Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Voluntouring Opportunity

By Jan Barrie

An opportunity to help golden bandicoots in north-western WA in May.

In a new ‘voluntourism’ initiative between government and private enterprise, the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) and tour operator Global Gypsies are offering environmentally conscious holiday-makers the opportunity to assist DEC with its fauna research and monitoring projects while enjoying escorted and catered 4WD outback tours.

The “Science Safaris” to various DEC-managed parks and reserves will be coordinated by Global Gypsies while DEC will provide the scientific expertise to coordinate and supervise various tasks and assignments for tour participants. A percentage of the proceeds will be donated to DEC’s Operation Rangelands Restoration project. Two safaris are scheduled this year in May and September.

The inaugural Science Safari will take place on May 14 – 23. A base camp will be established at Lorna Glen, a proposed conservation reserve in northwest Western Australia about 165 kms from Wiluna. The timing of the tour will coincide with DEC’s first release of golden bandicoots into the wild at Lorna Glen – a project with which the ‘voluntourists’ will be actively involved.

DEC scientific staff in charge of the release will be Keith Morris, Senior Principal Research Scientist and head of the Fauna Conservation Program, and Colleen Sims, Research Scientist. Tasks they will be assigning tour participants will include:

• assisting with the release of the golden bandicoots
• monitoring the animals’ progress after release
• helping to set up animal monitoring/trapping stations
• checking the monitoring stations
• assisting with the administrative tasks of radio-collaring the animals
• night tracking of the bandicoots
• recording images captured on ‘critter cams’
• cleaning cages, homestead and other areas.

The escorted and catered tour will be run ‘tag-along style’ with 4WD vehicles travelling in a small convoy led by Jeremy Perks, a former Tour Guide of the Year. The escort vehicle will be equipped with 4WD recovery gear, GPS, satellite phone and first-aid kit. Participants will need to have robust 4WD vehicles and two way radios. Accommodation will be camping with clients providing their own equipment. Quality catering will be provided by experienced Safari Hostess Rebina Criddle.

In addition to assisting DEC with its fieldwork, there will be time to relax and enjoy the area, go bushwalking, go on 4WD excursions, take photographs, sketch or paint. There may also be the opportunity to observe an ornithologist working with wedge tailed eagles and a student researcher examining the ecology of the mulgara, one of the dasyurid marsupials that occur on Lorna Glen.

The cost of the safari is $2500 per person including catering, camping fees, scientific activities and GST.

Global Gypsies recently won a gold medal at the prestigious Tourism Council Awards in the Adventure Tourism category for its ‘tag-along tours’.

Company Directors Jeremy Perks and Jan Barrie said, “We have been looking for an appropriate ‘voluntourism’ project for some time that benefits WA and is in keeping with our commitment to the environment. We enjoy a close working relationship with DEC and are delighted that we will be able to assist the Department with its projects in the field. These new ‘voluntours’ are the ideal choice for holiday-makers who want to make a difference. ”

Keith Morris said, “We are very excited about the first bandicoot release at Lorna Glen and are confident that with effective fox and feral cat control and appropriate fire management the animals will have a good chance of establishing.

“The bandicoots will be sourced from healthy populations on off-shore islands and when released will be fitted with small radio transmitters and monitored continuously for at least three months. Radio-tracking, together with an ongoing trapping program, will provide valuable information about their survival, breeding, home range, dispersal, diet and habitat utilisation and population dynamics. The sandy roads and tracks in the release area will also be used to monitor animal activity through track counts.

“The assistance of tour participants will be invaluable and we are looking forward to involving Global Gypsies and their clients in this important conservation and rehabilitation program.”

For further information please contact Global Gypsies on 9341-6727; email; website: .