Topics for wildlife tourism conference 2021

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If you are thinking of contributing a paper, let us know which topic you think it most belongs to.

Topics:

  • Innovation and diversity in wildlife tourism for economic growth and biodiversity conservation in regional areas (tourism involving less famous/charismatic wildlife, different ways of experiencing wildlife, value-adding, over-coming obstacles)
  • Active conservation by tourism operations: protecting or restoring habitats and species, conservation breeding
  • Visitor education for appreciation and understanding of wildlife and conservation issues
  • Conservation-related research (including citizen science involving operators and/or tourists)
  • Giving captive animals a life worth living: how can we go beyond the avoidance of suffering and help captive animals lead truly enjoyable lives? What do we know about what matters to them and what do we need more study of?
  • Climate change and wildlife tourism: how can we have a positive effect, ether directly or via visitor education)
  • Covid-19 lockdown effects (and where to from here?)

Innovation and diversity for wildlife tourism, including regional areas

Areas remote from cities or major tourism resorts can sometimes an offer amazing experiences that many will consider well worth the travel time if it allows an experience of wildlife or habitats not readily seen elsewhere, or a combination of several appealing features, perhaps involving animals, plants or products not often promoted. It has the potential to raise the profile of a region, and to provide jobs for young and old who love the lifestyle of remote areas..

There can be the challenges:

  • accessibility (poor roads, especially after heavy rains)
  • lack of restaurants, shops or service stations etc. for use by visitors (in the outback these may be 200km or more away from a good wildlife-viewing area)
  • High-cost insurance premiums, permits, registrations, can also be prohibitive for small businesses that are seasonal or in early days of establishment
  • Local residents regarding the wildlife as pests, or nothing visitors would want to see

How do we get over the hurdles? What are some good examples of where this has been accomplished?

Presentations are very welcome on examples of success stories, relevant research, reviews, and innovative ideas for future potential, .

Emus and other wildlife in remote regions may seem commonplace to local residents but fascinating to visitors from afar who want to see them in the wild rather than zoos.

When tourists think of wildlife they often think of large or charismatic mammals, especially famous ones like kangaroos and koalas, maybe also large reptiles such as crocodiles or pythons or large fish such as whale sharks or manta rays. Unless they are keen birdwatchers, when thinking of birds they may only think of large ones such as emus and eagles or colourful and active ones such as parrots and cockatoos.

Wildlife tourism can however involve much more. We will discuss tourism involving:

  • lesser known mammals, birds, reptiles, frogs and fish, and how to capture the tourists’ imagination with these
  • invertebrates – reef animals, butterflies, glow worms, even spiders
Richmond Birdwing butterfly. Photo: Araucaria Ecotours

Active conservation by tourism operations

If nothing else, wildlife tourism can provide an economic reason for preserving habitat that would otherwise be cleared for other pursuits, and indicate an economic value of animals that could otherwise be seen by politicians, developers or residents as pests or simply of no use. If residents can also be encouraged to see non-monetary values, by public events, social media etc. by tour operations, perhaps in conjunction with conservation and amateur naturalist associations,, so much the better!

Wildlife tourism operations also can positively enhance conservation by buying and preserving wildlife habitat, re-establishing native habitats in disturbed areas, and conservation breeding and rehabilitation of rare species.

We would like to hear further positive examples of such contributions to conservation by wildlife tourism operations, and discuss future possibilities.

One of our keynote speakers, (Peter Gash) will tell of remarkable transformation of Lady Elliot Island from highly-degraded to well-vegetated and harbouring the second-highest bird diversity on the Grea Barrier Reef.

Tasmanian devil
Tasmanian devil. Photo [email protected], an example of conservation breeding of several threatened species

Conservation breeding of rare species with successful reintroduction into the wild is an important role of zoos and wildlife parks (visit here for an example by a WTA member)

Visitor education for appreciation and understanding of wildlife

Tourists are on holiday, generally not wanting formal school-room type education or inapparently meaningless list of big names. But they usually do want to learn something about the place they’re visiting and the animals that live there.

To keep their attention, guides generally need to entertain their guests while relaying information, but the style of such entertainment will differ between audiences, and can be challenging with mixed groups.

If we want to convey important (meaningful) messages to our guests – whether just showing how fascinating a particular animal is, or what they can do for conservation – it must be memorable as well

We’ll discuss techniques for achieving all of the above, and our mid-conference field trip is centred around his topic.

Wildlife Tourism Ausralia’s Wildlife Interpretation workshop at Binna Burra. Photo: Araucaria Ecotours

Conservation-related research in wildlife tourism, including citizen science

Some wildlife tour operators engage in some kind of research or monitoring, or assist academic researchers. Sometimes this can be as simple as monitoring presence/absence and sending data to the Atlas of Living Australia, or it can be part of a simple or complex research program with specific questions to seek answers to.

Tourists can sometimes join in as citizen scientists while on holiday. Simple tasks can be given to those with little experience, but scientists travel too, and can sometimes tackle more difficult assignments. Training can be provided on multi-day(or multi-week) excursions.

We would like o hear of success stories, problems encountered and how these might be solved, and ideas for involving tour operations and tourists in collecting and collating valid information for important research programs, whether they bee for conservation issues or to enhance our general understanding of wildlife behaviour and ecology.

Citizen scientist estimating coral bleaching. Photo by Coral Watch

Giving captive animals a life worth living

It has long been recognised that zoos and wildlife parks should not allow animals to suffer from undue hunger, thirst or extremes of weather, that they should be allowed to express natural behaviours, not be kept alone f their species is a social one, that prompt veterinary treatment be available to treat infections and injuries etc. How can we go beyond this and provide animals with a truly good, enjoyable existence, especially the more physically- and mentally-active ones, and those destined to spend years, even decades, in captive situations?

Climate change and wildlife tourism

Australia has already lost one mammal – the Bramble Cay Melomys – as sea water invaded the habitat it depends on. Others are likely to be lost in the future. Coral bleaching is becoming progressively more severe, flying foxes are dying in large numbers in prolonged heatwaves, eucalypt leaves may become less digestible for koalas, pollinator season may get out of phase with flowering seasons etc.

We will discuss potential dangers and what tourism might do to assist (e.g. educating visitors about climate change effects on wildlife, demonstrating the use of renewable energy, breeding of threatened species, enhancing habitats and establishing movement corridors …… other ideas?)

Spectacled flying foxes in Cairns

Covid-19 lockdown effects

How have wildlife been affected by lockdown (both directly and indirectly? How has tourism been affected? How can more domestic tourists by attractions usually promoted to international visitors (or what new experiences could be developed)? As restrictions are lifted, can we allow wildlife tourism to flourish without returning to the crowded situations often seen in some safari or birdwatching venues?

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