Dwindling Tourists Reason For Increased Poaching in Africa

African governments have heavily relied on revenues from tourists to protect extinct wild animals from the marauding poachers. But the conflicts across the continent are keeping tourists away and this is frustrating the anti-poaching efforts...

Tourists watching elephants

Africa is naturally an eco-diverse continent with plenty of teeming wildlife, some of which are native species. But unfortunately, Africa is also a chaotic continent with plenty of conflicts which have massively contributed to the mass extinction of some of our beloved animals especially in the eastern and southern part of the continent. Save for the few rebreeding programs and the government anti-poaching efforts, otherwise, the continent would not have even a single native white rhinoceros, the African Elephants, and many other endangered animals.

Over the years, these anti-poaching efforts have been financially sustained by revenues from tourists. But just over the past decade, the number of tourists who have over the years supported wildlife conservation is rapidly declining due to the ever increasing number of civil and cross-border conflicts like kidnapping, terrorism, and political violence.

The African Bush Elephant is under threat of extinction by poachers.
The African Bush Elephant is under threat of extinction by poachers.

The travel advisories, especially by western governments that heavily warn their nationals from traveling to a certain country due to conflicts, have done more harm than good. Kenya, for example, has suffered a lot in this instance whereby the conflict in the north-eastern region is affecting tourism business in the other peaceful parts of the country. This means that if there are no tourists due to conflict fears, revenues will greatly decline and this will only open the way for poachers to set in.

Due to the high poverty levels in many parts of East, central and southern Africa, many jobless people are being lured by poaching units to engage in poaching of elephants and rhinos by killing them and taking away their tusks. When there are no efforts on the ground (including tourists), these animals become vulnerable. And with the absence of funding for the existing anti-poaching projects, the poachers are winning this battle against the vulnerable wildlife.

Unfortunately, many of Africa’s conflicts do happen in wildlife sanctuaries making the situation unsafe for tourism business to thrive. Kenya’s coastal region which attracts the highest number of tourists has been unstable due to the frequent kidnappings by gangs of Somali militants, Northern Mozambique has also seen more than half of its 10,000 elephants killed in the conflict between the government and rebels.

The same story is coming out of the Democratic Republic of Congo whose Garamba National Park has seen dwindling numbers of elephants due to the active insurgents in the northeastern region of that country.  In other instances, droughts have also led people into hunting for bush meat from wild animals as the only means to survive dying from hunger. This was widely prevalent in Zimbabwe where economic restrictions by the western governments hit the country hard.

According to statistics from the Kenyan ministry of tourism, the number of annual tourists from Britain has declined by a big margin from 185,000 tourists in 2012 to 117,000 in 2014. The latest figures are not likely to go up in the shortest time as poaching is still thriving in the affected wildlife sanctuaries.

The fact is that wildlife conservation efforts need everyone’s support, including western governments who are fond of excessively warning their nationals from visiting conflict-prone countries. For now, what’s needed is to mobilize for financial aid from well-wishers to fund anti-poaching projects otherwise by the time tourists return, there will be no wildlife animal left for them to see in the parks.

Governments in the affected countries should step up their efforts to safeguard their valuable source of revenue by setting aside considerable funding to purchase anti-poaching equipment, recruiting and training of anti-poaching personnel, mass public sensitization on how the communities can benefit from wildlife conservation efforts and creating a wildlife reserve force to protect all gazetted national parks.