African tourism hit by poach­ing

Ex­perts: An­i­mal con­ser­va­tion set­backs could hurt con­ti­nent’s ap­peal

The Star Malaysia - - World -

CAPE TOWN: An­i­mal con­ser­va­tion in Africa has suf­fered sev­eral set­backs in re­cent months prompt­ing ex­perts at an African tourism con­fer­ence this week in Cape Town to warn about the cost to the travel in­dus­try.

“Ob­vi­ously it’s neg­a­tive,” said the African Tourism As­so­ci­a­tion’s (ATA) man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Naledi Khabo, who spoke at the in­au­gu­ral event or­gan­ised by Airbnb.

“Whether it’s peo­ple or an­i­mals, you see them be­ing killed or slaugh­tered in such a ter­ri­ble man­ner – it has a neg­a­tive im­pact.”

Kenya was thrust into the con­ser­va­tion spot­light when an ef­fort to move en­dan­gered black rhinos be­tween na­tional parks, launched with great fan­fare in June, left 11 of the an­i­mals dead.

“It’s very clear it was not man­aged well by my of­fi­cers – and we took ac­tion on that,” said Kenya’s Tourism Min­is­ter Na­jib Balala.

Balala in­sisted that tourists con­sid­er­ing vis­it­ing would not be de­terred by the in­ci­dent but in­dus­try ex­perts have warned that such set­backs could hurt the con­ti­nent’s ap­peal.

“It does im­pact the over­all pan-African per­cep­tion as well, which in turn has a neg­a­tive im­pact on tourism,” added Khabo.

The cost of en­vi­ron­men­tal crime to de­vel­op­ing coun­tries is es­ti­mated to be more than US$70bil (RM289­bil) a year.

Africa is at the epi­cen­tre of global poach­ing and traf­fick­ing of many species, with ele­phants cov­eted for their ivory tusks and rhinos sought for their horns which are used in tra­di­tional Asian medicine.

Botswana, which has Africa’s largest ele­phant pop­u­la­tion, is on the front­line of the bat­tle against the il­licit ivory trade. But it was re­cently rocked by a re­port from Ele­phants With­out Bor­ders that a poach­ing spree had wiped out as many as 90 of the an­i­mals.

While the gov­ern­ment and some sci­en­tists strongly dis­puted the find­ings and in­sisted they were over­stated, the dam­age had al­ready been done.

“What is sad, par­tic­u­larly about the Botswana in­ci­dent, is that the head­lines came out about what hap­pened – but what we don’t un­der­stand is why and what next,” said travel au­thor Anita Mendi­ratta.

In South Africa, rangers have been forced to take ever more ex­treme steps to pro­tect the coun­try’s sa­fari en­dow­ment along­side an ef­fort to pros­e­cute the crim­i­nal big­wigs prof­it­ing from the lu­cra­tive trade.

Khabo, who speaks for the African tourism in­dus­try, praised South Africa’s anti-poach­ing suc­cesses which have in­cluded three high-pro­file ar­rests of king­pins linked to poach­ing.

“It’s crit­i­cal that, on a pol­icy level, the gov­ern­ment and the tourism boards take a very ag­gres­sive ap­proach and to have truly se­vere con­se­quences to in­di­vid­u­als who are found guilty,” she said.

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