FROM DEPLETION TO REGENERATION – THE TOUR LETTING TRAVELLERS SAVE KOALA HABITATS

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Gracing the Eyre Peninsula region, Mikkira Station marks the perimeter of a secluded private property where an array of native flora and fauna seek sanctuary. Its quiet surrounds mean kangaroos, emus, koalas, and echidnas have free reign in this small pocket of South Australia just for themselves.

When Craig ‘Hassie’ Haslam and the Untamed Escapes team bring travellers to appreciate these animals, it’s about striking the perfect balance between giving them the space to roam comfortably, all while staying just close enough to have the privilege of witnessing them. Their extensive experience in South Australia, and Hassie’s affinity for gripping storytelling, makes them the experts in taking travellers on the journey through Mikkira Station’s untouched beauty.

ResizedImage350241 Koala Mikkira close up

For koala lovers, Mikkira Station’s tranquil expanse is home to the only koalas that can be found in the Eyre Peninsula, reaching a population of around 170. But it wasn’t always that way.

Upon white settlement in South Australia, the clearing of eucalyptus forests for agriculture put pressure on its koala population, accelerated by an increasingly popular koala fur trade that was believed to eradicate koalas from the region. Between 1923 and 1925, 18 koalas were introduced to the Eyre Peninsula region to counteract the damage done.

Today, the population continues to grow, but they still need our help as invasive plants damage vegetation and displace koalas. But how can we help?

ResizedImage350262 Koala and joey at Mikkira

Untamed Escapes’ new 6 Day Eyre Peninsula & Flinders Ranges Adventure Tour is an immersive South Australian adventure to remember with a koala conservation twist. Between the surfing, breathtaking landscapes, camping under the stars, and swimming with sea lions, travellers will band together to spend half a day planting trees or removing the weeds that threaten koala habitats at Mikkira Station. It’s not often tourists come away from their holiday knowing their efforts have left the natural environment better, but for the Untamed Escapes team, letting tourists contribute habitat regeneration was a no-brainer.

“Ecotourism and regeneration is in the DNA of the business,” stated Hassie. Whether people simply become aware of the state of koalas in the Eyre Peninsula or want to get hands-on to make a difference, Hassie explained that education was the driving force behind their conservation mission.

So what was the catalyst that brought this unique initiative into action?

ResizedImage350233 Koala Mikkira 1

“It was the bushfires,” said Business Development and Marketing Manager Anna Heaton, describing how an idea to add a conservation element to their tour floated around in conversation for a few years before the devastating effect of the 2019/20 bushfires spurred an urgency to revive koala habitats stronger than ever. Now koalas would have to overcome a loss of habitat, as well as the invasive plants populating the Eyre Peninsula dominating the vegetation koalas depend upon.

Two species of plants introduced to Australia have been identified as the main culprits: Polygala and the African Daisy. These resilient weeds regenerate quickly when their habitats are disturbed by fires of land clearing and dominate koala habitats. Thankfully, mitigating their implications for the surrounding environment is as simple as pulling these weeds out.

ResizedImage350262 Koala Mikkira

Untamed Escapes had valuable minds contributing to curating this habitat rehabilitation experience for travellers. One was Geoff Rayson, an influential force in environmental regeneration who played an integral role in establishing Port Lincoln National Park in a previous role. Five years from retirement, Geoff asked Hassie for the opportunity to continue developing regeneration initiatives for Untamed Escapes for the remainder of his career – and Hassie listened. Geoff is excited to develop even more new programs for the Untamed Escapes team into the future.

The koala habitat regeneration program is the embodiment of Hassie’s philosophy, which he has carried with him throughout his illustrious ecotourism career: “We’ve all got a responsibility to say, however we leave this planet, whatever we do, let’s just make sure we leave it better.”

Nature’s transformative effect on travellers just became that much more rewarding. How could you beat that?

 

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Travel Dates – November 2021 to March 31 2022
Booking Dates – until 30 November 2021
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[All photos courtesy of Untamed Escapes]

THESE WILDLIFE CORRIDORS WILL KEEP SQUIRREL GLIDERS SAFE IN THE SCENIC RIM

South East Queensland is teeming with unique wildlife, giving the region its character and attracting tourists internationally to see what it has in store. The Scenic Rim only adds to its charm and is currently applying for ECO Destination Certification. It’s no small feat to put in place sustainability practices in the community to achieve such a title.

While much of the Scenic Rim’s tall rainforests and wet sclerophyll forests are protected under the region’s national parks program, most of its lower-lying landscapes are privately owned and out of the control of conservation organisations. Habitat interference on private properties varies from intrusive to destructive, with some landowners saving small pockets of natural habitat while others leave properties completely bare.

Man on a ladder adjusting a wooden bird nesting box nailed to a tree

[Photo: Scenic Rim Wildlife Corridor (Glider Pole and Nest Box)]

Thankfully, one leading voice for biodiversity and ecotourism sought to make a change. Dr Ronda Green, as chair of the Scenic Rim branch of the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland, is seeking to end the ripple effect of land clearing on private properties to preserve the region’s unique wildlife. 

 “Animals often need to move,” said Ronda, emphasising the importance of undisturbed movement around properties, “either daily between sleeping and feeding areas, for seasonal migrations, or opportunistically.” 

Animals like squirrel gliders and grey-crowned babblers are familiar to the drier eucalyptus forests scattered through the lower-altitude valleys of the Scenic Rim, relying on them for mobility when certain areas are affected by drought or when different plants fruit or flower. 

But undisturbed movement through forests isn’t just part of day-to-day survival; it helps animals escape natural disasters like bushfires. 

That’s why Ronda is conducting a project that fosters safe movement for wildlife – through creating wildlife corridors in the Scenic Rim. 

But what are wildlife corridors? 

Map of where the proposed corridors will be created in the Scenic Rim

[Photo: BioGeo (Scenic Rim Wildlife Corridors)]

When infrastructure, roads, or in this case land clearing divide ecosystems, wildlife don’t have the space to migrate, find food, or mate. Building designated areas for wildlife to roam, or wildlife corridors, ensures safe passage to access the vital resources they need to survive while living amongst communities. 

For preservation, for sustainability and for species survival, they are essential. 

These wildlife corridors have other benefits too, as Ronda explains. For example, they help biodiversity flourish:

“If there is in fact a fire, extended drought, or other natural or man-made disasters [that] cause the loss of any species, the corridors will enhance the possibility of a natural re-colonisation by that species,” stated Ronda. “[The] ability to move between habitat remnants increases the chances of genetic exchange between [species], thus guarding against the potential deleterious effects of inbreeding.” 

Eventually, the team will conduct fauna surveys to compare oil future years to see if the corridors are effective. 

Two women planting small trees in the ground

[Photo: Scenic Rim Wildlife Corridor]

While COVID has created barriers to community involvement in the project, the project has received federal grants from Communities Environment Program and  LandCare which have been incredibly helpful in allowing the program to reach its full potential. Major contributors bringing the project together are a dedicated team of volunteers, however Ronda has high hopes ecotourism will contribute to the program’s success soon. 

“As soon as we can start running our tours again we intend for that to happen,” Ronda stated. 

“We remain hopeful that the [COVID] situation will gradually ease and that 2022 will bring more tours that include some willing helpers, and perhaps even guests from New Zealand and beyond by the end of that year.”

Araucaria Ecotours QLD 9

[Photo: Araucaria Ecotours]

As well as building wildlife corridors, Dr Ronda Green is the co-founder of Advanced Ecotourism certified and Hall of Fame entrant Araucaria Ecotours, specialising in giving tourists an expert insight into south-east Queensland’s wildlife using decades of experience as a research ecologist. Her hope for travellers to help this project flourish is through “tourists spending a bit of time as volunteer citizen scientists helping us look for wildlife in our study areas.” 

Ronda’s wildlife conservation work as a trusted member of the International Biodiversity Working Group within the TAPAS Group (Tourism and Protected AreaS) of IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature), Chair of Wildlife Tourism Australia, and Chair of the Scenic Rim branch of the Wildlife Preservation Society of Australia, embodies the intertwined nature of ecotourism and wildlife conservation as a marriage of overlapping ideas and values.  

Are you able to volunteer to create wildlife corridors in the Scenic Rim? Visit the Scenic Rim Wildlife Corridor website for more information. 

 

[Cover photo: Scenic Rim Wildlife Corridor]

THESE WILDLIFE CORRIDORS WILL KEEP SUGAR GLIDERS SAFE IN THE SCENIC RIM

South East Queensland is teeming with unique wildlife, giving the region its character and attracting tourists internationally to see what it has in store. The Scenic Rim only adds to its charm, and is currently applying for ECO Destination Certification. It’s no small feat to put in place sustainability practices in the community to achieve such a title.

While much of the Scenic Rim’s tall rainforests and wet sclerophyll forests are protected under the region’s national parks program, most of its lower-lying landscapes are privately owned and out of the control of conservation organisations. Habitat interference on private properties varies from intrusive to destructive, with some landowners saving small pockets of natural habitat while others leave properties completely bare.

Man on a ladder adjusting a wooden bird nesting box nailed to a tree

[Photo: Scenic Rim Wildlife Corridor (Glider Pole and Nest Box)]

Thankfully, one leading voice for biodiversity and ecotourism sought to make a change. Ronda Green, in association with the Wildlife Preservation Society of Australia, is seeking to end the ripple effect of land clearing on private properties to preserve the region’s unique wildlife. 

 “Animals often need to move,” said Ronda, emphasising the importance of undisturbed movement around properties, “either daily between sleeping and feeding areas, for seasonal migrations, or opportunistically.” 

Animals like sugar gliders and grey-crowned babblers are familiar to the drier eucalyptus forests scattered through the lower-altitude valleys of the Scenic Rim, relying on them for mobility when certain areas are affected by drought or when different plants fruit or flower. 

But undisturbed movement through forests isn’t just part of day-to-day survival; it helps animals escape natural disasters like bushfires. 

That’s why Ronda is conducting a project that fosters safe movement for wildlife – through creating wildlife corridors in the Scenic Rim. 

But what are wildlife corridors? 

Map of where the proposed corridors will be created in the Scenic Rim

[Photo: BioGeo (Scenic Rim Wildlife Corridors)]

When infrastructure, roads, or in this case land clearing divide ecosystems, wildlife don’t have the space to migrate, find food, or mate. Building designated areas for wildlife to roam, or wildlife corridors, ensures safe passage to access the vital resources they need to survive while living amongst communities. 

For preservation, for sustainability and for species survival, they are essential. 

These wildlife corridors have other benefits too, as Ronda explains. For example, they help biodiversity flourish:

“If there is in fact a fire, extended drought, or other natural or man-made disasters [that] cause the loss of any species, the corridors will enhance the possibility of a natural re-colonisation by that species,” stated Ronda. “[The] ability to move between habitat remnants increases the chances of genetic exchange between [species], thus guarding against the potential deleterious effects of inbreeding.” 

Two women planting small trees in the ground

[Photo: Scenic Rim Wildlife Corridor]

COVID has created barriers to community involvement in the project, however Ronda has high hopes that ecotourism will help contribute to the development of these corridors. 

“As soon as we can start running our tours again we intend for that to happen,” Ronda stated. 

“We remain hopeful that the [COVID] situation will gradually ease and that 2022 will bring more tours that include some willing helpers, and perhaps even guests from New Zealand and beyond by the end of that year.”

Araucaria Ecotours QLD 9

[Photo: Araucaria Ecotours]

As well as building wildlife corridors, Ronda is the co-founder of Advanced Ecotourism certified and Hall of Fame entrant Araucaria Ecotours, specialising in giving tourists an expert insight into south-east Queensland’s wildlife using decades of experience as a research ecologist. Her hope for travellers to help this project flourish is through “tourists spending a bit of time as volunteer citizen scientists helping us look for wildlife in our study areas.” 

Ronda’s wildlife conservation work as a trusted member of the International Biodiversity Working Group within the TAPAS Group (Tourism and Protected AreaS) of IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature), Chair of Wildlife Tourism Australia, and Chair of the Scenic Rim branch of the Wildlife Preservation Society of Australia, embodies the intertwined nature of ecotourism and wildlife conservation as a marriage of overlapping ideas and values.  

Are you able to volunteer to create wildlife corridors in the Scenic Rim? Visit the Scenic Rim Wildlife Corridor website for more information. 

 

[Cover photo: O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat (Moonlight Crag)]

MEDIA RELEASE: ECOTOURISM AUSTRALIA CEO ROD HILLMAN RESIGNS AFTER NINE YEARS

Rod Hillman, CEO of Ecotourism Australia (EA), has announced his resignation today during the organisation’s Annual General Meeting (AGM), after almost nine years as its Chief Executive.

The Chair, Claire Ellis, and Board of Directors wish him all the best in his future work and thank him for the massive contribution he has made to Ecotourism Australia.
During his tenure, Rod significantly strengthened the organisation, introducing new programs, forging new partnerships and building up the organisation’s strong and professional team.

He leaves the organisation in a strong and secure financial position, having built a mutually beneficial partnership with the protected area management agencies around Australia and introduced the ECO Destinations program.

Rod also led the organisation’s transition to run its programs 100% online and further cemented the international and national recognition of the value and quality of Ecotourism Australia’s certification programs.

Despite the difficulties that COVID, and before that drought, bushfires and other natural disasters placed on Ecotourism Australia members, Rod continually led improvement and change, helping shift the organisation from being seen as a certification business to an organisation that leads and supports the industry to improve.

An example of this is the recent partnership with WWF-Australia, which uses the ECO Destination program to sustainably develop regions impacted by bushfires and help contribute to their resilience.
Ecotourism Australia Chair, Claire Ellis, said a testimony to Rod’s achievements was the ongoing strength of the organisation’s membership levels, with 50% of certified members having been certified for ten years or longer.

“Ecotourism Australia is currently undergoing a number of major changes,” Claire added.
“Ecotourism Australia’s new vision and strategic planning will allow us to deliver even greater value to our members and build on the solid platform Rod has created to provide the thought leadership the industry is seeking around sustainability – a current major global and domestic trend.

“While his drive and commitment to the role and the organisation will be missed, the Ecotourism Australia Board and staff wish him well, knowing he will continue to be a passionate supporter of Australia’s nature-based tourism industry,” she said.

Rod leaves the organisation in a strong position. The recruitment process for his replacement is starting immediately and an advert will appear on SEEK within the next few days.

The updated list of Ecotourism Australia Board members, as also voted during today’s AGM, is available here.

 

END