Yes, it is a bold statement. A far fetch thought for most. But this could be a reality.
In this blogpost, we will try to shed some light on some of the less spoken about consequences of the world not being able to travel, and why making a conscience choice about where to go next, could have a huge impact on wildlife conservation.
In worldwide media, people are encouraged to support their local communities, by visiting close by destinations and attractions. In lack of real alternatives, this is something we highly support. Visiting and enjoying local opportunities is a great thing to do, when the alternative is to stay at home. So, support your local community! However, in the long run, visiting Africa should be high on your list, and we will give you the best arguments yet, if you care about animals and wildlife conservation:
Like stated -travel locally when you have the option. The problem is that this works well in those parts of the world where people actually have money to spend on travel and leisure and are able to leave some money at a local attraction. In Africa and other less developed areas of the world, it´s not that simple. A vast majority of the local population are not able to visit their historical or natural gems. They simply can´t afford it. Protection of wildlife, endangered animals and fragile natural gems can only be done through funding from tourism. Local government cannot afford this alone. Like it should be the world’s responsibility and concern to protect the Amazonian rainforest, not only Brazils.
Estimates in a unique analysis by our greatest conservation organization in Africa, African Parks, suggests that the cost of proper protection of Africa´s wildlife is a minimum of $1.2 billion per year. Prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, on average, parks spend just $30 per km2 on protection, when the need was between $145-300 per km2.
Close to 16% of Africa has some kind of protected status. That is more than 4 900 000 km2 set aside for natural reserves, national parks and other protected areas. (Half the size of the United States to put it into perspective.) Needless to say, funding for protection from most African government is extremely low, without income from tourism. This is a $34 billon industry that has now dried up, more or less completely.
It´s not all about the money, we also need your eyes!
So, who protects the wildlife now that the tourists are gone? Park rangers hired by local authorities and governments, like they always do. But no army of park rangers could protect an area as vast as ½ the size of the United States. No matter how many rangers your hire, even if you had the funding, that job is almost impossible. So, who is then the ultimate protector? You. The visitors.
Not only through the money you bring for your adventure, but through your eyes! An active and frequently visited park, is the most protected park, since poachers stay away from highly visited areas where there is human activity.
Throughout the pandemic, there are numerous publications that claim that the Covid-19 virus ultimately comes from fruit bats in Africa, transported to humans who consumed endangered species, illegally trafficked from Africa to other continents. Primarily Asia.
So, what is the situation now? Many African parks are completely shut down. A free for all heaven for poachers. Also, local communities surrounding national parks, that heavily rely on tourism in their area for income, are now suffering. How will they generate income now? For many, poaching is tempting, since there are less of a chance getting caught these days with fever eyes on the ground. Knowing that the income from one elephant tusks could potentially keep your large family alive for years, the temptation might be too big. If it comes down to it, who would not put down an elephant if it meant saving your family from starvation? Yes, it might be hard to read, but this is the ultimate reality many places in Africa if essential income from tourism is not restored.
The current situation could therefore, further increase poaching and trafficking of illegal animals, which in turn could create new outbreaks and pandemics.
There are no relief funds for the local populations. There are no huge relief packages for local business most places in Africa. There are no alternatives. Africa needs visitors!
For now -stay safe and stay home! Travel locally and follow your local authorities’ advice when it comes to travel restrictions. But as soon as bans are lifted -get out there! Support nature, yourself and those who are not as well of as you, by visiting amazing wildlife and natural reserves. Your trip and your eyes could prevent poaching and trafficking of endangered animals. Your eyes could prevent a new outbreak. Your eyes could ultimately prevent a new pandemic, a new lockdown and a new crisis for your local community and your local business at home. Your visit to these areas could ultimately, save YOUR job.
…….and you will get an experience of a lifetime while helping to protect the environment -we promise!
Africa will be here, waiting for you to visit, enjoy and protect it with your presence!
PS! On this day, May 1st in 1873, the great explorer Dr. Livingstone died at the age of 60.
He has given names to many of todays most visited attractions all over Eastern and Central Africa.