Topics for wildlife tourism conference 2020

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Please peruse this page and, if you are thinking of contributing a paper, decide which topic it best fits under

Topics:

  • Innovation and diversity in wildlife tourism for economic growth and biodiversity conservation in regional areas
  • Wildlife/human interactions (positive and negative): enhancing the positive and mitigating the negative
  • The forgotten wildlife: tourism involving reptiles, frogs, fish, invertebrates and the lesser-known mammals and birds
  • Visitor education for appreciation and understanding of wildlife: making it entertaining, memorable and meaningful
  • Citizen science and conservation volunteering in wildlife tourism
  • Climate change and wildlife tourism
  • Wildlife tourism in Asia and the Pacific

Innovation and diversity in wildlife tourism for economic growth and biodiversity conservation in regional areas

Establishing a business near a city or in a popular tourism region has the advantage of ease of access for visitors but also the challenge of offering something new and special to compete against other businesses. Establishing in an outlying region can sometimes offer something different if it allows an experience of wildlife or habitats not readily seen elsewhere, or a combination of several appealing features, but there is often the challenge of accessibility or long hours of travel, and sometimes lack of restaurants, shops or service stations in the area. There are also challenges of high-cost insurance premiums, permits, registrations, if tourism is seasonal or in early days of establishment.

Wildlife tourism involves all wildlife – whales, kangaroos, birds, glow worms, even plants. There are many different ways of looking at these and scope for imaginative product. A site may have potential because an interesting species can more easily be seen there than elsewhere, or for its diversity of species. It could become a popular destination simply because no one ever thought of seriously promoting the species or the destination before.

Wildlife/human interactions (positive and negative): enhancing the positive and mitigating the negative

We’ll consider two main aspects:

  • Deliberate interactions between tourist and animal (in the wild or in captivity) – when is it okay and when not?
  • Conflicts between landowners and wildlife – can tourism contribute to solutions by enhancing local economies or assisting financially with appropriate fencing, compensation for losses, or nonlethal deterrents around crops, gardens or livestock?

Positive aspects of interactions:

  • interactions – whether petting, feeding or just eye contact – can enhance a visitor’s appreciation of an animal.
  • Feeding can ensure sightings and photographs for tourists short on time or not fit enough for trekking.
  • Feeding can facilitate close encounters for education abut the animal
  • Some tourists show little interest in animals unless they can “do” something with them
  • Some find actual interaction very special and precious

Negative:

  • A species may increase in population numbers to the detriment of others
  • Animals can be fed the wrong foods, affecting their health
  • Animals gathering regularly at a site can spread diseases among themselves
  • Animals may change their natural behaviour and spend less time eating natural foods
  • Stress and aggression towards each other can increase with crowding in feeing areas
  • Some become aggressive and even dangerous to people
  • Population increases and increased boldness of handfed animals can bring them into conflict with local human residents

How do we strike a balance?

Photo: Inala Tours

The forgotten wildlife

When tourists think of wildlife they often think of large or charismatic mammals, especially famous ones like kangaroos and koalas, maybe large reptiles such as crocodiles or pythons or large fish such as sharks or manatee rays. If they are birdwatchers they will likely consider all groups of birds, but otherwise may again only think of the large ones such as emus and eagles or colourful and active ones such as parrots. 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

Visitor education for appreciation and understanding of wildlife: making it entertaining, memorable and meaningful

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 need to entertain (the style of which will differ between audiences and can challenging with mixed groups)

If we want to give our guests important (meaningful) messages – whether just 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

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

Citizen science and conservation volunteering in wildlife tourism

Many 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 part of a complex research program with specific questions tossed 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.

Citizen scientist estimating coral bleaching. Photo by Coral Watch

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 more severe, flying foxes are dying in large numbers in prolonged heatwaves, eucalypt leaves may become less digestible for koalas, pollinator season ay get out of phase with flowering seasons etc.

We will discuss potential dangers and solutions

Spectacled flying foxes in Cairns

Wildlife tourism in Asia and the Pacific

Wildlife tourism is growing throughout Australia’s neighbouring regions in Asia and the Pacific. We will discuss the great diversity of offerings and progress in sustainability

Entry to Bornean Sunbear Conservation Centre, Sabah. Photo: Araucaria Ecotours

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