📷 ENDANGERED: Black-flanked rock-wallaby, Cape Range, Ningaloo (pic: Roger Smith)
Read time: 7 minutes
As a wildlife guide I’ve seen conservation travel empower people to save wildlife
HINT: It’s the wildlife that empowers you!
In the short span of a 7 day tour I’ve seen animals change people.
From being sceptical about their chances of protecting wildlife they become staunch conservation advocates.
At the end of a tour (or maybe weeks later), wildlife always has the final say.
A kangaroo hopping across a sunset speaks directly to the person who sees it, without words, without petting, just being there — in the wild together — is enough.
Or is it?
Worldwide, animal populations have declined by almost 70% since 1970 — a truly mind-bending catastrophe. Already human greed has driven many species to extinction.
I’m embarrassed that Australia, my home country, has one of the highest mammal extinction rates in the world.
Many of our guests feel powerless to stop this extinction
To solve this problem Echidna Walkabout — and an increasing number of conservation tour operators across the globe — offer guests ethical tours, designed to give back to wildlife through conservation travel.
Our aim is to save wildlife and empower you to continue your conservation efforts after you’ve completed the tour.
So, here’s 5 ways conservation travel will empower you to save wild animals and wild places.
1. Choose a small group conservation tour
Small groups work best for the environment, for wildlife, for people and for your pocket.
Most small group wildlife tours average about 10 people (ranging from 8 to 12 people).
The benefits of travelling in a small group are:
- Fuel usage is significantly reduced
- Less impact on the environment and wildlife
- Prices drop substantially
- A more immersive experience
- Your guide can interact better
- More eyes and experience from the group members
2. Empowerment should continue after a conservation tour
During a tour the exhilaration of attachment to a place, to wildlife and to people runs high. But when the tour is over people often feel that their enthusiasm for learning about and saving wildlife is suddenly removed.
To some people that feeling can be devastating, but there are ways to deal with that loss.
At the end of a tour you should leave knowing that you will continue to be supported by the tour provider (eg. on identification or ongoing conservation of a species).
Also, you should be able to continue to share ideas and concepts you have discovered with others on the tour.
In the modern world creating a platform for ongoing support is easy and continues to empower participants well after the tour has ended. (see how we do this)
3. Conservation travel offers opportunities to learn from others
In my experience the greatest benefit of travelling in a small group is sharing the combined knowledge of the group.
Each person has something special to bring to a tour — we all learn from each other. I’ve learned heaps from my guests!
Experienced guides use group knowledge to help people share their experiences — by doing this everyone grows and is empowered by others on the tour.
4. Conservation wildlife tours are led by experienced guides
An experienced guide cares about the wildlife they show you — they also understand the environments and the landscapes the wildlife inhabits.
Your guide will have tools available to empower you to save wildlife and give back to the people and the places you visit.
A good wildlife tour company will provide you with an experienced guide who is aware of the conservation status of the wildlife they are planning on showing you.
5. Local knowledge saves you time and money
Successful wildlife touring requires an intimate understanding of landscapes and wildlife.
By placing yourself in the hands of an experienced operator you’ll have the best opportunity to see wildlife then act on its behalf.
You won’t waste fuel and time trying to find the best wildlife places. You’ll also have access to the best conservation strategy AND the best places to stay and eat — that’s all done for you, leaving you to enjoy the experience and give back to wildlife.
How Echidna Walkabout helps empower you to save wildlife
We use citizen science strategies to ensure that each of our conservation tours gives back to wild animals and the environment. We also provide our guests with “feedback tools” that enable them to keep in touch both with us and with each other after a tour. (Read the 10 Principles of Citizen Science)
Citizen Science Projects : adding to scientific knowledge
- Species checklists completed for all tours and shared with all participants
- Bird sightings shared to eBird — a global citizen science project
- Key species and new species reported to iNaturalist and the Atlas of Living Australia
- Special endangered species counts and reporting (eg. Black-flanked Rock-Wallaby counts in the Cape Range National Park)
Feedback tools : enabling ongoing empowerment
One of the most effective ways of ensuring guests remain empowered is to provide ongoing ways to provide collaboration and feedback on things learnt or found on tour.
At Echidna Walkabout we use simple online tools that are available to anyone who has access to the internet. A very successful example is our Shared Photo Albums that we generate for most tours.
These albums enable participants to upload wildlife photos and landscape shots — and comment on them — both during and after a tour. Albums remain open and in use for months and sometimes years after the tour.
Koala Clancy Foundation : helping koalas
KCF was set up by Echidna Walkabout as a not-for-profit that aims to “inspire travellers and local communities to help ensure a future for wild koalas”. Tour participants have donated tens of thousands of dollars to the Foundation through direct donations and through their efforts planting trees and advocating for koalas.
KCF is recognised throughout the world for its conservation work. As of October 2022 KCF’s achievements include:
- ground-breaking research that helped prove koalas drink “stem flow”.
- 650 volunteers participated so far in 2022
- 89,765 Koala trees planted since 2016
- 27,540 Koala trees planted in 2022 You Yangs season
- 2.9 million Boneseed weeds removed
Australian Wildlife Journeys : collaboration across the nation
As a founding member of AWJ, Echidna Walkabout has played a leading role in building conservation and citizen science programs that are operated both in collaboration with other AWJ members and with the wider tourism community including:
- Carbon reduction and sustainable development initiatives
- AWJ’s “Sustainability : Collective Impact Kit”
- Key Species tracking through in-vehicle QR coded lists enabling guests to link sightings of key species to AWJ’s iNaturalist portal
Climate Change : the global challenge
Echidna Walkabout proudly advocates for immediate action on climate change. You can read more about our efforts here: Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency and my story on the Conservation Travel Australia website: COP26 – travel industry unites against climate change
Collaboration with Australian Geographic Travel
Echidna Walkabout is proud of our collaboration with Australia’s highly respected Australian Geographic Society, a not-for-profit wing of the Australian Geographic magazine. A percentage of the profits from our tours for Australian Geographic Travel goes towards conservation efforts organised by the AG Society.