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.



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

Great night of spotting:baby platypus, bandicoots …

Darren took our Danish guests to  the creek to watch platypus late this afternoon, and instead of two saw three! Their young one has emerged from the burrow. And after dark, a brushtail possum with baby, other possums, a pademelon, a red-necked wallaby, plenty of bandicoot babies and a tawny frogmouth, and a cicada emerging from its larval skin, as well as hearing plenty of frogs.

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

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.

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

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.”

Bird-watching tourists in Australia: research report

birdwatching with Araucaria Ecotours

A new report on PRACTICES, NEEDS AND ATTITUDES OF BIRD-WATCHING TOURISTS IN AUSTRALIA has just been published by the Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre.  The report is co-authored by Dr Ronda J Green (proprietor of Araucaria Ecotours) and Dr Darryl Jones of Griffith University.

By clicking on the link above you can download a summary sheet or the entire document (warning: its rather large) for free or order a hard copy through STCRC.

From the STCRC:  “The Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre has just released research exploring bird-watching tourism in Australia. The research – Practices, needs and attitudes of bird-watching tourists in Australia included an extensive survey of national and international bird-watchers. Tour operators and accommodation providers who support this niche tourism sector also contributed to the research.

The report has delivered a more comprehensive overview of bird-watching tourism in Australia by:

Investigating the diversity and common features amongst bird-watching tourists
Determining what bird-watchers most want to see and do in Australia
Investigating the role of the tourism industry in bird-watching
Investigating bird-watchers’ opinions and practices in relation to conservation

Researchers have presented 18 key findings which will be of interest to bird-watching tourism destinations, tourism operators and niche tourism government departments.”