Australia’s third wildlife tourism conference a great success

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

A report of the conference can be viewed here:

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!

Delegates gathering at the welcome reception

Delegates gathering at the welcome reception

Africa Diary: Best En Think Tank

One last elephant by the roadside on my way out of Kruger. A good-tempered one this time, just quietly feeding.

One last elephant by the roadside on my way out of Kruger. A good-tempered one this time, just quietly feeding.

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.



OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI 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:

Update on Wildlife Tourism Conference September 2015

Update on Wildlife Tourism Conference September 2015

A couple of weeks ago I spent a very encouraging few days in Melbourne and Geelong with Roger Smith and Caz Bartholomew of Echidna Walkabout (I’m chair of Wildlife Tourism Australia, and Roger is vice chair), helping to prepare for Australia’s third wildlife tourism conference at the end of September this year.

Exploring the venues

First we explored the possibilities we had narrowed down to for.

The Botanic Gardens Conference Centre, a lovely location but not quite big enough

The Botanic Gardens Conference Centre, a lovely location but not quite big enough

All were lovely venues, but our final decision had to be made on the numbers they were able to accommodate at the conference. We’re hoping for at least 200, so had to abandon ideas of holding it at the Conference Centre in the Botanic Gardens or the Vines Road Community Centre.

Grey headed flying foxes in the Botanic Gardens, Geelong

Grey headed flying foxes in the Botanic Gardens, Geelong

The Botanic Gardens, with its sweeping parklands, birdlife, fruitbat colony and views of the sea, is within easy walking distance of the venue we finally chose, so we may still have a social function there, and it is also one of our recommended accommodation choices for those who prefer to be surrounded by trees instead of city streets at night.

Vines Road Community Centre was our original choice, but once again it won’t take the numbers we’re now predicting.

Mercure entryThe Mercure Hotel in Geelong can take the numbers,and will be having a major facelift soon, to be finished  before the conference, and the staff are happy to provide all our needs . It’s just a few minutes walk from the gardens  or the beach. They’ve offered us a generous discount on their rooms, many of which can take three adults in separate beds (thus making the rooms affordable for students) but are also totally okay about some delegates choosing to stay elsewhere.

The really exciting part though is the quality of speakers we already know about (and we should soon be hearing from plenty more), spread across several continents and presenting a range of useful topics relating to how wildlife tourism can contribute to biodiversity conservation and local communities.

In the afternoons we’ll do as we have so successfully done in the WTA workshops over the last few years: divided into small groups for interactive roundtable discussions, joining up again in plenary discussions afterwards, and ultimately collating and uploading the notes from these to the WTA website as well as taking action (new policy guidelines on the website, letters to politicians etc.)

For details, visit:


Off to Africa for two conferences

Some elephants we drove past in Kruger NP in 2010.

Some elephants we drove past in Kruger NP in 2010.

Just one more day at home.  Tomorrow I head to Brisbane, and Tuesday will be on my way to South Africa!

The trip was originally to present some research findings on the germination and survival of native fig seeds spread by local birds to the International Frugivory Symposium in the Drakenburgs late next month. Now I’ll also be presenting a paper on wildlife tourism and biodiversity conservation to the Best EN Think Tank conference at the edge of Kruger National Park.

Of course I can’t get that close to Kruger without spending some time there, so will be traveling with the NP for almost 2 weeks before the first conference.

I’m also visiting an elephant sanctuary, one that apparently uses elephants rescued from potential unhappy lives, not calves taking for the purposes from their mothers.  I’ve heard many calls for all places offering elephant rides to be closed down throughout the world because they are all cruel.  I suspect not all are based on cruelty, and the place I’m visiting in Hazyview seems committed  to animal welfare and conservation, so I want to see it for myself. I know firsthand that there are cruel methods and gentle methods of training horse, dogs and other animals, so suspect it is the same with elephant training.

The events of next week don’t seem quite real yet, and maybe won;t until I’m actually in Africa.  Internet access will be limited, but I’ll try to record some of what happens along the way!

Australia’s third conference on wildife tourism

WTA Logo newcoloursNext week, as current chair of Wildlife Tourism Australia Inc., I head to Melbourne to meet some of  the local organising committee for Australia’s third conference on wildlife tourism,  plus representatives from Tourism Victoria (our major sponsor), Zoos Victoria and Parks Victoria.  I’ll also visit the two venues we are deciding between for the conference, and we should make the final decision by the end of the week.


Wildlife Tourism: a Force for Biodiversity Conservation and Local Economies?

Geelong, Victoria 29 Sep – 2 Oct 2015

This will be an exciting conference, with keynote speakers from Malaysia, Indonesia,USA and Australia speaking on important themes, and with plenty of opportunity for round table discussion.


From the WTA website:

Tuesday: welcome to delegates, registration

Wednesday: international aspects

How do other countries asses the value of, promote and manage wildlife tourism? What problems have they faced and what solutions have they found?
Which associations perform a similar role to Wildlife Tourism Australia in other countries, and what are their goals and activities?
What is new in wildlife tourism in our our nearest neighbours (New Zealand, New Guinea, Southeast Asia, Antarctica), and could there be more cross-promotion of wildlife travel between our countries, and promotion of our general region to the rest of the world?

Thursday: contributions of tourism to conservation

How are tour operations currently contributing to conservation of wildlife and their habitats (including monetary contributions, habitat restoration, public education, conservation breeding, citizen science etc.)?
What is the potential for increased contribution by wildlife tourism and the tourism industry in general to conservation of wildlife and habitats?

Friday: the value of wildlife tourism to local economies

What do we already know of the contributions of wildlife tourism to local and regional economies?
What kinds of wildlife tourism can encourage tourists to visit less-traveled regions, spend an extra night , or make repeat visits?
What obstacles are faced by small businesses and NGOs trying to stay afloat while offering high-quality wildlife experiences and interpretation to visitors?

Who should attend?

Wildlife tour operators (including birding tours, whale-watching, reef-diving etc.)
Managers and other staff of ecolodges, rural B&Bs, farmstays etc. who offer bird-watching or other wildlife experiences
general tour operators and guides who include wildlife-watching amongst their activities
Zoos, wildlife parks and museums
Researchers and students of wildlife tourism, ecotourism, nature tourism, nature interpretation/education and related topics
Conservation managers
Travel agents and tourism organizations
Local and state government bodies
Others with an interest in tourism which involves wildlife

World Parks Congress

I’ve just attended the World Parks Congress on behalf of Wildlife Tourism Australia Inc.

Citizen science was featured in the Eye on the Reef display

Citizen science was featured in the Eye on the Reef display

This important congress is held only once every 10 years, and this time it was in Sydney.  The previous one was in South Africa, and at the opening ceremony here in Sydney we watched a video of part of Nelson Mandela’s speech on the importance of protected areas for both biodiversity and people, and were then addressed by his grandson who had flown in for the event.  The next will be held in Russia in 2024.

The organisers were expecting about 3,000 delegates: instead we had over 6,000, representing 170 countries!

Promises werte made and goals were set.  Delegates n he nature conservation stream agreed that by 2020 one-third of the oceans should be designated as no-take areas, to allow fish and other marine creatures to breed up to pre-exploitation levels and re-poluate the remaining two-thirds. Currently only 1% of the ocean is thus protected. The president of Madagascar promised to triple the amount of marine protected areas around his country, Gabon and Bangladesh pledged to create marine protected areas, and our own environment minister Greg Hunt declared there would never be drilling or dumping on the Great Barrier Reef, that he would work in with other countries to protect the Coral Triangle and the world’s oceans, and that China and Australia had signed an agreement not to allow mining in Antarctica. He also acknowledged the number of extinct and endangered terrestrial mammals in Australia and expressed a commitment to protecting our remaining species.

Much was said about the importance of protected areas to physical and mental health of humans, and the desirability of attracting young people into our parks. I presented a short talk on this theme, and the value of youth becoming involved in citizen science while travelling, including the opportunities presented by Wildlife Tourism Australia’s research network:

Just prior to the Congress, I also led a Parallel Event on behalf of Wildlife Tourism Australia to discuss wildlife tourism and biodiversity conservation n our parks. See for details.

The dedication and bravery of rangers worldwide was honoured by awards and speeches, especially those who frequently risked their lives.  A long list of those who had in fact died while performing their duties was displayed. Read more about these rangers on Some ways you can assist rangers was presented by the Big Life Group:

IUCN has long been known for its Red List of endangered animals.  At this Congress they launched the Green List, a positive step to reward those protected areas who are doing a great job on a number of important criteria. The first areas to be accepted for the Green List are situated  in Australia, South Korea, China, Italy, France, Spain, Kenya and Colombia. Read more on this at:

The TAPAS (Tourism and Protected Areas)  group creed a schedule for all those interested in the connection between tourism and conservation, and I attended a number of the presentations on this theme.

Visit for further details of this exciting event.



The Economics of Wildlife Tourism

Professor Clem Tisdell, Australia’s leading expert on the economics of wildlife tourism will be speaking at the wildlife tourism workshop next Wednesday, covering both the value of wildlife tourism to AUstralia (what we know and what we don’t know) and perspectives on contributing to wildlife conservation

For an interview with this very well-published economist, visit:

Also see a sample of published papers on:



Last chance to register for wildlife tourism workshop

The workshop “Using Wildlife for Tourism: Opportunities, Threats, Responsibilities” has an exciting and varied program lined up for next week, with talks in the morning from tour operators, academics and others, and what should prove some very active discussion groups each afternoon

Where: Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, Gold Coast

When: Wed-Friday 16-18 May 2012

We’ll be discussing the economics of wildlife tourism, quality interpretation, how tourism can contribute to wildlife conservation, and more – and determined it will not just be a talkfest but have some genuine follow-through actions such as  policy-formulation, letters to government, new projects and partnerships and dissemination of useful information for small tourism  businesses, conservation managers and others.

Registration has now officially closed, but it may still be possible to accept a few extra if you’re quick!

Visit for details of the program

Call for Papers WIldlife Tourism Workshop

Next month will be your last chance to submit a paper for Wildlife Tourism Australia’s 3rd national workshop.

A workshop rather than a conference, the emphasis will be on interactive discussion, with ultimate actions in mind (e.g. policy statements and guidelines for the Wildlife Tourism Australia website, beginning of new projects,  lobbying government etc. but a limited number of oral and poster papers will also be accepted.

Call for papers ends 24th February

The workshop will be held at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, Gold Coast

See for details


Entry to Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, the venue for the Wildlife Tourism Workshop in May 2012


National Wildlife Tourism Workshop 2012

Wildlife Tourism Australia’s 3rd National Workshop

Venue Currumbin WIldlife Sanctuary
Date Wednesday to Friday 16-18 May

My grandson Axel meeting the lorikeets at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary

The call for papers is now open for the national wildlife tourism workshop to be held at Currumbin WIldlife Sanctuary next year.


WTA has some great keynote speakers lined up, the venue houses the largest range of native animals in captivity in Queensland and is doing some great work with its new wildlife hospital, and the discussions are on important topics and leading to definite actions to follow on from the workshop.

For those coming from afar and wanting to stay on for the weekend, the beach is just a couple of minutes’ walk away, extensive rainforest tracks less than an hour ‘s drive from the venue, there are many lovely ecolodges and B&Bs in the mountains, whale-wacthing will have started and there are islands to visit, turtles to snorkel with, dolphins to kayak with ….

Visit for details