Tag Archives: wildlife conservation

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: http://www.wildliferesearchnetwork.org/

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 http://www.wildlifetourism.org.au/wildlife-tourism-workshop-in-sydney-november-2014/ 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 http://thingreenline.org.au/story/ Some ways you can assist rangers was presented by the Big Life Group: https://biglife.org/

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: http://www.iucn.org/about/work/programmes/gpap_home/?18617/Green-is-the-new-gold

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 http://worldparkscongress.org/ for further details of this exciting event.



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

“I want to see a quoll”

I asked my 5-year-old grandson to give me the orange cushion with white spots, then told him I’d chosen that one because it was the colour of a quoll.

“What’s a quoll?” he asked.

“It’s an animal that keeps it babies in a pouch like a kangaroo” I said, “but it hunts like a cat and has sharp teeth and claws, and it’s the colour of that cushion.”

His eyes had been widening, and he said “I want to see a quoll.”  I promised to take him to a wildlife reserve where he can see one. I explained they live in the forests around here, but it’s very difficult to see them in the wild.

He’s only five years old, so it wasn’t surprising he hadn’t heard of quolls, but many older children haven’t either. MAny of them know virtually nothing about our wildlife other than kangaroos. koalas, wombats, possums and platypus? Wonderful animals all of these, but there is so much more.

And it’s not only kids – many adults (including government staff, developers and others in positions to influence their survival) know very little about the special animals that share our country. A teacher would quite rightfully  think a child who hadn’t heard of elephants or tigers very ignorant.  How about making sure all our school-children learn the basics of our own native fauna as an essential part of their early training?

It’s not enough either to just give a list or a few pictures, or even the animal itself with no explanations.  These are interesting creatures and we have to communicate why they are interesting.  I remember years ago taking some young teenagers around a wildlife park.  They saw a sign saying ‘Native Cats’ (which quolls were called in those day) above a pathetically  small and dingy enclosure.  They looked in and said ‘Ha. I though it was going to be real cats but it’s just those things’ and walked on to the next exhibit.  Just those things?  I was able to enlighten these particular girls, but what a depressing first reaction, and I wonder how many others passed on by without another thought to these fascinating creatures.  Had they heard exciting things about about quolls beforehand, or seen them in a decent enclosure with eye-catching and readable  interpretation about their behaviour and ecology, perhaps they would have reacted differently.

Our wildlife is wonderful, and our whole population could be taking a lot more pleasure in this.

And it’s only when people know about our animals that they’ll be able to care about their conservation and understand what is needed to achieve it.

So, I’d love to hear lots of others saying what my wide-eyed little grandson said: “I want to see a quoll”

Scenic Rim Wildlife Activities

potoroo at Wildlife expo, Beaudesert 2010
Potoroo at Wildlife expo, Beaudesert 2010

What wildlife activities would you like to be involved in? Scenic Rim Wildlife (Scenic Rim branch of the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland) is running a survey to find out out the kinds of activities folk would most like to participate in over the next few months. If you live in or near the Scenic Rim (Southeast Queensland) or visit from time to time, please let us know by completing our strictly confidential 2-minute survey

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.

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.”