For most of our history, our tours have catered for International guests (>95%) so it was inevitable that in March of 2020we had to shut down for a while, intending to open again in November. This opening was delayed by a few bureaucratic things such as new hordes to getting a reasonably priced public liability insurance (although we have run without incident for over 20 years), and we finally re-opened in May, with our regular tours plus new new ones for seniors, ran a few birdwatching tours until July, then had to cancel all tours for August, September and even October 2021 because most of our guests were coming from Sydney or Melbourne. One seemed ok to join us from Cairns, but then Cairns found itself in lockdown just before she was due to fly.
I did still head to ATE21 (Australian Travel Exchange 2021) in May to meet agents from Australia and New Zealand, and met others from elsewhere in the world on ATE-online, but it will be quite a while before we can once more welcome guests from across the sea.
Lockdown itself (apart from the loss of income) wasn’t bad for us. We live a kilometre from our nearest neighbour and are surrounded by forest, mountains, creek and horse paddocks, so we didn’t feel imprisoned at all.
So, what have we been doing wth no tours to run?
Quite a lot really.
For some years I’d been meaning to turn the book we give people on our 3-day wildlife overview tours into something publishable, and finally did so, launching it at Wildlife Tourism Australia’s AGM at Binna Burra in November 2020. This is now the version we’ll be giving to our wildlife overview guests, and on sale to others (including through Amazon).
I’m now re-writing my book on wildlife tourism, including more international content, the new challenge of Covid-19, citizen science and conservation activities on tours. I hope to publish later this year.
I’ve also returned to writing about animal-plant mutualism in Australia (chiefly pollination and seed dispersal) and hope to eventually publish this book plus a couple of other in 2022. I’m also trying to continue my own research in this field but now finding a ack of time due to other activities.
In addition I’ve written a few articles for journals, and also edited articles for others (I’m guest editor of Journal of Ecotourism, and a special issue of Sustainability).
As chair of the Scenic Rim branch of the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland (WPSQ), I started a project a couple of years ago for establishing wildlife corridors between habitat fragments in the valleys of the Scenic Rim. We had previously conducted surveys of squirrel gliders, a riding possum which, unlike some of its relatives, seems to prefer the more open forests and woodlands of lower altitudes, and identified areas of good habitat where they seem to be thriving and corridors routes that could help them move from one site to another. There are multiple reasons why animals may need to move, either daily, seasonal or occasionally.
When looking at establishing corridors, on both private and public lands, we decided to cater not only for squirrel gliders but also koalas, grey-crowned babblers, glossy back cockatoos (the rarest of our local cockatoos), native bees, butterflies and other species.
WPSQ Central called for donations and raised $5000, and the Scenic Rim Council donated almost 1000 young trees and tree guards. Then we received a grant of $10,220 from the federal Communities Environment Program, which paid for couple of workshops, more trees, guards and fencing materials to protect young trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants from cattle grazing, plus a couple of public workshops, and we have now planted on over 20 properties, both for enhancement in the habitat fragments and of course long the corridor routes.
Most recently we have received an even larger grant, this time from LandCare, to extend the project and include plantings of trees, shrubs and vines for frugivorous birds that head to lower altitudes in winter.
We are conducting fauna surveys to test the effectiveness of the corridors over the coming years, both by direct observation and with motion-sensing cameras.
I’ve presented a few talks to community groups on wildlife corridors, also wildlife and fire, and am soon to present another to a local school.
Wildlife Tourism Australia
As chair of WTA, I’ve been involved in organising and running a series of webinars in lieu of a conference, in both June 2020 and June 2021, as well as a special webinar on overpopulation on World Wildlife Day, 3rd March 2021 and a marine turtle networking group.
I’m also representing WTA in the Biodiversity Working Group within the TAPAS Group (Tourism And Protected AreaS) which in turn is within WCPA (World Commission on Protected Areas) which is part of IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), and recently have accepted an invitation to represent both Wildlife Tourism Australia and Ecotourism Australia
Our home property and animals
We lost our beautiful 12-y-o cattle dog early this year, and our other dog was moping around sadly so we introduced another cattle dog puppy into the family. He’s an absolute dynamo, into, onto, and under just about everything and experimenting with anything remotely chewable, but very loveable!
Our goat Tinky lost her elderly companion last year, and was also money, constantly bleating when she couldn’t be near us. We brought home a young male goat who matured faster tan we expected and now we have two quite delightful young kids as well.
Our horses and chooks (Australian for chickens) are doing fine, but we have to watch Guapito, who hasn’t quite learned yet not to chase the chooks.
We don’t deliberately feed any wildlife but we’re now being visited by a family of magpies and a group of satin bowerbirds helping themselves to dog food and galahs and bar-shouldered doves helping themselves to chook food.
We are planning soon to do some serious renovations soon on our wildlife ecology centre and nature trails.