About Echidna Walkabout
Meet Janine, Roger and the team: about Echidna Walkabout
Janine Duffy and Roger Smith founded Echidna Walkabout in 1993, and since then we have been providing high quality nature and wildlife experiences for small groups of international and domestic travellers. Most of our tours are in the wildlife-rich regions of southeastern Australia (primarily near Melbourne). We also specialise in the Northern Territory.
We organise everything for you on our fully guided and catered journeys. Our prices include everything except personal items and alcoholic drinks. Please read our detailed tour itineraries and if you have any doubts about what is included please ask us.
Janine Duffy and Roger Smith are the founders and Owner/Operators of Echidna Walkabout, based in Melbourne, Victoria. They both have a strong respect for the environment, indigenous cultures and aim to live sustainably.
Janine started and still oversees our Wildlife Research department. Janine discovered and developed a method of identifying individual koalas by their nose patterns, which led to a unique wild koala research project. Janine currently features in a Tourism Australia campaign: 24 million mates Meet Janine #24millionmates
Expert Wildlife Guides
Echidna Walkabout’s Wildlife Guides are recognised as some of the best in Australia. Our Wildlife Guide training program ensures that all Wildlife Guides have an in-depth knowledge of the wildlife and environments you will see.
They are friendly, knowledgeable and passionate about wildlife – some of them have over 20 years experience working with wild animals, several are volunteer wildlife carers and rescuers and most have travelled extensively throughout Australia and the world.
Many hours of wildlife research work precede the tour to ensure that you see and learn about native wildlife in its natural environment.
Echidna Walkabout’s driving principle, from inception, is positive conservation. We believe that people protect what they know, and what they love.
So we set out to create a style of tourism that not only minimizes negative effects on the environment, but positively creates a sense of wonder, an understanding, a power to change for the better.
Interestingly, in the process, our own sense of wonder grew! We started to see our wildlife and environment through the eyes of a first-time visitor. Our magnificent wild kangaroos, our gentle koalas, our noisy, gorgeous cockatoos – even our huge stinging Bull Ants – are all so special and we are so lucky to have them in Australia!
Knowing these wild animals, working with them every day and teaching others how to work with them has given us an even greater appreciation and a passion to preserve our wildlife and natural spaces. Monitoring them has led to an understanding of threats to their existence, which has led to our conservation program.
The greatest compliment we receive is when our travellers return to their home and see their own place, their own wildlife, and maybe their indigenous culture with a new enthusiasm.
We are lucky to work with our local Aboriginal Community – the Wathaurong – who continue to be mentors, teachers and friends. Much of our understanding of wildlife, the bush, of community and of Respect has come from their teaching, and we are grateful.
The Gunai/Kurnai People of East Gippsland have also taught us much about their magnificent area. We always aim to work with the indigenous people of any area we travel to. Not only is it the correct protocol, it is enormously rewarding. Australians are incredibly lucky that our first people are here and are willing to talk and share with us.
Our mission as a social enterprise tour operator is to ensure the free-living future of Australian wildlife. We believe that a responsible wildlife tourism industry in Australia will help Australians to value wildlife in the wild as an asset with intrinsic and economic value. Read about our Social Enterprise Mission here.
Many of Our Environmental Practices are hidden behind the scenes of a tour. As eco-tour operators we respect, reduce, re-use and recycle, as a matter of course. But it is in the details that these ethics are shown. Read more here.
Why are we called ECHIDNA Walkabout?
Echidna is one of the world’s oldest mammals. It lay eggs, but yes, it is still a mammal because it has hair and feeds its young on milk. With the Platypus, echidnas are the only mammals of their type – Monotremes – a group only found in Australia & New Guinea. It is ancient, and has survived massive changes in its world since it evolved 15 million years ago.
Its independence and desire to travel are hallmarks of Echidna Walkabout.
Echidnas can be found throughout Australia but they are solitary animals that travel over long distances so if travellers are lucky enough they can be seen anywhere. Echidnas are recognisable by their long spikes all over their body.
They vary in size between 35-53cm (1 to 1.5 feet) in length and the males can weigh up to 6kg.
When under attack or approached Echidnas will either bury itself into the ground or roll into a ball and wedge themselves between rocks or against trees. They like to shelter against rocks when it is raining or windy.
New research suggests that Short-beaked Echidnas can live up to 50 years. Threats to Echidnas include human-induced climate change (echidnas are sensitive to extreme heat), and increasing traffic on roads, especially large trucks.
They are fascinating characters. Keep your eye out for them when bush walking.
Founder – Director of Marketing & Wildlife Research
Janine Duffy’s enthusiasm and love of wildlife is highly regarded by our guests. Janine’s role in the business is Director of Marketing and Wildlife Research. She founded Echidna Walkabout with Roger Smith in 1993.
In 1998, while on tour, Janine discovered a method of identifying individual koalas by their noses. From this discovery a wild Koala Research Project was born – mapping the home ranges, social interactions, tree use and following the lives of over 108 individual koalas in four locations in the You Yangs and Brisbane Ranges National Parks.
An annual report is prepared by Janine and Echidna Walkabout’s research team which is provided to National Park managers, wildlife veterinarians, hospitals and carers, koala scientists and field naturalist clubs. The You Yangs Wild Koala Research project has been described as the best citizen science research project in Australia.
Janine is regularly invited to present to conferences, advise on wild koala tree-planting and research projects. Recently she gave guest lectures to ecotourism students at the University of Surrey, UK and Kansas State University, USA and a series of lectures on board the Olivia Cruise Ship.
Media and television has featured Janine and her koalas – the most watched of these include an ad on National Geographic Channel worldwide in 2006/2007, recently as the face of the state of Victoria on Tourism Australia’s 24 million mates campaign, on Ray Mears Wild Australia in the UK, Jack Hanna’s Into The Wild USA, and she once appeared with Gene Simmons on Family Jewels as a fictitious buyer of the Carlton Blues football team. See Media page here.
Janine is a wildlife artist and a registered wildlife foster carer. She started her working life as an architect and has a degree in Planning and Design from the University of Melbourne.
Founder – Director Operations & Groups
An experienced naturalist, birdwatcher, all-round bushman and dedicated conservationist, Roger Smith is a friendly, outgoing character who loves sharing his passion for Australia’s wildlife with his guests. He founded Echidna Walkabout with Janine Duffy in 1993.
He has travelled extensively throughout Australia and has a comprehensive understanding of the environment both in his home state of Victoria and across Australia. His special interest is the macropods (kangaroos and wallabies) and he enjoys “reading” the body language of these timid creatures and has trained many of Echidna Walkabout’s guides on the careful approach these animals require.
Aboriginal Culture is another of Roger’s concerns – he has worked closely with Aboriginal People in many parts of Australia and believes strongly that the indigenous people of Australia must be recognised through a respectful Treaty. He is a great advocate for self determination by Australia’s Indigenous People and believes strongly in protecting the original rights of these extraordinarily resilient people.
The genus Eucalyptus has enthralled Roger for many years – there is nothing he likes more than to sit under a gum tree and chew a blade of grass – or tell you all about this uniquely Australian icon. Much of his previous work with the Australian Conservation Foundation involved protecting large areas of Eucalyptus forests in far East Gippsland.
Roger believes that far East Gippsland (in Victoria) and the Top End (in the Northern Territory) are the best places for wildlife viewing. He should know because he has guided many tours in both these areas and is very proud to be a fully accredited Kakadu Guide.
His second love after Australia is Africa where he has travelled with Janine on safaris into South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe.
Roger has retired as Vice-Chair of Wildlife Tourism Australia inc. His previous experience included working for the Australian Conservation Foundation and as an environmental builder and a journalist.