Mass Audubon Tours
Mission of Mass Audubon's Travel Program
We provide members with safe and educational tours featuring strong natural history information, excellent birding, and support for Mass Audubon's conservation work. The travel program covers its program costs, and contributes to the financial support of Mass Audubon's mission. The travel program also is charged with meeting these goals in an environmentally responsible manner.
Mass Audubon Tours: Standards for Responsible Travel
At this time, there are no universal standards for "ecotourism" certification; nevertheless, we believe that our tours should enrich both the travelers and the local people in the regions we visit. To that end, we strive for the following:
- All tours are, first and foremost, educational. The experience should enrich the traveler with knowledge and appreciation for local birds, habitats, culture, and conservation issues. To accomplish this, we send Mass Audubon staff who are experienced educators, as well as first class naturalists and trip leaders. They partner—in country—with at least one local guide, who can provide additional insight and expertise.
The tours must not harm wildlife or their habitats. Watching wildlife must be done in a responsible manner. We abide by the "Mass Audubon Standards for Birding Programs and Leaders", travel in small groups, and keep appropriate distances from animals. We chose local guides and operators who also understand the importance of viewing wildlife carefully and in a manner that will not disturb them.
Our tour operators and hotels must have environmentally sound waste disposal methods. We carry our own litter, dispose of waste appropriately and encourage local establishments to do the same. We only work with cruise companies that commit to a "no dumping" policy.
We keep our groups small in order to have greater access and connections with local people and wildlife. Small groups also minimize the impact on the areas we visit.
- The tours must make a positive impact in the communities we visit. We strive to support local economies by using locally owned hotels, guides, and drivers. We hire staff that directly benefits the local communities.
We also take time on our tours to visit some of the cultural highlights in a region. Birds and their protection are tied to their human neighbors, and we try to take time to understand the culture and the people of the region. On some tours, we provide direct contributions to local conservation and community programs. These include:
- Contributing books, supplies, funds, and computers to various schools in Mongolia, Zambia, and East Africa.
- Delivering binoculars, books, and scientific research materials to scientists in Argentina, Peru, Costa Rica, Belize, etc. Check-out the Birders Exchange for more information.
- Financial donations to World Wildlife staff in Gabon, Mindo Reserve in Ecuador, Programme for Belize, and others.
In addition, traveling on a Mass Audubon tour directly contributes to Mass Audubon's conservation work.
Mass Audubon Standards1 for Birding Programs and Leaders
Everyone who enjoys birds and birding must always respect wildlife, its habitat, and the rights of others. In any conflict of interest between birds and birders, the welfare of the birds and their habitats comes first.
- Promote the welfare of birds and their habitats.
- Support the protection of important bird habitat, and be knowledgeable and current with Mass Audubon bird conservation programs.
- Exercise restraint and caution during observation, photography, sound recording, or filming. If there is a need for extended observation, photography, filming, or recording, use a blind or hide, and take advantage of natural cover. Use artificial light sparingly for filming or photography, especially for close-ups.
- Minimize the use of sound recordings and attraction noises, especially during breeding season and inclement weather.
- Do not use sound recordings to attract birds in heavily birded areas (e.g. Mt. Auburn Cemetery, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, Mass Audubon Sanctuaries) without the express permission of the landowner. Note that the Parker River NWR and some, but not all, other refuges have policies specifically prohibiting the use of sound recordings without a special permit.
- Do not use sound recordings or other methods for attracting any species that is Threatened, Endangered, or of Special Concern (federal or state listings).
- Keep well back from nests and nesting colonies, roosts, display areas, and important feeding sites. Do not have a program group surround the bird(s).
- Before advertising to a wider public audience the presence of a rare bird, evaluate the potential for disturbance to the bird, its surroundings, and other people in the area, and proceed only if access can be controlled, disturbance minimized, and permission has been obtained from private landowners. The locations of rare nesting birds should be divulged only to the proper conservation authorities.
- Stay on roads, trails, and paths where they exist and otherwise keep habitat disturbance to a minimum.
- Do not litter. Carrying and using bags to remove litter during a program is a proactive habitat protection step that provides a great role model for birders and the general public.
- Respect the law, and the rights of others. You are a visible representative of Mass Audubon, the conservation community, and birding enthusiasts!
- Do not enter posted private property or approach residences without the owner's permission.
- Follow all laws, rules, and regulations governing use of roads and public areas, both at home and abroad.
- Practice common courtesy in contacts with other people.
- Group birding requires special care. Each individual in the group, in addition to the obligations spelled out above, has responsibilities as a Group Member.
- Respect the interests, rights, and skills of fellow birders, as well as people participating in other legitimate outdoor activities. Share your knowledge and experience and be helpful to beginning birders.
- If you witness unethical birding behavior, assess the situation, and intervene if you think it prudent. When interceding, inform the person(s) of the inappropriate action, and attempt, within reason, to have it stopped. If the behavior continues, document it, and notify appropriate individuals, organizations, or authorities.
Group and Program Leader Responsibilities
- Be an exemplary ethical role model for the group. Teach through word and example.
- Keep groups to a size that limits impact on the environment and does not interfere with others using the same area.
- Ensure everyone in the group knows of this code before the program commences and practices this code throughout the duration of the program.
- Learn and inform the group of any special circumstances applicable to the areas being visited (e.g. no playing of recordings in some National Wildlife Refuges).
- Promote the safety of the group as it relates to potential hazards associated with vehicles, watercraft, terrain, and weather conditions.
- Acknowledge that Mass Audubon and its program and group leaders bear a special responsibility to place the welfare of birds ahead of any other birding concerns.
1 Adapted from The American Birding Association's Code of Birding Ethics.