or to both, including:
Continued habitat loss and modification
Over-fishing, excessive or irresponsible hunting and collection
Population increases leading to spread of urbanization and resultant supporting industries, agriculture and water storage
The mining boom – including open cut mines, fracking, dredging and oil extraction
Economic factors affecting efficient running of wildlife tourism operations, visitation by tourists and effectiveness of conservation measures
Pressures of tourism itself (even wildlife tourism)
Questions for discussion:
Can you offer concrete examples of any or all of the above affecting wildlife or wildlife tourism? What in general do you see as the most pressing problems in the next couple of decades?
Broadscale land learing
Mining – suboptimal mines won’t be sustainable anyway, so why build them?
Orange-bellied parrots declined, habitat not protected throughout their range
Immunity effects of stressed animals.
Wombats – dying after eating introduced grasses
Protected areas getting smaller, human populations getting bigger
Fragmentatiuon of habitats is a big problem
Wildlife corridors: where are they most needed, and how best to provide?
National Parks in each state working on linking corridor strategy
Changes to The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act
Conservation agencies don’t address threatening processes adequately
Decline of Tasmanian devils
Feral cats cause loss of species locally and globally
Marine debris threatening wildlife (especially plastics)
What could government be doing to alleviate some of these problems?
Higher importance to the environment, prevent/punish ecocide
Northern Territory has a policy of making land “useful” which is ofte deleterious to wildlife
We should write to all politicians
Sponsorship for research and conservation
Government mostly funds new projects, not continuing ones that need an extra boost (but must sow they can be longterm, and sustainable)
Ecosystem services – put value (see wet tropics management authority), how much damage downstream – $ value
Mining – bonds for mining leases should provide for total land rehabilitation, restoring back to pre-clearing condition
Stock routes provide useful habitat corridors and should be protected and enhanced
Cumulative impacts should be understood: e.g. habitat fragmentation seen in the light of future climate change
Government ministers should be chosen at least partially on the basis of experience, e.g. have degrees in the topic of their ministry
What can those of us in the wildlife tourism industry or research institutions do to alleviate some of these problems? How can WTA assist? What information or lobbying for example should we get involved in presenting to government, tourism organizations or leaders of other businesses? How best do we disseminate genuine information connected with these issues, and to whom should we be presenting the information?
Plantation timbers could be allies with conservationists in ending felling of natural forests
Talk with farmers etc. about how protecting wildlife habitat also helps them
Write an article RACQ and other
Network of people working on wildlife habitats
TV commercials – Get people really hooked on wildlife, ‘wildlife is cool, let’s bring it back”
CSG – combination of farming and wildlife, cross-border protests
Bookendtrust – Tas – expedition class, schools follow him on the internet as he walks around Tas, school can meet him on the day, pick up litter with him – can we get wildlife as a focus?
WTA needs a more political face
Point ut that our livelihoods are ‘at risk’
WTA should ask Q&A to invite Angus or other WTA members – and some ecologists
Tell government that conservationists are not just sandaled dreadlocked freaks
Governments love documents – send a 10-20p policy document with goals and strategies to key ministers, state and federal [a report of these discussions was in fact subsequently sent to several]
Advertise tours etc. in schools and NGOs
Involve international students
Put pressure on media
Contact central newspaper in each district, see if we can provide a wildlife tourism weekly column – quirky and fun, plus a few problems
Example in Venezuela – regular writer in Venezuelan media – simple, attractive, fun, attracts general reader
Missing gap in intervention in society – university lunchtime talks at environmental departments: dentists ec.
Articles in medical journals etc.
Memorable wildlife experiences
What have been some of the ‘wow’ moments in your own life involving wildlife?
Walking track in Lamington NP – seeing blue cray on it
First time snorkeling
Humpback whales within touching distance
Swimming at Lorne Hill, one budgie came close, realized 1m away and flopped into water and took off
Wallaby approaching closely, attracted by red filtered light while watching koala at night
7yo swimming with sea-lion
cleaner fish that ‘hook on’ and swim with you almost to shore
white-tipped sharks at night, came close and then veered off
contact with many amazing zoo experiences, holdinhg newbordn gorilla, managing nocturnal house with gliders and bats landing on you
waiting at waterholes for African megafaun
guttural growls of snow leopards next to night cage
strolling through bush, almost walked into komodo dragons
watching movue – spitting cobras
white tiger at zoo, had just been sitting, guy setting up camera stand, tiger leapt
brown snake went between person and horse, thought of hitting, realized no need
into cave, tiger snake nearby
dolphins coming close while swimming
Are there some common themes we can identify that can help us reproduce such moments for tourists?
Surprises – always find unexpected
Getting to know wildlife well enough to be able to handle things
Can you recall some ‘aha’ moments when you suddenly realized the extent of a conservation problem?
Ian Hutton’s talk on
The connection Indigenous have with wildlife
See news – kill the sharks after shark attack, have to punish – media problem, ‘punishment’
Understanding of evidence-based science leads to realization of conservation mangement
Media sensationalizes wilfllife attacks
not just about food or feral predators
listening to daughter give taljk on climate change, says close eyes, imagine it is 2030, you are now 50, this is YOIR future, being designed by today’s deceisionmakers
can we put out sensational GOOD news
Can you cite some examples of good guiding practice that has enabled special moments of wonder or insights into conservation issues?
Guide with loads of info on grass, and mace it really interesting
Paasionate guides – passion rubs off
Have you seen examples of wasted opportunities, where experiences could have been improved by better action or interpretation?
Wedgetails at Kamarun to what extent do we quality check
Reptiles get energy directly from sun
Dingo is marsuial
Guides not being impressed by animals and experiences they see ervwry
Mungo NP – Aboriginal creation story, completely wrong
How do we reach people of differing attitudes and backgrounds?
What are some overall guidelines and information sources we can provide for tour guides and other nature interpreters?
Marketing for GBR – also trying for this
Guides for visitors to tell guides what they want, and tell
Guides to be encouraged to ask their guests what they
Get people to a standard, and good marketing tool
Denise tried to introduce accreditation in NT
Some guides penalized fore npt having accreditation, even with years of experience, training and skills
Zoo keepers must have ecrtificate, part of this is interpretation, also park ranger courses, but experienced good guides out there, very complex issue, but needs addressing
Lack of classes for ecoguiding
GBR – graduates employed, but no career path – can we have pathway for gyudes to progress
Wildlife tourism classes
Work in with IAA, universities, WT workshops etc.
Mobile course –
4WD on FI = driving tourists, cheapo easy labour with marginal businesses
career fairs – promotoe WT, worjkshops etc.
give value of wt guide, qualification good for insurance
interpr and giid info
should gert funding marryong local operators with interpr skills
can we get bird groups. Bat groups etc. to endorse good tour operators. Could have same set of criteria for each animal (must know basic info about animal etc.)
Environmental ethics and wildlife tourism
WTO – human needs and rights, very little on animals, almost nothing on wildlife
WTA could take lead in this
Intellectual and emotional connection with wildlife
Animals and people collectively part of habitat – oceans, backyards …
Key stakeholders – wildlife are also stakeholders
Can we apply a set of principles to all wildlife tourism situations that will enhance outcomes for all key stakeholders? Given the many different types of tourists, of wildlife, and the many different forms wildlife tourism takes this would seem an impossible task. Enhanced conservation is a commonly acknowledged goal of many forms of wildlife tourism, but how can this be achieved?
The theme of environmental ethics – focusing on what relationships humans do have, and should have, with the natural world – may be a useful topic for wildlife tourism managers to consider. Can an exploration of different ethical perspectives assist us in a goal of wildlife conservation through tourism?
The aim of this workshop is to discuss underlying philosophies that guide the management of wildlife tourism ventures. Participants will be asked to draw on evidence from policies, plans and practices with which they are familiar. Can we find commonality in these? Where differences exist, are these necessarily barriers to shared goals? Considering ethical perspectives along a continuum from those that are more anthropocentric to those that are more ecocentric, where can we place wildlife tourism? Ideally? Practically?
Need rationalism, if an animal bites, ok this happens, can’t overemphasize. Need to get media to be more rational
Grids for dingos are hurting more people than dingoes
Alpha males were shot, young dogs starving because they have no teachers to catch food
Show how rificulous reactions are –
Indig women in Kakadu have been worried for years about behaviour of guides and tourists around crocodiles – finally someone does get eaten, and they know others ow gossip because someone has died in your territory, not giood
, a bad thing for this to happen, some wanted to cut off access to waterholes, severely criticized for this by tour operators
USA – literature for tourists says ‘this is THEIR space’
Ecotourism teached respect and that animal needs it space
Living with magpiues – learn to respect
rational approach, respect for animal, respectful distance, acknowledging they are wild animals
rational approach to incidents
compromise between space and close encounter – hide?
Encounters in zoos – heating pads etc. to get anima to come to where it can be seen. Often conflict between keepers and commercial imperative (big zoos and small wildlife parks)
Connections so important, but distance to be respected too. Some close encounters also wonderful experience. Animals that choose to come close, shouldn’t put too many barriers, don’t push nature too far away.
Zonation – fun areas, wild areas
Tourists should know the risk, acceptthat
In considering wildlife tourism, need to be ecocentric
Wildlife ethiocs inserted in eco-accreditation, also
Our pleasure to afford you that you live in a wide, diverse fworld, with other animals that we can love but sometimes there are conflicts
Binna Burra does not feed,
Population management, rational approach
Habitats are shrinking, can’t keep reducing animal nos. in these and call them overpopulated in these areas
Don’t be talked down too quickly – ‘ask them to figure out the % and how to do it
Most people make irrational decisions – they have the info but don’t change, it’s complicated
Exotic grasses (gamba grass) taking over in NT, highly combustible – put pressure on govt for certified beef that doesn’t use gamba
Place-based management using local knowledge as
Policy needed for marine parks
Language problems – gesticulations, miming, pictures, pointing, demonstrations
WTA may be able to get some grants for innovation for pilot project with disabled or language problem etc.
Workshop in dealing with ‘different’ people
Role-play – let the guide see it from the visitor’s perspective
Children parties could involve native animals
Some tour guides want nothing to do with the disabled
Lady confined to bed, life-saver to have birdbook, learn to identify what is in the backyard
Use of dolphins to help mentally handicapped
Seats for diabled on walks, in hides
Should be required to have basic first aid for all drivers and guides
Study to fiidentify the issues
Industry knows little about ecotourism,
Lead-in with a story
GetUp – politica lobby group
Get a copy to Christine Milne
Have politicians come along on tours
invite some to do so
blanket invitation to come along on tour, also policy officers
land use planning – aim to take part in that debate
activities within parks shouldn’t encroach on conservation values
tourism providers don’t always want open access to everything – must tell decision-makers this
need to be part of the debate
EDS – must inform, final doc by mid-June, great to have doc that says WTA is willing to collaborate to assess feasibility, have expertise in constituent members
NL is not just international
Lot of animals not known by Aussies, let alone visitors
Watermark Literary Festival – nature writers
Politicians want dollar figures so give it to them.
Find out how much money goes back into the resource (N.P.’s etc)
Quantify end of trip attitude
Where is the money going/transparency
Wilsons Prom. Managed well with fee
User pays for prominent parks
Monitoring people’s experience by the quality of the park
WA model good example for Qld
Costa Rica ecosystems services model
UK model using volunteers
Looking at previous research on wildlife tourism
psychological/mental health research gap with wildlife tourism
NZ model – doctors prescribing “nature” as a medicine
Chile model – Cape Horn – Focusing on invertebrates
untapped nocturnal tours
Costs too much money
Modify laws to be more uniform through COAG (e.g. access to national parks could be made easier in one sate after
Introducing standardised systems throughout all states
WTA to come up with a list of proposals to lobby govt.
Example of Animal welfare – lobbying govt. for standards nationally via zoos
WTA to attend conference for N.P.’s in Aust.