An American family with only a few days to spend in southeast Queensland asked for a whirlwind 6 day tour of outback, rainforest, wildlife park and beaches at the end of winter (late August). A French intern working fir Wildlife Tourism Australia also joined us.
The surprisingly good little council-owned zoo at Queen’s Park in Ipswich was our first stop, to see animals we would not be seeing in the wild, such as billies, wombats and quolls. This also gave me a chance to talk with Frank Manthey (founder of Save the Bilby Fund) who will be opening the Scenic Rim Wildlife Bioblitz in October, while Darren showed our guests around the zoo.
As usual, our first night was spent in St George. We consider the western end of the bridge as the beginning of the true outback – past all sorghum, cotton and other crops, into free-range grazing or wilderness, red soils, red kangaroos, lot of emus, Major Mitchell cockatoos etc.
Next day took us through Cunnamulla to Bowra, a former cattle property well-known as a birding hotspot and now owned by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy.
We were delighted to be welcomed at our arrival by not just one but two echidnas!
Here are just a few of the other species we saw over the next few hours and following morning
One night is never enough in Bowra, but our American family only had 6 days to explore southern Queensland, so we moved eastwards again to the rainforests of Lamington National Park, the glow worms of Tamborine Mountain, woodland-lined beach at Fingal and captive-breeding programs and platypus aquarium at David Fleay Wildlife Park.
Wildlife tourism conference to be held in Adelaide, 6 to 9 November 2016
Organized by Wildlife Tourism Australia Inc.
Explore how to “do it right”, discuss what kinds of research have been useful for wildlife tourism and what research will now be most valuable, what kinds of training are currently available and what more may be needed in Australia and elsewhere. How can tourism businesses best work in cooperation with researchers, governments, local communities, NGOs and traveling citizen scientists or conservation volunteers? What ethical responsibilities do tour operators have towards tourists, local communities, other operators, animal welfare and biodiversity conservation?
Enjoy quality presentations, join in round-table discussions, visit wildlife attractions old and new near Adelaide, promote your own business, conservation cause or research …
For some years now we’ve been conducting tours to Coochiemudlo Island, an attractive and varied little subtropical island with long sandy beaches over which thousands of blue crabs march as the tide recedes, rocky platforms, mangroves, coastal woodlands and red cliffs much prized by the Aboriginals, who used the red ochre for body painting and trade with mainland groups. Bush stone-curlews, with their arresting stares, raptors, butterflies, bush-birds, shorebirds and a variety of sea creatures in rock pools all add to the charm of this island, so close to Brisbane yet often so deserted as holiday-makers rush to the far more commercialized Gold Coast.
Darren and I have recently been employed by Coochiemudlo Coast Care (under a grant from Redlands Shire Council) to conduct a fauna survey o the Melaleuca (tea-tree) Wetlands over four seasons (mid-summer, mid-autumn, mid-winter and mid-spring, with a view to enhancing conservation management plans. We completed the first session in January, with a team of volunteers to help set, check and wash traps (used to capture animals which are promptly released after identification).
The delights of staying overnight, listening to the weird, wild calls of the stone-curlews, watching the sun and moon rise over the waters and wandering safe bush tracks at night are encouraging us to add overnight stays to our island tours. We may also in future involve our tourists in some weed eradication (an on-going threat to the native understorey plants) in conjunction with the excellent programs by Coochiemudlo Coast Care, and spotting species in a monitoring program. Let us know in comments below or by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org if interested.
Results will not be public until completion of the survey, but here are a few photos from our visit, which included live trapping and release, walking the trails day and night and setting motion-sensing cameras.
I have already shared this on the Wildlife Tourism Australia website, but thought it may also reach some interested persons here.
There are some excellent tips and it also includes links to a number of other very useful sites, some of which link to further sites …
Well worth taking a look if you want to improve your wildlife photography
Preparation for this conference has taken a lot of my time this year, and that of fellow organizers Roger Smith and Caz Bartholomew of Echidna Walkabout Tours in Victoria
The conference was organized by Wildlife Tourism Australia, of which I’m chair and Roger is vice chair, and held in Geelong, Victoria. Our primary sponsor was Tourism Victoria, other sponsors and supporters including Parks Victoria, Phillip Island NatureParks, Rocklily Wombats, Zoos Victoria, Moonlit Sanctuary, Longhorne Tours, Echidna Walkabout and Araucaria Ecotours
About 140 people attended, including delegates, organizers, keynote speakers, sponsors and volunteers.
The program can be downloaded here, showing titles of all presentations and round table discussions ConferenceProgram
There were excellent presentations by academic researchers, tourism practitioners, government officials and others, and much lively but amicable discussion on a wide range of topics. We could easily have kept talking for another couple of weeks!
After the Think Tank near Kruger NP, I had to find my way to my second conference, Frugivory and Seed Dispersal 2015, in the Drakensbergs
All went well for several hours, although I was slowed down a bit by lengthy detours from roadworks, until I left Bergville, close to sunset, and the longer I drove the less it looked like I was going the right way. Finally it was quite dark and I was driving down narrow country roads with people, goats and cows occasionally wandering along on them. I stopped to ask directions from some ladies, but we had some language problems, or perhaps they just hadn’t hard of my destination. Finally when driving through a small village I saw a shop that was open, pulled up to the door and called out to the shop attendant. He was friendly and helpful and told me I had to travel the 20 km back to Bergville and take the road out the other side. When I finally got to the right road and saw a sign pointing to Alpine Heath Resort I actually called out ‘thank you’ to it.
The Alpine Heath Resort is in a dramatic setting in the Drakensbergs.
People from all over the world presented fascinating papers over the next few days on seed dispersal by frugivores (fruit eating animals), from insects to elephants. I presented a report on some work-in-progress on what determines whether native fig seeds and seedlings germinate and persist after being dispersed by birds and bats.
There were symposia on ecology and evolution, the chemical ecology of seed dispersal, international networks, patterns and processes in frugivore-plant interactions, understanding seed dispersal, see dispersal and plant recruitment in a changing world, anthropogenic impacts on seed dispersal, seed dispersal by animals as an ecological filter, movement ecology and genetic effects, and conservation of environmental services, with many good talks presented within each.
A mid-week fieldtrip took us to the Nambiti Game Reserve where I had my final chance to see lions, elephants, giraffes, hippos and rhinos, as well as my first hartebeest and oryx (the oryx is Namibian rather than South African, but have been released into the reserve)
After the conference I booked for a horse ride that included a wild gallop up a hill and my first view of an eland. During the conference I had also seen jackals and small antelopes at night, plus a number of birds, and heard that someone had seen secretary birds flying over. I suggested n my feedback form to the resort that they mention the wildlife in their promotion, and they have responded that they will try to fit it in to their website.
The next International Frugivory and Seed Dispersal Symposium will be held in India in 2020.
I’ve left Kruger, and am staying at the Protea Hotel ready for the BEST Education Network Think Tank XV: The Environment People Nexus in Sustainable Tourism: Finding the Balance. I’m still just across the river though, so can look across into Kruger and still hope to see elephants and hippos, and there are monkeys and birds in the garden. We’ll also be having a conference field trip back into Kruger tomorrow for a sunset drive.
I have to switch my mental faculties now from wildlife-watching mode to conference and networking mode. I would have liked another month or so of the wildlife watching, but this should be a very worthwhile conference. Because I’m representing Wildlife Tourism Australia at the Think Tank, I’ll now switch to recording events, including interesting bit of information and ideas from the conference and notes on our field trips, on the Wildlife Tourism Australia blog: http://www.wildlifetourism.org.au
(NOTE: this is not one of our own tours: I’m exploring Kruger NP before attending two conferences in South Africa)
I’m really going to miss Kruger! I could easily spend a couple of months here. Or more.
Visitors to my on table (and no, they didn’t get a feed) included glossy starling, yellow-billed hornbill (known locally as the ‘flying banana’) and female and male red-winged starlings
I made a sound while drinking my sparking marula juice which seemed to arouse this giraffe’s curiosity
As I said, all animals have right-of-way here, and with some you don’t get much choice anyway!
My ‘home’ for my last two nights: a cabin at Skukuza, with its own fridge and shower/toilet (my hut at Pretoriaskop didn’t have these, but its communal ablution block had a bath tub with plenty of hot water: great for relaxing before bed)
You don’t have to be in one of those very expensive luxury safari lodges to enjoy a hearty, leisurely breakfast while watching hippos, elephants and a variety of birds from your dining table
Quite an eventful morning (16th June)
First there was a small pack of wild dogs on the road towards Lower Sabie. One somehow became separated from the others, stood near my car, occasionally whimpering like a domestic dog, looking for his fellows and finally took off back into the bush
Soon after, I heard impalas making a fuss about something, so drove down a gravel road in their direction. There I watched two lionesses stalking a giraffe. The giraffe was understandably looking very nervous, and part of me wanted to reassure him that everything’s okay, he’s not about to be killed. On the other hand, those lionesses probably have cubs to feed, and it would take a lot of impala to equal the food supply in one giraffe. I had no desire to see something killed, but I was rather fascinated as to what they intended to actually do. The giraffe’s legs are so long, they could easily walk under its belly even if one was riding on the back of the other. A kick from a giraffe can kill a human, so it can probably do a bit of damage to a lion. How do you tackle something that big?
They finally seemed to decide it was too difficult after all.
Further along the road there was a traffic jam. The cause was a big male lion and two lionesses relaxing by the roadside, creating great excitement amongst visitors.
By now I was feeling a little peckish, and called in at the same picnic stop that had trouble with baboons a few days ago. I bought a cup of tea and a bag of chips, and the lady had to let me out the other (till now locked) door, as there was a large baboon waiting outside the door I’d come through, ready to leap at my chip bag.
(NOTE: this is not one of our own tours: I’m exploring Kruger NP before attending two conferences in South Africa)
Animals at picnic areas are a problem, not just for the humans, but for the animals themselves. If they get too demanding, as they can do after learning how profitable picnics can be, the rangers may have to remove them, even putting them down if they are dangerous (as large baboons certainly can be, and hyenas even more so: the strength of their jaws is second only to crocodiles).