Relatively little research attention has been dedicated to understanding aspects of the viewing platform from which animals are observed in the wild, and how it bears upon all elements of the wildlife tourism phenomenon. This paper adopts Duffus and Dearden's (1990) conceptual framework as a basis to highlight an urgent need for empirical research into wildlife viewing platforms as they relate to site users, focal animals (both individuals and groups of animals) and the ecology of the sites where visitors observe animals in the wild. To date a lack of empirical research effort has focused on the viewing platform, or even incorporated the viewing platform into research design as an element of analysis. This paper reviews what is known about the viewing platform, much of it anecdotal. Recent research that provides insights into the human and ecological dimensions of wildlife viewing platforms is reviewed. A call for further research into the social and ecological dimensions of wildlife observation is then advocated with a consideration of research questions relating to wildlife viewing platforms that emerge in each of the three key dimensions highlighted by Duffus and Dearden (1990). The paper concludes with a call for a dedicated research effort to understand aspects of the viewing platform, and how it might inform the sustainable management of human interactions with wild animals.
- viewing platforms
- site users