WILDLIFE TOURISM

Outer Edge - - Australian Adventures -

Aus­tralia is a strange place. It is home to fa­mous mar­su­pi­als such as kan­ga­roos, koalas, wom­bats and Tasmanian devils, as well as quokkas, num­bats and many other mar­su­pi­als you may never have heard of. In fact about half our mam­mal species are mar­su­pi­als, and we have no na­tive mon­keys, bears, cats or hoofed an­i­mals. We do have the very pe­cu­liar furry but egg-lay­ing platy­pus and echidna, the world’s best mimic (lyre­bird), the laugh­ing kook­aburra, the tall and flight­less emu and cas­sowary, bower­birds that con­struct elab­o­rate, dec­o­rated bow­ers, and most of the world’s cock­a­toos. We share the world’s largest croc­o­dile with trop­i­cal Asia and have a smaller croc­o­dile found nowhere else. Aus­tralia is also the prob­a­ble birth­place of song­birds, par­rots and pi­geons, all of which we have a-plenty.

Some an­i­mals are easy to find: colour­ful par­rots are com­mon in most ci­ties, wild grey kan­ga­roos abound not far from some of our cap­i­tals, and there are many places to watch the flight of thou­sands of large and noisy ftu­it­bats or watch whales in sea­son. Other crea­tures may take more ef­fort and pa­tience: e.g. climb­ing a moun­tain to see rock­wal­la­bies, head­ing way out into the true out­back for big red kan­ga­roos and desert birds and rep­tiles, wait­ing at dawn or dusk for shy platy­pus, or div­ing in south­ern seas to find the strange leafy sea dragon.

In Aus­tralia you can dive the co­ral reefs amid bright­coloured fish, tur­tles and other crea­tures, swim with whale-sharks or minke whales, see pen­guins wad­dle ashore at night, watch an­i­mals gather at an out­back wa­ter­hole be­fore sun­set and then camp un­der a sky of bril­liant stars, hike through rain­forests or the typ­i­cal Aussie bush (eu­ca­lypt for­est and wood­lands), ex­plore caves, ca­noe down scenic rivers or watch thou­sands of glow worms (very dif­fer­ent from fire-flies, al­though we have them too) light up at night. You can in­stead sit com­fort­ably on the ve­randa of an ecolodge watch­ing birds and wal­la­bies, go seek­ing an­i­mals on sa­fari in air-con­di­tioned ve­hi­cles or visit well-run wildlife parks that em­pha­size re­search, public ed­u­ca­tion and con­ser­va­tion breed­ing, with a va­ri­ety of fas­ci­nat­ing crea­tures you may not other­wise see if here for a short visit.

Wildlife Tourism Aus­tralia’s web­site in­tro­duces you to en­vi­ron­men­tally-friendly tours, ac­com­mo­da­tion and wildlife parks through­out the coun­try, with tips for your own in­de­pen­dent travel, and how not to dis­turb the an­i­mals you wish to see. There is also much in­for­ma­tion on na­tive an­i­mals, dis­cus­sions on con­ser­va­tion and other is­sues, best-prac­tice guide­lines and links to much other in­for­ma­tion, in­clud­ing books and re­search papers.

Our mem­bers (tour op­er­a­tors, ac­com­mo­da­tion providers, wildlife parks, aca­demic re­searchers and oth­ers) agree to com­mit to sup­port­ing wildlife con­ser­va­tion, an­i­mal wel­fare and qual­ity in­ter­pre­ta­tion (“in­ter­pre­ta­tion” here means en­joy­able ed­u­ca­tion of a kind that pro­vides a deeper un­der­stand­ing and ap­pre­ci­a­tion of wildlife and their habi­tats).

You may also like to help with wildlife re­search. Wildlife in Aus­tralia, as in other world re­gions, face many prob­lems. Cli­mate change, habi­tat de­struc­tion, in­creas­ing hu­man pop­u­la­tion spread­ing into wildlife ar­eas, the black mar­ket trade, hu­man-wildlife con­flicts, changes in fire regimes, ve­hi­cle col­li­sions, dis­eases and many other pres­sures are caus­ing con­cern about the sur­vival of many species. There is much that we al­ready know, to guide con­ser­va­tion plans, but also much that we don’t yet know, and some tour op­er­a­tors con­duct re­search or as­sist re­searchers. If you can re­li­ably iden­tify Aussie birds and other crea­tures you can di­rectly help with record­ing ob­ser­va­tions, or other­wise as­sist by find­ing an­i­mals to point out to the re­search leader, tak­ing rel­e­vant pho­tos, set­ting and wash­ing live-cap­ture traps, mea­sur­ing tree-trunks or car­ry­ing equip­ment. You can learn a lot about re­search tech­niques and about the an­i­mals them­selves, as well as hav­ing a feel­ing of ac­com­plish­ment at help­ing the wildlife you have en­joyed see­ing. See http://www.wildlif­er­e­search­net­work.org.

Wildlife Tourism Aus­tralia also runs con­fer­ences, work­shops, wildlife ex­pos and other events. What­ever your in­ter­est in Aus­tralia’s wildlife, visit www.wildlife­tourism.org.au

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