Wildlife poaching of iconic African wildlife such as elephants and rhinos has become a huge issue for the tourism industry in Africa. A booming black market trade worth hundreds of millions of dollars is fuelling corruption in Africa’s ports, customs offices, and security forces as well as providing new revenues for insurgent groups and criminal networks across the continent. Rather than narcotics, small arms, or other commonly trafficked goods, however, it is record-breaking numbers of poached elephants and rhinoceroses that are driving this cycle of exploitation and instability. Poaching is not a new problem in Africa. Its dramatic acceleration since the late 2000s, however, has significantly altered its implications (Anderson & Jooste, 2014). The following essay is going to discuss the implications of poaching in Africa on the tourism industry and discuss ways to minimize the poaching of iconic African animals.
Poaching of African Icons
By some estimates, the number of African elephants killed annually since 2007 has more than doubled to over 30,000. The trend crossed a chilling threshold in 2010 as the rate of killings surpassed that at which elephants breed, indicating that significant net population declines have begun (Anderson & Jooste, 2014). This is bad news for the tourism industry as one of the key drawcards that tourists come to see is the African elephant. At this rate this means that the elephants are on their way to extinction as they are unable to reproduce at the rate that they are being hunted by illegal poachers and trophy hunters. According to David Sheldrick’s Wildlife Trust’s iworry campaign, an African elephant is worth 76 times more when they are alive than dead. The report also found that the raw ivory value collected from the elephant is worth around $21,000 however when comparing it to the elephant’s lifetime value of approximately $1.6 million, its dead value is pale in comparison (Erickson-Davis, 2014). One of the key driving forces behind illegal poaching is the fact it can turnover a reasonable amount of money on the black market in a short period of time. Ivory has many uses which makes it a well-sought-after product. With high demand for ivory it has been constantly pushing up the price making it an even more profitable business. Such inflated prices, which exceed the value of cocaine and heroin in some countries, are overwhelming an already endangered species. The trend has even prompted a crime spree at some museums and auction houses with exhibits containing ivory or horn (Anderson & Jooste, 2014). Rhino poaching has skyrocketed. Illegal killings in southern Africa from 2000 to 2007 were rare, frequently fewer than 10 a year. An explosion in poaching rates commenced in 2008. By 2013, 1,004 rhinos were poached in South Africa alone. Soaring global prices for ivory and rhino horn are driving this poaching frenzy. In 2003, high-quality ivory sold for roughly $200 per kilogram. The escalation in prices for rhino horn has been even more dramatic than that of elephant poaching. Whereas a kilogram of rhino horn cost around $800 in the 1990s, it is now more valuable than gold (Anderson & Jooste, 2014). The proliferating number of middle- and upper-class consumers in Asia is the primary reason for the jump in prices. Typically valued as decoration, whether as carved jewellery or artwork or as mounted busts, ivory and horn have become a sought-after symbol of stature and wealth. In surveys of middle-class Chinese professionals, 87 percent associated ivory with “prestige” and 84 percent intended to purchase some. Another driver of the demand for rhino horn in Asia is the belief that it has powerful medicinal properties, including that it cures cancer. While such myths help explain the boom, consumers are surely overpaying (Anderson & Jooste, 2014).
Safari tourism is a huge contributor to many African countries’ economies. It describes an overland journey or trip by tourists in Africa to explore the culture, geography, scenery, and wildlife (Stone and Stone, 2015). Modern Safaris tend to focus on a group of animals known as the Big Five. Those animals in the Big Five include leopard, buffalo, elephant, lion, and rhino. Of the 14 most popular African nations according to 2015 figures safari tourism brought in approximately US$168 million annually. The main homes of safari tours are Botswana, Kenya, South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. The positioning of wildlife in parks both protects the attractions as well as making them accessible to tourists. Animal hunting and poaching however has put this industry which provides income and is the backbone of many African countries economy in jeopardy. With limited numbers of animals the appeal and excitement of a Safari soon begins to disappear. Without the animals there simply is no safari industry.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)
Some of the consequences of wildlife trafficking are straightforward. It poses a severe threat to conservation and biodiversity in general. Poaching has led to the near-extinction of some subspecies, including the disappearance of rhinos in Mozambique in 2012. Safaris and tourism are huge foreign currency earners for African countries, including over $1 billion annually for Kenya. These revenues will be severely affected as visitors encounter not only fewer animals but more criminality in game parks and reserves. Poaching also threatens these deeply rooted African icons (Anderson & Jooste, 2014). There are already measures in place to help reduce the numbers of illegal poaching in sub-Saharan regions. One of the key ones is the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an agreement between member nations, or parties, to regulate the international trade of wildlife. Currently, there are 173 parties to the Convention who have agreed to help protect more than 30,000 species of plants and animals (CITES, 2008). Parties fulfil their obligations, (1) by passing national legislation that provides the legal framework and funding necessary to implement the Convention’s recommendations, (2) by ensuring the appropriate agencies are involved with data collection and law enforcement, and (3) by reporting annually to the CITES Secretariat on measures taken to fulfil international obligations and on the number of specimens traded (Vasquez 2003). The power of CITES rests in its ability to impose restrictive sanctions on the trade of protected species by countries that are not complying with the Convention (Reeve 2006). Essentially, these sanctions can hurt the ability of non-compliant countries to profit from the regulated wildlife market. Another way that has been used by many countries in Africa to reduce poaching is setting up protected wildlife reserves and programmes to make it a lot harder for poachers to gain access to the endangered animals. These wildlife reserves are tasked with the conservation of endangered wildlife such as the African elephant and rhino.
An incentive to help with conservation efforts was recently set up in New Zealand which used the sale of alcohol to help raise awareness and funds for the conservation of endangered wildlife in Africa. The New Zealand Company Part Time Rangers recently brought out a range of beverages where some of the funds go towards funding conservation efforts of the African elephant and the White rhino. The company provides the Big Life with a share of their profits from sales in order to go towards the conservation of these animals. Big Life seeks to protect and sustain East Africa’s wildlife and wild lands, including one of the greatest populations of elephants left in East Africa. They use innovative conservation strategies and collaborating closely with local communities, partner NGOs, national parks, and government agencies. They are the first organisation in East Africa with coordinated anti-poaching teams operating on both sides of the Kenya-Tanzania border. Big Life recognises that sustainable conservation can only be achieved through a community-based collaborative approach. This approach is at the heart of Big Life’s philosophy that conservation supports the people and people support conservation (The Mission, n.d). Another project in which the Part Time Rangers support is one which translocates rhino from high poaching areas to help with conservation efforts. The project aims to translocate 100 rhino from high-risk poaching areas in South Africa to the comparative safety of Botswana. Where appropriate, the rhinos will be transported by air as opposed to road, in order to shorten the journey and lessen the amount of stress placed on the animals. The budget to translocate just one rhino is USD 45 000. The whole project, including ongoing and monitoring and security, requires a total budget of USD 4.5 million (The Mission, n.d). Translocating the rhino although is quite costly, it goes a long way in protecting this endangered species and can potentially be the difference between the survival of the species or not.
Other key methods of poaching reduction
Dehorning was a method that was used in order to reduce poaching. In early 1990s in Zimbabwe, white rhinos were dehorned in Hwange national park. De –horning and translocation of rhinos from vulnerable areas reduced poaching of black rhinos (Duffy, 2000). However, a lax in security led poachers killing all the horned and dehorned rhinos. Another method that was trialled was the shoot to kill method. In 1980s the Zimbabwe government authorized the shoot to kill policy as a strategy of reducing poaching and it was met with criticism (Duffy, 2000). In that period between 1984 to 1993 park rangers killed more than 170 poachers, then a Protection of Wildlife Act was passed in 1989. This act was meant to protect game wardens that feared being charged with murder, this Act meant they could be absolved of any course of action done in good faith (Duffy, 2000). The Act boosted moral around anti-poaching units and led to more poachers being killed than rhinos in 1990 (Duffy, 2000). This method however has been criticized by many as it is seen as inhumane and is believed to be in breach of human rights. Penalties and prison sentences were another method that had been tried however it had been rather unsuccessful. Penalties in the form of fines, prison sentences or a combination of both have received little success in protecting rhinos in Africa. For example, poachers caught in South Africa are charged a penalty of more than ZAR 40000 (US$4400) yet a single horn cost more than US$20000 in black market. Theoretically, as much as it must reduce a rational poacher`s incentive to poach it also gives more courage for poachers.
Poaching in Africa poses a huge threat not only to the existence of many endangered species, but also to tourism in Africa. Many African nations are heavily reliant on nature tourism like safari tours as their key contributor to the economy. Many of those in the African communities rely on the tourism industry to provide them with income and job security so without it they face huge financial strain and hardship. As highlighted above there have been many methods that have been used in order to try and reduce the number of poaching cases however very few have been effective. There has been huge traction surrounding supporting the stop of illegal poaching worldwide and many organisations have been set up to help fund conservation efforts. Many of the iconic animals are what people associate Africa with so without these animals there simply is a fairly minimal tourism industry there.
- Anderson, B., & Jooste, J. (2014). Wildlife poaching: Africa’s surging trafficking threat. NATIONAL DEFENSE UNIV FORT MCNAIR DC AFRICA CENTER FOR STRATEGIC STUDIES.
- CITES, (2008), What is CITES? Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Geneva: CITES Secretariat, available online at www.cites.org/eng/disc/what.shtml
- Duffy,R. (2000): Killing for Conservation: Wildlife Policy In Zoimbawe
- Erickson-Davis, M. (2014, October 6). Elephants worth much, much more alive than dead, says new report. Retrieved from https://news.mongabay.com/2014/10/elephants-worth-much-much-more-alive-than-dead-says-new-report/
- Reeve R, (2006)‘Wildlife Trade Sanctions and Compliance: Lessons from the CITES Regime’, International Affairs , 2006, vol. 82 (pg. 881-97)
- Stone, M. T., & Stone, L. S. (2015). Safari tourism.
- The Mission, (n.d), Retrieved from https://parttimerangers.co.nz/our-mission
- Vasquez JC. Oldfield S, (2003), ‘Compliance and Enforcement Mechanisms of CITES’, The Trade in Wildlife: Regulation for Conservation, 2003 London and Sterling, VAEarthscan Publications(pg. 63-9)