Echidna Walkabout is a Social Enterprise*1. Our mission is:
To ensure the free-living future of Australian wildlife.
We aim to achieve this through wildlife tourism – first class, responsible, educational eco-tourism that respects both the natural world and the traveller.
We also wish to be an industry leader in the field of wildlife tourism and create awareness and enthusiasm for this type of tourism by espousing its benefits.
What are the Benefits of Wildlife Tourism? (see also Position Statement below)
We believe in the power of wildlife travel to:
- involve people,
- educate people,
- foster awareness,
- publicise new and creative responses to emerging environmental issues.
This attitude is not only altruistic it also makes good business sense in the new world of responsible travel.
Travellers bring different attitudes, new approaches and economic benefits to destinations. Modern travellers are increasingly aware of the serious impact travel can have on the natural environment and wish to participate in caring for it. They often see their holiday as an experiential activity that must bring good to the places and people they visit – especially when it comes to wildlife in the wild.
However they also need to:
- enjoy themselves,
- learn something new,
- take photographs,
- spend time with their families and
- achieve bragging rights
Seeing and caring for wildlife in the wild combines all of the above in one fulfilling experience. We aim to make the most of the advantages travellers bring, and in return, provide them with a sense of wonder, enthusiasm for the natural world, and skills to find, appreciate without disturbance, identify and conserve wildlife both in Australia and back in their own country (or wherever they go).
We strive to continue our own process of learning so that we can deliver interpretation that is accurate, up to date and exciting, on all aspects of the natural world.
Promoting Indigenous Culture:
Echidna Walkabout honours and respects our indigenous cultures, and believes that Aboriginal People are the best interpreters of their own history and culture. We strive to employ Aboriginal People as cultural Guides as often as possible, and to visit Aboriginal-run Keeping Places when they are available. We also believe that indigenous people are generally the best managers of wildlife in this country, and should be listened to and consulted on conservation of wildlife. We aim to provide an overview of Australia’s history that includes Aboriginal history and their superb record of land- and wildlife-management. We also try to present an informed view of our shared history (ie post-contact) that accepts that Australia was invaded by Britain in an act of unlawful hostile aggression. We believe that until this, and other unlawful transgressions against indigenous Australians, are accepted widely Australia will not be able to move forward positively.
Atlassing & Data Collection:
Finally, conserving Australian wildlife requires data that is current and comprehensive. As regular visitors to the same sites, day in, day out for years, we will continue to submit lists of wildlife sightings to relevant, highly respected Atlases, and observations of certain wildlife (particularly Koalas) to relevant land managers, scientific bodies, NGO’s, wildlife carers and interest groups. Atlassing is a proven source of high quality information that is critical to conserving species under threat.
The following uses the African experience as an example of how a change to our attitude to Australian Wildlife can bring millions of dollars to Australia each year.
Australia’s wildlife is iconic. Tourism Australia’s logo is a kangaroo: Qantas Airlines carries the kangaroo emblazoned on all its aircraft. Kangaroos are to Australia what lions are to Africa. Inbound tourists in Africa expect to see a lion (or elephant or giraffe): the same travellers in Australia expect to see a kangaroo (or koala or wombat etc). And they expect to see them in the wild. Why would travellers come to Australia to see kangaroos in a zoo when they can see them in a zoo in their their own country?
Australia and Africa have much in common – people visit them because of they have unique:
- wild landscapes (ie environments)
Above all else our wildlife is unique; it sets us apart from the rest of the world, it draws International travellers and it brings millions of export dollars into Australia each year.
In Africa wildlife tourism in the wild supports a multi-billion dollar accommodation, guiding, safari and hospitality industry. It is a living, thriving thing. Yet Australia invests virtually nothing in native animals in the wild and, sadly, Australians have a disturbingly deprecating attitude towards our wildlife*2. To landowners, wildlife has generally been considered a nuisance, or an outright pest. Research too has tended to focus on the downside of wild native animals – either as meat, or as a cost burden to farmers and land managers.
By investing time and money on infrastructure that supports interaction with Australian wildlife in the wild we have no doubt that inbound travel into Australia will benefit. It would be farcical to mimic the African experience – we have a very different cultural background – but we can use it as an example.
Industry and government bodies should:
- identify, set aside and protect large areas of both public and private land that is dedicated to wildlife tourism. This is the main concept we learn from Africa: access to large open-range habitats, removal of fences and protection of wildlife in these areas are the keys to success
- Government can provide tax concessions and support for private enterprise to create wildlife habitat/experiences on private land. Government can also play a major role in breaking down the belief that native wildlife is a problem
- create dedicated infrastructure that is sympathetic to burgeoning wildlife populations, to wildlife tourism and to the relaxation and enjoyment of travellers
- promote excellence in wildlife guiding services
- support Indigenous tour operators who provide wildlife experiences
Alongside all the above Tourism Australia has a major role to play. In consultation with wildlife tourism operators Tourism Australia must develop a marketing strategy that aims to support high yield wildlife tourism in the wild. This would be a natural add-on to Australia’s National Landscapes and Nature Based strategies.
However it is vital that Wildlife Tourism be placed in a category of its own. This would involve a major re-branding of Australian inbound tourism so that wildlife in the wild is finally recognised as one of the the primary reasons for people choosing Australia as a destination.
Let’s get out into the field and see Australia as visitors see us – not only a series of “landscapes” or “attractions” – with an unusually different cultural background – but also as a place of dramatically different wildlife.
What is Echidna Walkabout doing?
Over twenty years we have shown Australian communities that wildlife is an asset to be protected, a source of pride and a means of income. As a result we:
- employ local people from those communities,
- procure supplies and services in their towns,
- support local parks or private game reserves and
- educate the community about their wildlife and how to protect it
Echidna Walkabout has invested hugely in Australian wildlife in the wild. We have brought the concept to most corners of the world and to most sectors of the tourism industry. We persistently come up as 5 star providers in client feedback (our clientele runs into tens of thousands worldwide!). We are a success story that proves that wildlife tourism works in Australia.
We will continue to invest in land for wildlife. We employ our own dedicated wildlife research team and have our own in-house guide training program. We act as mentors to a number of other tour operators (including indigenous operators) and we provide educational services to educational institutions.
We strongly support the concept of privately-owned land to increase the habitat available to wildlife – this is essential if wildlife is to survive the upcoming challenges of climate change.
*1. In Australia, Social enterprises are organisations that:
- Are led by an economic, social, cultural, or environmental mission consistent with a public or community benefit;
- Trade to fulfill their mission;
- Derive a substantial portion of their income from trade; and
- Reinvest the majority of their profit/surplus in the fulfilment of their mission.
From Finding Australia’s Social Enterprise Sector: http://www.socialtraders.com.au/finding-australias-social-enterprise-sector-fases#SE_Finder
*2. “Both town and country need to re-think their relationship with wildlife, especially the more prolific and obvious elements such as the large kangaroos and some wallabies. Their persistence and relative prosperity is not a measure of a battle lost in ‘taming the land’ but a valuable remnant of a once more diverse and fascinating fauna that proclaims a clean, green environment. “
from ASSESSMENT OF OPPORTUNITIES FOR OVERSEAS TOURISM BASED ON WILD KANGAROOS By David B Croft and Neil Leiper