Category Archives: Wildlife tourism

watching wildlife (wild and captive); positive and negative effects of tourism on wildlife conservation; wildlife tourism news, events and research

Biodiversity Management and Tourism Development

I have just returned from the German Alumni Summer School in Lombok, Indonesia (I’m not part of the alumni, but was invited as a representative from Australia by Professor Jolanta Slowik after she participated in our post-conference Intecol tour in 2009).

For a very brief write-up of this fascinating week, see the Wildlife Tourism Australia blog entry for 13th December 2010

Does it matter if we disturb wildlife?

walking near wild kangaroos without disturbing themIn our ecotours we try to always leave animals doing whatever it was they were doing when we first see them – this gives some measure that we are not disturbing them in any important way.  If the whiptail wallabies are still grazing on the same patch of grass, the koala hasn’t climbed higher in the tree and the honeyeaters are still sipping the same flowers, we can be fairly confident that our presence hasn’t made too much of a difference to them.

I’ve reviewed quite a lot of literature on minimal-impact wildlife viewing, and given a number of presentations on the same, making the point that while occasional disturbance is probably unimportant, repeated disturbances have the potential to deter animals from using favoured feeding areas, or from successful reproduction.

One thing that has surprised me is the number of people who ask why does it matter?  And this comes not only from tourists and tour operators, but also from ecologists who say there is no good evidence that disturbing animals in their feeding grounds or breeding areas does any lasting damage, apart from isolated cases in especially fragile habitats or restricted breeding grounds, and that increased disturbance will probably just hasten habituation to humans.

I would still prefer to err on the side of caution, and make as little impact as possible while enjoying watching wild creatures.I feel this will benefit the animals themselves and the next human visitors who wish to see them. It also has the potential to educate visitors to respect the animals and use minimal-impact techniques elsewhere.

Also, some animals habituate far more readily than others.  If some don’t seem bothered by our presence, there may be others nearby that are.

I would be interested in hearing the views of others – please leave a comment

WIldlife tourism conference cancelled

Regrettably the decision was made yesterday to cancel the wildlife tourism conference in September, due to insufficient registrations to cover costs.

Whether or not there will be one in the future is simply not known at this stage.

At least in this age of electronic communication there is ample opportunity to exchange ideas and information without fossil-fuel-burning journeys (although there is still something satisfying about face-to face meetings, round-table discussions and brainstorming sessions).

Wild Benefits: wildlife tourism conference September 2010

Wildlife tourism conference program

Some of the details are still being worked out, but it will include the following:

Tuesday: August 31st.

Icebreaker, 6.00- 8.00pm, Currumbin Sanctuary

Wednesday September 1st:

  • Introductory talks by Johnathon Fisher (manager,Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuarty) and Pip Chalk (chair, WIldlife Tourism Australia)
  • Keynote addresses: (1) Shane O’Reilly (Long association with O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, which is one of Australia’s longest-running and best-known eco-resorts, now working for  Tourism Queensland (main state tourism body), and former director of Gold Coast Touirsm) “Leech tourism” and (2) Steve Parish (Australia’s best-known wildlife photographer, and prolific publisher) “Heart and Soul”.
  • Workshop – ‘Walking the Walk‘ (how wildlife tourism operations large and small can best contribute to wildlife conservation)
  • Contributed papers (see below)
  • Behind the Scenes tour of Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary (numbers limited)

Thursday  September 2nd

  • Early morning behind the Scenes tour of Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary (for those who missed out on Wednesday)
  • Breakfast with the Birds, Currumbin Sanctuary
  • Keynote addresses: (1) Clem Tisdell – economic benefits of wildlife tourism; (2) Darryl Jones – Darryl Jones
    ‘The extinction of experience and the experience of extinction: Why direct interactions matter”.
  • Workshop: ‘Developing a useful interactive website for Wildlife Tourism’
  • Contributed papers (see below)
  • Afternoon whale-watching tour ($40 for delegates)
  • Conference dinner

Friday September 3rd

  • Keynote adresses: (1) Nick Mooney (conservationist, ‘Australian of the year’) title TBA, and (2) David Newsome (author of book ‘Wildlife Tourism’) “‘Tourism and wildlife icons: lessons learnt and views on visitor satisfaction’”
  • Workshop: ‘Managing Visitor Diversity’ (wildlife interpretation for all nationalities, socio-economic groups etc., exchange of ideas, sharing of experiences)
  • Contributed papers (see below)

Contributed papers:

“‘That’s totally disgusting’: Managing negative emotions within the context of captive wildlife exhibits – Nancy Cushing, School of Humanities and Social Science, University of Newcastle and Kevin Markwell, School of Tourism and Hospitality Management, Southern Cross University

Eric Worrell: a pioneer of Australian wildlife tourism – Kevin Markwell, School of Tourism and Hospitality Management, Southern Cross University and Nancy Cushing, School of Humanities and Social Science, University of Newcastle

Wildlife tourism potential for the Global Tiger InitiativeSteve Noakes (Griffith University), Richard Damania (World Bank)

Facilitating profound experiences with wildlife – Liam Smith, Betty Weiler and Sam Ham

The Poetics of Wild – Dr Jayne Fenton Keane

A need for promoting care and concern for wildlife: A call for flagship species and anthropomorphism – Amy M. Smith, Liam Smith, Betty Weiler, Tourism Research Unit, Monash University

Kimberley Whale Watching Tourism: Opportunities and Threats – Prof. Jack Carlsen and Dr Michael Hughes, Curtin Sustainable Tourism Centre,Curtin University, Western Australia

Isabelle Wolf –

Ronda Green –

Pip Chalk –

Barry Davies –

others …

Download preliminary program

Can wildlife tourism make money and also help conserve wildlife?

One of the reasons I personally went into ecotourism was to provide governments, developers etc. with an economic reason for preserving wildlife and its habitats (my other main reason was to share my enthusiasm with others for the wonderful diversity of wild creatures and wild places on this planet, and hopefully in so doing  to deepen their understanding of the same, and appreciation of their intrinsic non-monetary values).

One of the positive benefits of wildlife tourism towards tourism conservation has long been identified as the potential for donations towards conservation, from  tourism operators, their guests and perhaps local businesses and governments that directly or indirectly benefit from the tourism dollar.

But to give we need to also receive –  at least   enough to keep giving without going broke.    And tourism operations that make non-financial contributions (e.g. habitat restoration, quality interpretation, conservation-breeding) have to make enough to survive.  It also helps if the local community benefits, and  continues to support their efforts.

Can all this happen, either at an individual operator level or a regional level?

regent bowerbirdOne of Australia’s best-published economics researchers (amongst the top three in the country according to Wikipedia) – Clem Tisdell –  has conducted many studies on the economics of wildlife tourism in Australia and elsewhere, including amongst many other topics rainforests and glow worm caves in Southeast Queensland,  Antarctic voyages and an elephant orphanage in Sri Lanka. Apart from individual studies he has provided a number of very useful and wide-ranging review papers.

We will have a chance to hear Professor Tisdell’s latest information and advice at the Wild Benefits conference to be held at the Gold Coast 1st to 3rd September 2010, and it will be a great opportunity to ask him questions (and listen to his answers to the questions of others, both immediately after his presentation and at other times during the conference).

This is the third national wildlife tourism conference to be held in Australia. There are day registrations and student registrations available, ad the earlybird discount registration is open until the end of July.

How to see a platypus


Darren went down to our creek to see how a family from America were doing in their attempts to see the platypus. They had been advised to sit quietly with no sudden movements or noises, so he was a bit alarmed to see both kids walking along right at the edge of the water. When they saw him they shouted ‘There’s no platypus here!’

Well, no, there wasn’t that day. There were a pair living there but probably if they had started to emerge for their night of foraging they were by now tucked up back in their burrows waiting for a little peace and quiet before re-emerging.

In Tasmania platypus are often seen throughout the day, and occasionally the same is true further north, but  they are primarily nocturnal.  Typically they will leave their burrows an hour or so before dusk, continue feeding throughout the night and return to the burrow  an hour or so after dawn.

Thus the best time to see them is usually during the first hour after sunrise or the last hour before sunset.

They are found in unpolluted streams along the east coast from Tasmania to far north Queensland, and have been introduced to Kangaroo Island, South Australia. The best foraging spots seem to be slow-moving areas where the water is between one and three metres deep. Don’t bother looking for them high in the mountains above tall waterfalls though – they would find it hard to travel up to these.

Their eyes and ears may not be brilliant (and they don’t use either for foraging), but unless they have become well habituated to human presence, they will notice anyone sitting or standing near the bank, and most likely return to the safety of the burrow.  Sudden sharp movements or loud noises will almost guarantee they will disappear until it is too dark to see them. Quiet human presence in the water – in a canoe or floating for instance – doesn’t seem to worry them quite so much, perhaps because most of their predators come from the land.

They tend to be more predictable during breeding season in the last half of the year, so if you are advised late in the year that they have been seen recently in a particular part of the creek, there is a good chance they will continue to use this spot for a while,.

So, to see a platypus, find out which local streams are likely, wear something warm, perhaps take a book or something to nibble if you have trouble sitting still, then do just that – sit still and quietly from sunrise onwards or from late afternoon, glancing at the water evry minute or so if you don’t feel like watching it constantly.

No grunts or bellows announce its arrival.  It is not there and then suddenly, very quietly, it is there. Sometimes you will see a small row of bubbles just before it surfaces, then can watch as it floats on the surface chewing whatever it has just caught, or perhaps scratching its ear or swimming along a little way. Then it hunches its back and dives down again for maybe a minute or two before re-emerging.

Maybe you won’t see one on your first few attempts, but there are worse ways fo passing the time than sitting by a quiet stream listening to bird calls.

Or maybe, suddenly, very quietly, there he is in front of you.

Wildlife Tourism Conference September 2010

A reminder: the third national wildlife tourism conference is to be held at the Gold Coast, Australia from 1st to 3rd September.

The conference will present the latest on the economics of wildlife tourism (relevant to both strategy planners and individual tourism operations), environmental benefits and risks associated with wildlife tourism, and the social and psychological benefits of animal-human interaction. There will be workshops on how to make wildlife tourism cater better to wildlife conservation and how to interpret wildlife to people of different backgrounds, plus ample time for other discussions – a great opportunity to toss around ideas, exchange information and discuss problems and potential solutions

Visit for details, and get your registrations in ASAP. There may still be an opportunity to submit a belated abstract if you act swiftly

Can tourism save dolphins?

I’m reproducing here (with permission)  an email recently received from Michael Dalton of Sea Shepherd

“Earth Island Institute, the Save Japan Dolphins Campaign and Brisbane supporters are heading to Taiji, Japan Wednesday Sept. 1st, 2010 to celebrate “Dolphin Day”.

September 1st marks the beginning of the annual six-month dolphin kill and Save Japan Dolphins Campaign Director Ric O’Barry has made a pledge to return to Taiji to keep his eyes on this tragic situation.

Rather than protest, our goal is to deliver a positive message of support for the many good things that are possible in Taiji.

We support efforts to develop sustainable eco-tourism for Taiji and the surrounding area. Eco-tourism provides jobs, and in many places around the world there is a growing recognition of the value and importance of living dolphins and whales offshore. Imagine if instead of allowing a small group of Taiji fisherman to continue the dolphin kill, Taiji residents took the public on dolphin and whale watching cruises.

Tangalooma Resort on Brisbane’s Moreton Island was once a whaling station, but now thrives as a vacation resort that attracts people from all over the world. We hope Taiji can find alternatives to end the annual drive hunts for dolphins and the sale of mercury-laden dolphin meat to the public.

So pack your bags! Taiji is beautiful at this time of year. Plan to spend some time in this coastal resort town and countryside. Bring your family and your friends to share this experience. There are plenty of opportunities for walking and hiking, boating, several historic temples and religious shrines nearby.


We have no specific plans for the day, except to show up and enjoy the National Park at the Cove. Bring a picnic lunch and expect to spend the day on the gravel beach. As emphasised above, there is no protest and we will avoid any confrontations.

We are also working on plans for a Peace March to be conducted over the historic pilgrims trail into Taiji. This is a very strenuous walk that will require advance preparation. More details will be available soon about this event.


Please contact me if you think you will be able to join us. We will try to assist with information on travel directions and options. Emails should be sent to or

Also, if you know of anyone in Japan who you think should learn about our activities in Japan, please let us know!

There are many daily flights into the Japanese airports of Tokyo (Narita Airport) and Osaka. Tokyo is about 6-7 hours by train to Taiji. Osaka is about 5-6 hours by train to Taiji. You might want to arrive early in Japan for a few days before September. 1st to get over your jet lag and adjust to local time.

A Note of Caution:

We are gathering in Taiji to express support for the many people in Japan and throughout the world who want to see an end to the dolphin slaughter and trade. This will be a peaceful, quiet celebration of nature. We will be not be demonstrating or displaying signs of protest. It has been reported that Nationalist groups supporting a continuation of the dolphin kill will show up in Taiji on September 1st. They have been active against The Cove movie, intimidating theatres and film distributors. We do not intend any confrontation whatsoever. The Wakayama police have always acted in a professional manner and will be on hand.

We cannot be responsible for your travel, accommodations, or safety due to all of the unknown factors in this situation.

We look forward to your help and support for the Save Japan Dolphins Campaign.”

Positive effects of wildife tourism

A suggestion for those who are joining the discussions on positive effects of wildlife tourism, whether as comments to this blog, the workshop on the theme at the Wildlife conference in September, or any other venue.

Some years ago I was co-author of a Sustainable Tourism  ‘The positive effects of Wildlife Tourism on Wildlife’ with Karen Higginbottom (senior author) and Chelsea Northrope.  That report is  available  for free download on the Sustainable Tourism CRC website.

If you don’t want to download the whole report (603kb), there is a summary sheet (92kb) with the main conclusions and recommendations

There are a number of other very relevant titles available also (some free, some not), which anyone interested in joining the discussion on how wildlife tourism might benefit wildlife conservation may like to read – plus of course various other publications on many other aspects of wildlife tourism (47 wildlife tourism titles currently available).

From the introduction to the Positive Effects paper:

“In principle, wildlife tourism can have various positive effects on wildlife species and their habitats. However, to date we know much more about negative effects of wildlife tourism on wildlife; very little systematic research has been conducted on positive effects. These positive effects work through four main mechanisms: (1) financial contributions, (2) non-financial contributions, (3) socio-economic incentives, and (4) education. The contribution may be to conservation, animal welfare, or both.”