New Species Of Gecko Discovered At Cobbold Gorge

Newly Advanced Ecotourism certified operator, Cobbold Gorge Tours, has recently made the news as two new species of gecko have been discovered in the Cobbold Gorge Nature Refuge. The two new species were discovered in May by scientists from Australian National University (ANU), who work collaboratively with Cobbold Gorge Tours to classify and register fauna in the area.

Gaye Bourke from ANU’s Research School of Biology says the recent discovery has been an exciting find, as the two new species are genetically distinctive, “The genetic data indicates that the geckos from this area are distinct from the common and widespread group of striped geckos they resemble, but there are differences in scales and colour patterns” she said.

“The individuals from this region are strikingly different genetically… We are still working on the physical examination of the genetically distinct geckos and hope to name and publish full descriptions of these groups as new species in coming months.”

The find is also a positive indication that there may be more unidentified species to find in Far North Queensland, and brings greater understanding of the biodiversity of the Gorge. The remote Jurassic, sandstone gorge environment provides an ideal habitat for geckos, the recesses in the sandstone providing refuge from the elements.

Bourke also noted, “Understanding the biodiversity of an area can also assist in land management.”

Working collaboratively with Universities, National Parks and Government Agencies can be a great way for tourism operators to become involved with research projects and conservation efforts for the environment in which they operate, and a great opportunity to work together toward sustainable management of our valuable ecosystems.

Cobbold Gorge is situated deep in the heart of the Gulf Savannah region of Far North Queensland, only a six hour drive from Cairns and Townsville. Cobbold Village offers all of your modern comforts, as well as modern ensuite cabin accommodation, and RV and caravan friendly camping facilities. Cobbold Gorge Tours provides guests the opportunity to explore the unique environment and Nature Refuge, which boasts a spectacular landscape, and North Queensland wildlife and birdwatching, for the ultimate Outback Queensland experience.

Read more about the discovery of the two new species of gecko here.

Find out more about Cobbold Gorge Tours’ ECO certification here and visit their website here.

Cobbold Gorge Tours Achieve Advanced Ecotourism Certification

Congratulations to Cobbold Gorge Tours for achieving Advanced Ecotourism certification for their tour products and accommodation.

Cobbold Gorge tours has achieved Advanced Ecotourism certification for:

  • Cobbold Gorge Tour
  • The Ultimate Outback Adventure Tour
  • Robin Hood Cattle Station Experience
  • Cobbold Gorge Village (Accommodation)

Cobbold Gorge is situated deep in the heart of the Gulf Savannah region of Far North Queensland, only a six hour drive from Cairns and Townsville. Cobbold Village offers all of your modern comforts, as well as modern en suite cabin accommodation, and RV and caravan friendly camping facilities, while the unique environment boasts a spectacular landscape, North Queensland wildlife and birdwatching, for the ultimate Outback Queensland experience.

The protected Cobbold Gorge area is accessible only by guided tour. Cobbold Gorge Tours take guests to explore the ancient geological landforms on their awe-inspiring and educational, guided tours of the vast sandstone gorge. Then to ice the cake of your outback experience, the Robin Hood Cattle Station Experience offers a rare opportunity to experience life on a working cattle station! Cobbold Gorge is an ideal weekender destination for the whole family to enjoy.

In the establishment of Cobbold Gorge Tours the main criterion was, and is to this day, that the operation is conducted with minimum impact on the environment. In line with this commitment, they conduct their business in accordance to an outstanding and strict Environmental Policy. The 4720 hectare Cobbold Gorge Nature Refuge was established in 2009 through a voluntary, formal agreement with the Queensland Government. The agreement acknowledges a commitment to manage and preserve the land, which holds significant conservation and cultural values, while allowing them compatible and sustainable land uses to operate their business. Cobbold Gorge Tours is also an accredited Savannah Guides Station, whereby accredited guides foster ecologically sustainable, interpretive tourism and demonstrate high standards of operation. They also work in collaboration with Australian National University to classify and register fauna in the Cobbold Gorge Nature Refuge, which has lead to the discovery of a previously unidentified species of velvet tailed gecko which is to be named in honour of Cobbold Gorge. Through these efforts, their Advanced Ecotourism certification has been well-deserved.

To find out more about Cobbold Gorge Tours, please visit their website.

Image: Cobbold Gorge Staff proudly showing off their Advanced Ecotourism certificate

Congratulations To South West Eco Discoveries

Congratulations to South West Eco Discoveries for achieving Nature Tourism Certification for their Eco Tours.

South West Eco Discoveries are a new tour operator based out of Abbey, WA with their half day Eco Tours taking guests through the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park in WA’s Margaret River region. Tours operate all year round and are tailored to suit each season to ensure guests always receive the best experience possible.

Owned and operated by brothers and experienced guides, Michael and Ryan White, with a life-time of local knowledge to share, South West Eco Discoveries pride themselves on providing comfortable, well-catered tours that focus on the natural environment. Obtaining Nature Tourism certification right off the bat, they strive to keep their environmental impact to a bare minimum and keep in close communication with the National Park to help achieve their conservation goals.

South West Eco Discoveries has a deep respect for the natural environment in which they operate, and they are passionate about helping guests appreciate the ecological vulnerability of the National Park. During tours Michael and Ryan share their knowledge and educate their guests on how they can reduce their impact and contribute positively to the environment. This remains at the core of their business and is evident right through from their SATRA tested footwear, to recycling old abalone shells caught by professional fishermen to use as souvenirs, to Michael’s involvement with the WA Department of Parks and Wildlife as a volunteer reptile handler.

To find out more about South West Eco Discoveries, visit their website.

Audit Program Progress

In July last year Ecotourism Australian launched our audit partnership with Conservation Volunteers Australia. Since that time the extensive audit program has rolled out across the country and to date, 67 audits of certified operators have been completed across Victoria, the Northern Territory, New South Wales, Queensland, and Tasmania, with more planned!

The purpose of these on-site audits is to monitor and maintain compliance of our operators in keeping with the core requirements of the our Certification Programs, which stipulate that on-site audits must be conducted. The audit process also provides a great opportunity for operators to engage with an experienced and knowledgeable expert in the ecotourism industry. It also offers the perfect opportunity for operators to speak with a tourism and environmental specialist, seek advice and feedback on current or planned initiatives, and showcase their hard work. All auditors have undergone formal audit qualifications and have significant experience in tourism and environmental management. To ensure impartiality and transparency all auditors are independent third parties contracted and managed through Conservation Volunteers Australia.

Conservation Volunteers is Australasia’s leading practical conservation organisation, having partnered with individuals, businesses and governments to manage conservation projects across Australia and New Zealand since 1982. They manage volunteer programs around Australia and across the world, supporting volunteer participation in a diverse range of important projects to protect and enhance our environment. Their experience and expertise in environmental management makes them the perfect partner to manage the onsite audit program for our certification programs.

Feedback from audited operators has been very positive and the auditors have been impressed with the quality of certified operators. Through the implementation and completion of audits the integrity and vigor of Ecotourism Australia’s certification programs are upheld.

If you would like to know more about our audit partnership with Conservation Volunteers, please contact our office.

(Pictured: Consevation Volunteers in action)

Congratulations to Dolphin Swim Australia

Congratulations to Dolphin Swim Australia for achieving Ecotourism Certification for their innovative tours that offer dolphins the opportunity to swim with humans!

Situated at Nelson Bay NSW, north of Sydney, Dolphin Swim Australia (DSA) provides a once in a lifetime experience for guests to jump into the wild world of oceanic dolphins within the Port Stephens-Great Lakes Marine Park. The unique approach to wild dolphin swims incorporates innovative approach techniques never before seen in the industry, with the over-arching difference being that the dolphins choose to swim to with humans! The program has been subject to stringent monitoring and compliance operations to ensure that no harm comes to the dolphins, or any other marine life, or any guests.

The “swim with” experience offered by DSA took over four years to develop, with extensive in-house monitoring and research on the dolphin population, the development of an independent and ongoing monitoring and research project by dolphin expert, Dr Carol Scarpaci, from Victoria University, and in close collaboration with the Marine Park Authority NSW and the NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service.

Each of DSA’s certified tours take place on the vessel, Imagine, which avoids disturbance to marine-life with it’s low-level engine noise and shrouded propellers, and has been fitted with rope rigging between its two bows. Guests are harnessed to the rope and the “swim with” experience occurs if the wild dolphins decide to entertain themselves by swimming to the boat, bow-riding and investigating the humans.

DSA operates to a strict environmental management plan to protect the dolphins and other marine life, and the delicate ecosystem in which they operate. Through the stringent processes involved with the planning of DSA, they have become closely involved with wild dolphin research in collaboration with NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service and Victoria University, and their goal is to educate all guests on the dolphins they encounter, as well as the broader marine ecosystem and marine park environment.

Dolphin Swim Australia has achieved Ecotourism certification for their tours; Wild Dolphin Swim, and The Best Wild Dolphin Watch on Planet Earth. To find out more about them, or to explore availability, please visit their website.

Geelong to host Wildlife Tourism Conference, September/October 2015

Geelong, Victoria will play host to Australia’s third National Wildlife Tourism Conference later this year, with this years conference theme “Wildlife Tourism: A Force for Biodiversity Conservation and Local Economies?”

What: Australia’s third National Wildlife Tourism Conference
Theme: “Wildlife Tourism: A Force for Biodiversity Conservation and Local Economies?”
When: 29 September to 2 October 2015
Where: Geelong, Victoria

REGISTRATION NOW OPEN

Wildlife tourism is an important aspect of tourism, often offering experiences unique to the area visited. It includes viewing birds, whales, butterflies, kangaroos and other wildlife behaving naturally in their own habitats in the wild, well-run captive situations with native and other animals, and other wildlife experiences that can grab the imagination of all tourists or appeal to the specialist. It has the potential to provide employment in regional areas, stimulate local economies by encouraging tourists to spend an extra night (or week ), and support conservation by restoring or protecting habitat, breeding rare species, contributing financially or practically to conservation and research projects, or providing quality public education.

The structure of the conference will largely be presentations in the mornings and roundtable discussions in the afternoons – a structure that has proved successful and popular in previous workshops.

Major themes will include:

International aspects

  • How do other countries asses the value of, promote and manage wildlife tourism? What problems have they faced and what solutions have they found?
  • Which associations perform a similar role to Wildlife Tourism Australia in other countries, and what are their goals and activities?
  • What is new in wildlife tourism in our our nearest neighbours (New Zealand, New Guinea, Southeast Asia, Antarctica), and could there be more cross-promotion of wildlife travel between our countries, and promotion of our general region to the rest of the world?

Contributions of tourism to conservation

  • How are tour operations currently contributing to conservation of wildlife and their habitats (including monetary contributions, habitat restoration, public education, conservation breeding, citizen science etc.)?
  • What is the potential for increased contribution by wildlife tourism and the tourism industry in general to conservation of wildlife and habitats?

The value of wildlife tourism to local economies

  • What do we already know of the contributions of wildlife tourism to local and regional economies?
  • What kinds of wildlife tourism can encourage tourists to visit less-traveled regions, spend an extra night , or make repeat visits?
  • What obstacles are faced by small businesses and NGOs trying to stay afloat while offering high-quality wildlife experiences and interpretation to visitors?

CALL FOR ABSTRACTS – NOW OPEN

Who should attend?

  • Wildlife tour operators (including birding tours, whale-watching, reef-diving etc.)
  • Managers and other staff of ecolodges, rural B&Bs, farmstays etc. who offer bird-watching or other wildlife experiences
    general tour operators and guides who include wildlife-watching amongst their activities
  • Zoos, wildlife parks and museums
  • Researchers and students of wildlife tourism, ecotourism, nature tourism, nature interpretation/education and related topics
  • Conservation managers
  • Travel agents and tourism organizations
  • Local and state government bodies
  • Others with an interest in tourism which involves wildlife

To read more about the event, please click here.

(Image courtesy of Tourism Australia)

Geelong, Victoria will play host to Australia’s third National Wildlife Tourism Conference later this year, with this years conference theme “Wildlife Tourism: A Force for Biodiversity Conservation and Local Economies?”

What: Australia’s third National Wildlife Tourism Conference
Theme: “Wildlife Tourism: A Force for Biodiversity Conservation and Local Economies?”
When: 29 September to 2 October 2015
Where: Geelong, Victoria

REGISTRATION NOW OPEN

Wildlife tourism is an important aspect of tourism, often offering experiences unique to the area visited. It includes viewing birds, whales, butterflies, kangaroos and other wildlife behaving naturally in their own habitats in the wild, well-run captive situations with native and other animals, and other wildlife experiences that can grab the imagination of all tourists or appeal to the specialist. It has the potential to provide employment in regional areas, stimulate local economies by encouraging tourists to spend an extra night (or week ), and support conservation by restoring or protecting habitat, breeding rare species, contributing financially or practically to conservation and research projects, or providing quality public education.

The structure of the conference will largely be presentations in the mornings and roundtable discussions in the afternoons – a structure that has proved successful and popular in previous workshops.

Major themes will include:

International aspects

  • How do other countries asses the value of, promote and manage wildlife tourism? What problems have they faced and what solutions have they found?
  • Which associations perform a similar role to Wildlife Tourism Australia in other countries, and what are their goals and activities?
  • What is new in wildlife tourism in our our nearest neighbours (New Zealand, New Guinea, Southeast Asia, Antarctica), and could there be more cross-promotion of wildlife travel between our countries, and promotion of our general region to the rest of the world?

Contributions of tourism to conservation

  • How are tour operations currently contributing to conservation of wildlife and their habitats (including monetary contributions, habitat restoration, public education, conservation breeding, citizen science etc.)?
  • What is the potential for increased contribution by wildlife tourism and the tourism industry in general to conservation of wildlife and habitats?

The value of wildlife tourism to local economies

  • What do we already know of the contributions of wildlife tourism to local and regional economies?
  • What kinds of wildlife tourism can encourage tourists to visit less-traveled regions, spend an extra night , or make repeat visits?
  • What obstacles are faced by small businesses and NGOs trying to stay afloat while offering high-quality wildlife experiences and interpretation to visitors?

CALL FOR ABSTRACTS – NOW OPEN

Who should attend?

  • Wildlife tour operators (including birding tours, whale-watching, reef-diving etc.)
  • Managers and other staff of ecolodges, rural B&Bs, farmstays etc. who offer bird-watching or other wildlife experiences
    general tour operators and guides who include wildlife-watching amongst their activities
  • Zoos, wildlife parks and museums
  • Researchers and students of wildlife tourism, ecotourism, nature tourism, nature interpretation/education and related topics
  • Conservation managers
  • Travel agents and tourism organizations
  • Local and state government bodies
  • Others with an interest in tourism which involves wildlife

To read more about the event, please click here.

(Image courtesy of Tourism Australia)

Congratulations To Straddie Camping

Congratulations to Straddie Camping on achieving the trifecta of Ecotourism Australia certification: Advanced Ecotourism, Respecting Our Culture, and Climate Action Business certifications!

Straddie Camping offers a diverse range of camping and accommodation options across various locations on North Stradbroke Island. They have just achieved Advanced Ecotourism certification for their campsites at Cylinder Beach, Adder Rock and Amity Point. Straddie Camping offer a more ‘back to nature’ camping getaway, with hundreds of powered and un-powered camping sites nestled among sand dunes overlooking the island’s iconic beaches.

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Straddie Camping are dedicated to protecting their environment, are actively working towards neutralising their carbon footprint, and have recently implemented a carbon offset option for all guests. They are also heavily engaged with the local Quandamooka community and offer a number of cultural experiences run by Indigenous guides, including interactive and educational demonstrations by local Indigenous artists and storytellers.

“Through consultations with our Elders and the Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation, we work together to protect our lands and sea country in many ways, including taking part in cultural heritage management, Environmental Impact Assessments, negotiating over developments, educating the public and maintaining land and sea management responsibilities. Caring for our Country is our business.”

North Stradbroke Island is accessible by Ferry, and is an easy drive from both Brisbane and the Gold Coast, making it a fantastic weekender destination, but the Island has so much to offer, you’ll want to make it an extended getaway!

Find out more here: http://www.straddiecamping.com.au/home

Learn more about Ecotourism Australia’s certification programs here.