Location
Margaret River, Western Australia
Date
1-3 December 2020

HomeSpeakers

Sera Steves

Owner, Aussie Walks and Wonders

Sera Steves

Abstract

Co-presenter of: Wildlife Tourism: evolving to meet present and future challenges and opportunities

Presenting with Maree Treadwell Kerr.

Our presentation will define and describe wildlife tourism and how it overlaps and intercepts with ecotourism and discuss the environmental, social, cultural, and economic challenges to sustainable wildlife experiences.

Wildlife tourism can include captive wildlife and consumptive practices (hunting and fishing) and is not necessarily educational. Wildlife Tourism Australia (WTA) was born out of the CRC for Sustainable Tourism, but from the outset decided not to include consumptive uses. Its objective is to promote the sustainable use of a diverse wildlife tourism industry, including well-run captive settings, that supports conservation and encourages high quality interpretation.

Challenges to this can be cultural, economic, or environmental. Examples of unsustainable visitor expectations are when visitors are encouraged or allowed to take selfies with wildlife which can result in injury or death of said animal, including culling if the animal becomes aggressive, or in wasted energy or abandonment of good feeding grounds by a frightened animal. An example of negative environmental and cultural impacts would be so-called “Eco resorts” that ignore and crowd out host communities, greenwash instead of truly minimising impacts on fauna and flora, and offer poor interpretation.

Visitor perspectives are impacted by the loss of species due to current and future climate change and ongoing habitat destruction. We will give further examples of these challenges and how the sustainable nature tourism industry can evolve and assist in mitigating impacts using a case study of an urban species affected by climate change that is still unrecognised for its tourism potential. 

Biography

Sera is the owner and sole operator of Aussie Walks and Wonders, a hiking focused adventure tourism business in FNQ and is on the executive committee of Wildlife Tourism Australia (WTA). She holds a degree in Biology and Psychology with an Ethology focus and is currently working on her masters in Zoology and Ecology including research on crocodiles and blossom-bats. Sera has been in the zoo industry for 12 years working in both Australia and the United States as a zookeeper, animal trainer and wildlife presenter. Her main focus is birds and reptiles but bats have been an interest of hers since she was a child. Sera is promoting bats and tourism using a model developed by Bat Conservation International in her home state of Texas. Sera believes effective conservation includes ecotourism opportunities.

Current projects include development of a virtual reality flying-fox experience and the Australian Bat Tourism Trail.