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Wildlife Tourism

Australia’s wildlife is a significant factor in determining the decisions of international visitors to Australia. Wildlife tourism in Australia has an annual economic impact from international tourism exceeding several billion dollars (1997 figures). Wildlife tourism depends on a viable resource (wildlife), an interested market (tourists) and accommodating locals (hosts).Read more
Australia’s wildlife is a significant factor in determining the decisions of international visitors to Australia. Wildlife Tourism in Australia has an annual economic impact from international tourism exceeding several billion dollars (1997 figures). Wildlife tourism depends on a viable resource (wildlife), an interested market (tourists) and accommodating locals (hosts).

Recent Australian research on wildlife tourism examined six main areas:

  • The visitor (market analysis)
  • Wildlife impacts and management
  • Economic values
  • The interaction experience
  • Host communities
  • Individual species and groups of like species

Key findings include:

The visitor

  • Viewing wildlife is an important factor in travel decisions for 20% of international visitors and is included as a activity for over 50% of these visitors;
  • Seeing wildlife in natural environments, seeing wildlife behaving naturally, and seeing rare and unusual wildlife are important factors in a wildlife experience. Good interpretation is also important factor;
  • Protected areas are a major venue for wildlife interactions;
  • Overall satisfaction with wildlife experiences is very high.

The interaction experience

  • Wildlife interaction involves a continuous spectrum of experiences form captive to free ranging, and
  • This spectrum includes unguided encounters in natural areas; specialised wildlife tours; managed local attractions; nature based tours including research, conservation and educations tours involving wildlife; sight seeing tours; and accommodation and other venues that feature wildlife.

Wildlife impacts and management

  • Wildlife tourism can contribute positively to conservation, including financial and non-financial contributions, socio-economic incentives and education;
  • For wildlife conservation to be successful, it needs to be promoted on and off protected areas and integrated into modern economies;
  • Nature based tourism is one mechanism that can contribute to conservation and economic development;
  • There is concern over the growing evidence that a wide range of negative impacts can and do occur, including disruption to activity, direct killing or injury and habitat alteration, and
  • Long tern sustainability will depend on effective management and monitoring;
  • Some species may need to be excluded from tourism.

Economic values

  • Wildlife tourism is often free or underpriced and not marketed, which can lead to misconceptions about the value of wildlife tourism;
  • The non-use values of some species exceeds their use values;
  • The economic use value of wildlife tourism is estimated to account for 20-40% of international tourism expenditure;
  • Tourism use of wildlife can be consumptive (e.g. fishing) or non-consumptive (i.e. viewing and interacting);
  • Wildlife tourism can in some cases be more economical than producing agricultural commodities, and
  • The economic contribution of wildlife tourism is an important incentive for governments to invest in conserving wildlife.

Host communities

  • Wildlife tourism has the potential to impact on host communities and vice versa;
  • Local communities have much to offer in terms of tradition and in-depth knowledge, which can enhance the wildlife tourism experience;
  • The sustainability of wildlife tourism is dependent in part on its support from the local community, and
  • Factors that influence host satisfaction include the involvement of the host community and the benefits and disadvantages of wildlife tourism to them.

Species

  • Particular attention has been given to researching the economic and conservation impacts of wildlife tourism on kangaroos, turtles, dolphins, birds fish whales, dingoes, and glow worms.

Sustainability of wildlife tourism

Recent wildlife tourism research by the Sustainable tourism CRC has focused on assessing the sustainability of wildlife tourism through development and testing of a framework to assess the sustainability of marine wildlife tourism operations. The framework will identify potential areas of concern in relation to marine wildlife tourism interactions as well as highlight where future research and monitoring is needed.

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