Using Wildlife for Tourism: Opportunities, Threats, Responsibilities

WTA’s 3rd National Wildlife Tourism Workshop

May 2012

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):

feeding lorikeetsNote: 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:

Program Wildlife Tourism pdf

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

Further research?


Psychological reseach gaps – mental health, connection with nature experience, ‘feeling the wildlife’

Benefit of nature documentaries

Major untapped potential?


Lesser-known animals

  • Echidna

  • Reproductive systems of marsupials

  • Bats

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

Revisitation rates

  • 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

  • Climate change

  • 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?


Tarcooma (???)

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

Ecuador –

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

Getup, AVAAZ

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?

Educate governments

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

dung beetles

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?

First time

Close contact

Surprises – always find unexpected

Primeval feel

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

bad news

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

Bat colonies

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

Interpretation Australia

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.

job opportunities

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

  1. rational approach, respect for animal, respectful distance, acknowledging they are wild animals

  2. rational approach to incidents

  3. respectful space

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

Hidden disabilities

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

Next workshop

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.