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Tourism industry working around the clock to prevent loss of up to 600 000 jobs

By Tourism, Uncategorized No Comments
By Tshidi Madia, Media 24 | May 24, 2020

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Stakeholders in the South African tourism industry have told President Cyril Ramaphosa the industry could lose up to 600 000 jobs by September, if Covid-19 lockdown regulations continue to prevent it from operating.

On Friday, Ramaphosa held a virtual meeting with the sector as part of his ongoing engagements with numerous stakeholders ahead of his address to the nation on Sunday evening.

Over the past week, the president met with the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac), opposition parties in the National Assembly, religious and traditional leaders.

Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane told News24 that many in the sector were struggling, with those in the informal sector, such as tour guides, being left in distress by the pandemic and the lockdown.

The country’s borders were shut in March, after Ramaphosa announced a national lockdown. This was part of government’s efforts to combat the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

This meant a ban on both international and domestic travel, along with the closure of hotels, schools, parks and recreational areas.

The lockdown also prohibits gatherings of large groups of people.

Huge job losses

Kubayi-Ngubane said the industry anticipated the loss of 500 000 to 600 000 jobs if it remained shut until September.

“A lot of the informal sectors aren’t covered and are seriously in distress and won’t get part of the relief fund and won’t get UIF (Unemployment Insurance Fund). It’s difficult because we want to help everyone, we want to support everyone but the money that we have is too little,” she told News24.

The tourism department instituted a R200 million relief fund, which would be handed out as once-off R50 000 grants to help businesses survive as the country prepares to be open up more sectors of the economy.

Kubayi-Ngubane acknowledged the money simply was not enough, and government couldn’t help everyone. She encouraged some big businesses in the industry to help their smaller counterparts and share some business once the industry was back in full swing.

The meeting was also attended by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni and Minerals and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe, who she said committed to support her portfolio in aiding the industry to find its feet.

“We have said allow us to put together the recovery strategy but commit to supporting us once the recovery strategy is in place, and they have agreed to that,” said Kubayi-Ngubane.

No sense in demanding more money

The minister said when it came to the adjustment budget, set to be delivered by Mboweni in June, it made no sense for her to demand more money when it was needed for more pressing issues.

“We have to be practical, all of us as colleagues in Cabinet. If we asked for money to do marketing while there is no money for PPEs (personal protective equipment), can we justify this in the public domain?” she said.

“When Mboweni says I need more money for fighting the battle, for health, you can’t ask for money to do marketing, it becomes illogical,” she continued.

The tourism minister said numerous reports were presented to the president and he in turn tasked her and other government leaders “working around the clock” for ways to address outstanding challenges.

“He said we needed to look at our employees as a sector. In mining, they are able to isolate cases, screen, test and then isolate affected people. The president said considerations were needed on how employees who got affected would be assisted,” she explained.

Hotels to remain closed

While the minister did not give details of how Level 3 of the Covid-19 lockdown would affect her industry, it’s understood hotels and other tourism facilities would remain closed.

Kubayi-Ngubane said the tourism sector was people and interaction based, which made many uncomfortable about how it would function during the Covid-19 pandemic.

But, she said, this was precisely what the protocols would be addressing.

“The protocols we are working on is to give comfort to people so we can operate,” she said.

Some of the stakeholders also pitched for interprovincial travel and self-catering accommodation to be included on Level 3 of the lockdown.

 

Spike in wildlife poaching as poachers take advantage of lockdown laxities (Zimbabwe)

By Antipoaching, Tourism No Comments
Leopold Munhende, The New Zimbabwe | May 25, 2020

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Zimbabwe has realised a spike in wildlife poaching as the wildlife management authority has redirected efforts towards combating the spread of Covid-19 during the current lockdown period, a top lobby has said.

The Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG), a non-governmental organisation that promotes proper extraction and administration of natural resources, said Zimbabwe had noticed a surge in wildlife animals including lions, elephants, and rhinos being killed for poaching purposes since the start of the Covid-19 national lockdown on 31 March.

“Zimbabwe started implementing the preventive measures against Covid-19 on the 17th of March 2020 and subsequently went on national lockdown on the 30th of March 2020,” CNRG said in a statement.

“However, not much effort has been directed at ensuring transparency and accountability in wildlife management during the ongoing lockdown.

“In Zimbabwe, between January and February, three elephants were killed by poachers, but since the beginning of the lockdown, at least seven elephants have been lost in the Hwange National Park and Bubye Conservancy.

“Two white rhinos were also killed in April, although the poaching incidents were not reported publicly. Lions and buffaloes were also among some of the animals that were killed in April.”

CNRG also took to task government for failing to solve human and wildlife conflicts especially during the Covid-19 lockdown.

“Governments have taken unprecedented measures to curb the spread of Covid19 since it was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation in January, however, in Zimbabwe, human-wildlife conflict which is defined as any human and wildlife interaction which negatively impacts human being’s social, economic or cultural life is an ignored epidemic.”

According to Justice for Wildlife Commission (JWC), poachers have seen closures, the diversions of law enforcement to Covid-19 related duties and reduced ranger patrols “as ideal opportunities for exploitation”.

The lack of tourists “who may unwittingly act as ‘capable guardians from within the parks only increases this risk, the JWC said.

Wildlife tourism in the pandemic: what will happen to the parks, staff and animals?

By Conservation, Tourism No Comments
Nita Bhalla & Harry Jacques, Thompson Reuters Foundation/World Economic Forum | May 13, 2020

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For more than two decades, M Khairi spent his days working as a park guide, accompanying a steady trickle of tourists keen to trek across the lush forests of western Indonesia or spot an endangered orangutan.

But like thousands of others who earn a living from the 56 conservation sites across the archipelago – all shuttered since March to help stem the spread of the novel coronavirus – Khairi is now out of a job and struggling to make ends meet.

“It’s enough to buy rice,” said the 48-year-old, whose income has plummeted about 75% to $17 per week.

“Around 500 of us have lost our jobs,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation of his fellow guides at the Gunung Leuser National Park on Sumatra island.

Globally, more than 3.5 million cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed, with deaths topping 250,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

As countries move to contain the respiratory disease by shutting down their economies and enforcing restrictions on movement, national parks and conservation areas are also feeling the pain.

From guides and forest communities who rely on visitors for a living, to conservation efforts in protected areas and the wildlife that depend on those habitats, environmentalists warn the pandemic could have far-reaching consequences.

Orangutans in Gunung Leuser National Park on Sumatra Island. Around 500 guides have lost their jobs here as coronavirus halts nature-based tourism worldwide. Employees and their communities are struggling to stay afloat. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Indonesia’s foreign tourist arrivals fell 64% year-on-year in March to about 471,000, or fewer than half of January’s number, as the coronavirus outbreak discouraged travel, data from the statistics bureau showed.

The government has warned that the country could lose more than $10 billion in tourism revenue this year.

Khairi, who has four children to support, has managed to find low-paid manual work in a rubber plantation but has received no financial help from the local government and is worried about the future.

“It’s very bad for all of us now,” he said.

Criminal networks

In Africa, the COVID-19 pandemic has hit communities that rely on the wildlife tourism business for their survival in countries like Rwanda, Kenya and Botswana.

More than 70 million tourists visited Africa last year, according to the U.N. World Tourism Organization – many enticed by safaris, game drives or trophy hunting.

But with airports and borders now closed, most of those revenues have evaporated overnight.

Not only has that cut off the economic activities of millions of impoverished families living in and around Africa’s national parks and protected reserves, it has also damaged forest conservation and anti-poaching efforts.

With little government funding, the continent’s national parks largely depend on tourism revenue to run their operations and care for the animals and plants that thrive there.

“The lack of funds means parks cannot do frequent patrols as they need fuel for their cars and they need food for rangers to go on patrol,” said Kaddu Sebunya, chief executive officer of the African Wildlife Foundation.

“There are no tourists and fewer rangers around due to social distancing measures, making it easy for criminal networks to harvest natural resources.”

Sebunya said his biggest worry was for the 20 million-30 million Africans who earn a livelihood directly or indirectly from tourism.

Many are involved in eco-tourism projects – from running safari lodges to giving village tours or selling traditional produce and handicrafts – and have no other way to eke out a living besides subsistence farming.

Ballooning over the Maasai Mara in Kenya. “There are no tourists and fewer rangers around due to social distancing measures, making it easy for criminal networks to harvest natural resources,” says Kaddu Sebunya, chief executive officer of the African Wildlife Foundation. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Conservationists fear that desperate communities – which have for decades helped control deforestation and poaching – may be exploited by criminal gangs to poach endangered animals or cut down trees for the charcoal trade, to get by.

“People are not going to sit home and starve. They will rely on what natural resources are next to them. If it’s a forest, they will cut the trees. If it’s a park, they will hunt the animals. If it’s a river, they will over-fish,” said Sebunya.

Those laid off from jobs in tourism lodges or as rangers “know the parks better than anyone else” and are at risk of being targeted for recruitment by poachers, he added.

‘Desperate times’

The 46 UK-based charities that form The Wildlife Trusts are also dealing with unprecedented challenges from the pandemic.

Conservation in Britain – one of the world’s most nature-depleted countries – has become harder than ever during the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Some staff at the network have been furloughed while those still working have lost valuable time on dealing with a proliferation of illegal activities such as shooting wildlife and fly-tipping, it said.

Vital conservation work has had to be put on hold, meanwhile, leading to an explosion of invasive species, deterioration of rare wildflower meadows, stalled reintroduction of wildlife and potential loss of species such as dormice.

“These are desperate times for our movement as income from visitor centres and fundraisers has crashed, yet the demands of caring for thousands of nature reserves are higher than ever,” said Craig Bennett, CEO of The Wildlife Trusts.

Bennett also pointed to the negative impact of delays in new legislation, the halting of animal vaccination programmes and beach clean-ups, and a rise in fly-tipping, vandalism and theft on nature reserves, as well as illegal shooting of rare birds.

Governments worldwide have their hands full dealing with the “human emergency” of COVID-19, making it difficult to argue for investment in nature right now, said Onno van den Heuvel, global manager of the Biodiversity Finance Initiative at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

But biodiversity conservation provides an estimated 22 million jobs globally, he said, adding that during lockdowns, people could help by crowdfunding ongoing projects.

UNDP is now considering specific crowdfunding campaigns for three to six countries to raise money to keep rangers in their jobs, for example, while also supporting their communities, many of whom were already poor before the pandemic, he added.

“Parks are closed, tourists are at home, and their revenue sources have been drying up – and they’re really in immediate need of additional funding,” he said.

 

Wild animals rule deserted Mara as coronavirus keeps visitors away (Kenya)

By Conservation, Tourism No Comments


James Kahongeh & George Sayagie, The Daily Nation
May 7, 2020

See link for photo.

On regular days, the Narok-Sikinani road is a busy thoroughfare as vans transport groups of tourists in and out of the Maasai Mara Game Reserve.

This newly-tarmacked road is the gateway to the world famous safari destination.

Original photo as published by The Daily Nation. An elephant is pictured at Governor’s Camp in the Maasai Mara Game Reserve following reduced human activities over the Covid-19 pandemic, May 6, 2020. PHOTO | GEORGE SAYAGIE | NATION

Today, the 86-kilometre stretch is almost devoid of traffic. Not a single tourist has visited the Mara in more than 60 days.

Senior Warden Alex Sindiyio told the Nation that nature was taking a much deserved break.

“The animals are now at peace. They’re roaming freely and grazing without distractions,” Mr Sindiyio said.

Many Tourists

Every year, the Maasai Mara, known for its large population of lions, leopards, cheetahs, elephants and millions of herbivores, hosts over 300,000 domestic and international tourists.

March, April and May may be low tourist months, but never before in its almost 60-year existence has the 1,510 square-kilometre reserve been as deserted as it is presently.

Narok Governor Samuel Tunai noted that, even during turbulent times in the country, the Mara has always had visitors. A total shut down, though, is unprecedented.

“The only time the park has been nearly as deserted was during the 2007/2008 post-election skirmishes when tourist numbers fell drastically,” said Governor Tunai, who is also the tourism and wildlife committee chairman at the Council of Governors.

The absence of human beings in the park due to the Covid-19 crisis, though, is a blessing in disguise according to Governor Tunai, who said the animals were on holiday.

“This crisis will allow us to look at what we’ve been doing wrong. As custodians of the Mara, conservation comes first for us. Going forward, we might have to limit the number of visitors so that the animals aren’t disturbed,” he said.

Waste Control

With no tourists visiting the national reserve, waste has also been controlled.

While the park management is strict on littering, some tourists still dump bottles and snack wrappings that ecologists warn not only threaten the safety of wildlife but also change their behaviour.

There has also been a lot of rainfall since the beginning of the year, the highest in more than 20 years, according to senior chief park administrator Christine Koshal.

Roads in the park are always under maintenance for ease of movement of tour vehicles, but some of them have fallen into disuse and are flooded. With most workers sent home, maintenance has had to stop.

Mara Triangle CEO Brian Heath fears that, if the rains continue, the roads might be rendered impassable.

Great Migration

The annual wildebeest migration is near. In a month’s time, millions of gnus will begin the march north, only this time, the phenomenon that pulls thousands of tourists to the banks of Mara River will exclusively be nature’s affair.

Presence of tour vans in the reserve boosts safety of the animals by warding off poachers, according to the park management. Now, the animals, especially rhinos and elephants, have become more vulnerable.

Patrols have been stepped up with rangers and officers from the General Service Unit (GSU) and Tourism Police dispatched to the Mara to protect wildlife and investors’ properties and to monitor the porous border with Tanzania that poachers like to use to cross between the two countries.

When normal human activity returns to the Mara in the next few months, the quiet and natural order will once again be thrown off-balance.

For now, the animals will continue to enjoy the monopoly of the wild.

Covid-19 could be a ‘potential lifeline’ for rhinos — but it’s complicated

By Conservation, Rescue and rehab, Tourism No Comments
By Elizabeth Sleith, Sunday Times | May 10, 2020

Read original story here.

What does the halting of global travel and eco-tourism mean for the embattled rhino? Elizabeth Sleith looks for answers

We’ve all seen those pics lately of nature running wild while humans hide from Covid-19. Goats gone gangsta in Llandudno, Wales, penguins jaywalking in Simon’s Town, monkeys making bollemakiesies into pools in Mumbai … all good for a viral-video chuckle, but hardly victories for conservation.

One creature that may turn out to benefit, however, is the rhino — at least, this is the hope of Fabrice Orengo de Lamazière, co-owner of the Motswari Private Game Reserve in Limpopo and co-founder of Rhino Disharmony. Since 2014, that campaign has tackled poaching by trying to raise awareness in the places where horns are sold and thus bring down demand.

Orengo de Lamazière says Covid-19 is of course devastating for humans, but it is a “potential lifeline” for rhinos.

Mainly, this is because of the suspected origin of the virus: a gigantic “wet” market in Wuhan, China, where animals of all varieties could be bought live, or slaughtered before customers’ eyes.

Epidemiologists say the danger with such markets — common across Asia — is that the animals are typically densely packed, making it easier for diseases to spread from species to species, and ultimately to “jump” to humans in circumstances where hygiene standards are difficult to maintain. This is what is thought to have happened in Wuhan.

China, of course, has been here before. Fingers were pointed at wet markets after the SARS outbreak of 2003, and authorities promptly cracked down on them — but eased restrictions as the health crisis abated. With Covid-19, the signs are promising that the practice could end for good.

In February, China announced a ban on the farming and consumption of wildlife, which is expected to be signed into law this year. The southern city of Shenzhen went further, extending the ban to eating dogs and cats.

That, for Orengo de Lamazière, is the glimmer of hope in the disaster, especially if it ultimately leads to a mind shift.

There have been reports that those selling rhino horn in China and Laos are now advertising medicines containing it as a cure for Covid-19

“If the Chinese completely change their attitude towards the consumption and trade of animals and animal parts, that is the biggest victory. It’s what we have been trying to do for years — to stop the trafficking.”

Motswari co-owner and Rhino Disharmony co-founder Marion Geiger-Orengo agrees: “If the demand stops then the killing stops, so this is what I’m hoping the ripple effect will be.”

The problematic loophole for the rhino, however, is that the ban excludes the use of animal parts for “medicinal purposes” — the supposed purpose for which rhino horn is sold.

Even more worrying, the International Rhino Foundation says it has received reports that those selling rhino horn in China and Laos are now advertising medicines containing rhino horn as a cure for Covid-19.

LIVES UNDER LOCKDOWN

It’s well known that SA, home to 80% of the world’s rhinos, has been hardest hit by rhino poaching, with more than 1,000 killed each year between 2013 and 2017.

Anti-poaching units in our national parks and private reserves have been fighting hard to stem the tide. But with those places now shuttered, the tourists gone and the lodges surviving on skeleton staff, what has the impact been?

Since the lockdown began on March 27, there has been a decrease in the number of rhinos and elephants poached. Albi Modise, Communications Director at the Department of Environment, Forestry & Fisheries

Albi Modise, communications director at the department of environment, forestry & fisheries, says law-enforcement officials remain on duty in the national parks. In fact, since the lockdown began on March 27, Modise says there has been a decrease in the number of rhinos and elephants poached, as well as a decline in marine poaching.

This, he says, is likely due to low demand for the products and the fact that “law enforcement has been strengthened in ports of entries”.

At Motswari, which shares unfenced boundaries with the Kruger National Park, Orengo de Lamazière says “incidents of incursion” initially increased.

“Criminals must have seen the absence of people as their chance to poach and also to attempt to rob the lodges.”

But discussions with the national park and private anti-poaching units have led to skeleton staff at the lodges in the Timbavati and Umbabat private reserves also participating in patrols, day and night, just to have “feet on the ground and wheels on the sand roads”.

Incursions have since decreased, which has also been the experience at Tintswalo Safari in the Manyeleti Nature Reserve, also adjacent to the Kruger.

General manager Alistair Leuner, who is spending lockdown at the lodge, says this is “most probably due to the presence of police and the army in the surrounding communities”.

Many of those virtual safaris to which we’ve pointed you in recent issues — including Motswari’s Instagram and Tintswalo’s website — are really thanks to security patrols — the real reason those rangers are out there.

STILL ‘TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE’

The fear, of course, was that poachers would be emboldened by the absence of people in the parks. This was the situation painted last month by the New York Times, which quoted Nico Jacobs of Rhino 911, a nonprofit that evacuates injured rhinos by helicopter, as saying “at least nine rhinos” had been poached in the North West alone since the lockdown began.

In fact, Jacobs says the reporter misunderstood him on the dates, and that, though the first week of the lockdown was extremely busy — “and so was the week before, nothing abnormal” — things quietened down after that.

Jacobs attributes this to the stay-at-home order, to roadblocks, and to the closure of national borders, which all hamper poachers’ ability to get the horns out.

“It’s been proven that poached horns get to China within the first week,” he says.

The actual number of rhinos lost in the province during the lockdown so far is “three or four”. Jacobs is emphatic, however, that this is still “totally unacceptable”.

Nico Jacobs of Rhino 911 with four-month-old Jessie, evacuated on April 30 after her mother was poached in the North West.
Image: Nico Jacobs

“People must realise that we are sitting with a huge problem in SA, which has not been resolved. Is it a little bit better? Yes. But we are still far from acceptable norms, where we can say we’ve got numbers — not stable, but increasing numbers — with mothers raising their calves and the calves getting to adulthood.”

He emphasises, too, how hard the people in the parks are working — patrolling at all hours and doing their absolute best to protect the animals with very limited resources.

Botswana, meanwhile, has lost six rhinos since March 27, a situation so dire that National Geographic reports the government is now evacuating black rhinos from the Okavango Delta to save them.

THE MONEY MATTERS

The more complicated issue for rhinos — and wildlife in general — relates to funding. Tourism levies, now totally dried up, are funnelled into conservation and protection measures, and also provide a sustainable living for neighbouring communities.

The shutdown in tourism is a conservation disaster from that perspective, something Geiger-Orengo calls “a full-circle damaging effect”, with livelihoods jeopardised and protection money halted.

Gary Harwood, from communications agency HKLM, which represents eco-tourism brands across Africa, recently wrote an opinion piece on the impact of Covid-19. He says the shut-down of global travel will likely lead to a “slowdown of poaching of endangered species to supply the once-thriving eastern markets” but cautions that if this tempts reserves to “pull back on anti-poaching initiatives in order to save money”, this could exacerbate bush-meat poaching, where local communities are desperate to put food on the table.

It’s estimated that in the North West meat poaching has risen 200%-300% since the lockdown began. Nico Jacobs Rhino 911.

This seems to already be playing out in the North West, where Jacobs estimates meat poaching has risen 200%-300% since the lockdown began. That situation undoes years of hard work in terms of buy-in from local communities.

As Jacobs says with regard to saving the rhino, “We need to get communities involved to protect these animals for future generations because that’s where their money lies.”

It stands to reason that if the money is gone, so is the incentive to conserve.

SAVE THEM SO THEY CAN SAVE US

Ultimately then, the outlook is worrying. And with tourism minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane having said last week that even domestic tourism will likely only re-start in December, that’s a bleak picture for the people, landscapes and animals whose survival depends on the sector.

Many in the tourism industry, of course, pray that Kubayi-Ngubane is wrong. In the meantime, rescuers such as Jacobs “are still flying and patrolling and doing what we can”, while the likes of Motswari and Tintswalo are poised to resume welcoming visitors — and bring back their staff — just as soon as they can.

Orengo de Lamazière insists there is hope, and that eco-tourism will be key to SA’s post-corona recovery because our natural assets are so incomparable. “We will always have people, everywhere in the world, who will want to come to see the wildlife,” he says.

Harwood, meanwhile, adds: “Whilst you may have experienced the disappointment of having to cancel or postpone your own getaway, consider making a donation to ensure the people, the animals and the wilderness within your planned destination also survive during the trying times ahead.

“Then, once we are able to start travelling again, please also consider returning to Africa’s incredible destinations. Simply by being there, you will be contributing towards conservation.”

LITTLE JESSIE, THE ORPHANED RHINO

The most recent rescue for Rhino 911 involved a female thought to be about four months old. She was evacuated on April 30 after her mother was killed by poachers. She is now at the Rhino Orphanage, a registered nonprofit company based in Limpopo, where she has been named Jessie.

Founded by Arrie van Deventer in 2012, the orphanage is dedicated to the care of orphaned and injured baby rhinos, with the goal of ultimately releasing them back into the wild.

After Jessie spent her first night at the orphanage blindfolded and pacing, her caretakers posted on Facebook the following morning: “It is clear that the little girl has been through tremendous trauma the past few days, just looking at her behaviour. She is scared and confused but wants comfort.”

A few days later, they introduced her to another newly orphaned rhino, Amelia, who was rescued by Rhino 911 on March 25.

Head caretaker Yolande van der Merwe explained: “It is always better for rhinos (and any wild animal really) to have an animal companion. For rhinos, it makes them less dependent on human affection, so we always try and pair them up. It makes their rehabilitation so much more successful and easier.”

This week, Van der Merwe said they were “bonding very well, snuggling up close together. In a week or two they will be inseparable.”

You can see a video of Jessie’s rescue – shot on Jacob’s GoPro — on Facebook and follow her and Amelia’s progress on Facebook/TheRhinoOrphanage.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Visit Rhino 911’s website to donate, as well as to see a breakdown of what the funds are for, from helicopter fuel to “baby formula”. Shockingly, it costs R80,000 to wean a baby rhino.

You can also “adopt” a baby or donate once-off to the Rhino Orphanage. See therhinoorphanage.co.za

 

Conservancies could lose N$125 million (Namibia)

By Conservation, Tourism No Comments

Charmaine Ngatjiheue, The Namibian | May 6, 2020

Read original story here.

Namibian conservancies stand to lose N$125 million following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Minister of environment, forestry and tourism Pohamba Shifeta announced this yesterday at the launch of a conservation relief, recovery and resilience fund by his ministry at the Covid-19 Communication Centre.

Namibian escarpment. Wikimedia Commons

He said the N$125 million includes conservancy income from tourism operations, which amounts to approximately N$60 million per year, and an additional N$65 million paid in salaries to tourism staff living in conservancies.

“The jobs of 700 community game guards and rhino rangers, 300 conservancy support staff, and 1 175 locally hired tourism staff members are in jeopardy, and the 30-year effort to build Namibia’s communal conservancy programme is under severe threat,” the minister said.

He said Namibia’s communal conservancy programme has managed to transform wildlife conservation into a viable land-use option for rural communities for the past 30 years.

In line with this, Namibia now has 86 conservancies covering over 166 179 square km (20% of Namibia’s land surface), encompassing approximately 222 000 community members (9% of Namibia’s population) and has seen the widespread recovery of wildlife populations.

“Namibia’s tourism industry is the hardest hit, with close to zero tourist arrivals in the country for the next three to four months. This situation is likely to persist for the entire 2020. The predictions for lost income and massive job losses in this sector are particularly painful in rural areas,” Shifeta said.

In an effort to mitigate Covid-19 shocks on conservancies, various organisations guaranteed roughly N$16 million to the fund.

The organisations are the Namibia Association for CBNRM (Community Based Natural Resource Management) the World Wildlife Fund, the Environmental Investment Fund (EIF), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Nedbank.

They have committed N$7,5 million, N$6 million, N$1,5 million and N$1 million, respectively.

The EIF will serve as the fund’s secretariat.

Benedict Libanda, chief executive officer of the EIF, said the N$6 million committed by EIF will be used to support communal conservancies and community forests to cover the operational costs of ensuring biodiversity conservation.

He said this will include support towards salaries, anti-poaching activities, natural resource equipment, and human-wildlife conflict.

He said 60% of Namibians are reliant on natural resources for their livelihoods, and roughly 230 000 people live within the CBNRM areas.

“In 2018, communal conservancies facilitated more than 4 900 jobs, with the majority employed as game guards and in the tourism and hospitality industry, representing about N$65 million to N$80 million in wages and salaries. All these economic benefits have been eroded by Covid-19,” he said.

Addressing the same platform, Nedbank’s acting managing director, Richard Meeks, said the bank will offer N$1 million towards the fund. He said the contribution is in partnership with the Go Green Fund.

Alka Bhatia, UNDP resident representative, commended the government for acting swiftly in setting up measures to tackle Covid-19.

“We are working across key sectors to slow the spread of the virus and with civil society organisations to tackle its spread in vulnerable communities,” she said.

The UNDP is committing roughly N$1,26 million towards the conservation relief fund. Bhatia said they would also assess the impact of Covid-19 on Namibia’s tourism industry.

Mkomazi rhino viewing a new tourism venture (Tanzania)

By Conservation, Tourism No Comments
The Daily News | May 8, 2020

Read original story here.

Mkomazi National Park is set to become more popular to local and foreign tourists, as it is in the final stages of launching a rhino viewing site at a close range. The tourism promotional stint using the black rhino that is an endangered species will be the first of its kind to be undertaken in Tanzania.

Original photo as published by The Daily News.

The park cuts across Kilimanjaro and Tanga regions, near the Arusha – Dar es Salaam Highway. The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, Professor Adolf Mkenda, who visited the site to view construction of an electric fence that is at an advanced stage, said they were set to attract more tourists.

Professor Mkenda said that to start with, at this time when foreign tourists are scarce due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the focus will be on local tourists. He said that people travelling between Arusha and Dare es Salaam could stop over briefly to view rhino and other animals as well as relax, before proceeding with their journeys.

The park is located some 112 km east of Moshi town and rhinos are protected within a fenced 55-square kilometre sanctuary, inside the 3,245-square kilometre park. Tourists can see them more easily than in the wild plains.

“It is a strategy that we have come up with so as to attract more tourists in this national park, so that people can view rhino at close range. Erecting of the electric fence is going on well and we will start with local tourists as we don’t get foreigners now due to the Covid-19 contagion,” said Professor Mkenda.

The PS said funds generated from the project would support in operations of the park that he said were expensive. He also revealed that the park will start a project to allow people have rhinos acquire their names and pay for their upkeep.

“We used to hear of Fausta the Rhino and other names, now we will be offering opportunities for people to have rhinos acquire their names … if you are Adolf and want a certain rhino to get your name, you tell us and pay sum money and the particular rhino is given your name,” said Professor Mkenda, adding that the naming process might be done through auctions or other means that they would deem fit.

He noted that the process of acquiring names will also be extended to other Tanzania National Parks (Tanapa) areas, Ngorongoro Conservation Area and in some areas of the Tanzania Wildlife Authority where there are animals.

Currently black rhinos are being used in South Africa for tourism promotional ventures. Increased poaching of rhinos in the 1980s forced Tanzania to transfer some of its rhinos to South Africa and the Czech Republic for their safety. However, most of the rhinos have since been returned to Tanzania after concerted efforts to fight poaching paid dividends.

Jaldapara’s oldest guard elephant dies at 90 (State of West Bengal, India)

By Antipoaching, Conservation, Tourism No Comments
Krishnendu Mukherjee, The Times of India | May 4, 2020

Read original story here.

KOLKATA: Jaldapara National Park, which has the highest number of rhinos in West Bengal, lost one of its foot soldiers on Sunday. Madhubala, the oldest guard elephant of the park, died in Moiradanga area in the morning due to old age. She was 90.

Original photo as published by The Times of India. Madhubala served Jaldapara National Park for 50 years.

Talking to TOI, state’s chief wildlife warden Ravi Kant Sinha said Madhubala had lost the last set of molar teeth recently. “She was born in 1930 and was purchased by the forest department some time in 1969-70. She served the park for 50 years, patrolled different beat areas during its career, and gave birth to eight calves in the park. The park pays tribute to its oldest guard of 50 long years for outstanding, untiring service,” he added.

Talking about some of Madhubala’s greatest achievements, Sinha said her role was commendable during the rhino vaccination drive in 1992, when a wild elephant had died of anthrax in the park. “The park had only 33 rhinos at that time. Since an elephant had died of anthrax, we didn’t want to take any chances and decided to vaccinate the rhinos. Madhubala played a key role as our foresters went on vaccinating (through darts) at least 23 rhinos in the park,” the chief wildlife warden said. The park, he added, is now home to more than 230 rhinos.

Usually, an elephant is not put to work by the department once it turns 65. “But Madhubala had to be roped in recently following the mysterious deaths of five rhinos. We had to vaccinate a few rhinos after the recent deaths,” the officer said. According to Sinha, an elephant has six sets of molar teeth. “After losing her last set recently, Madhubala couldn’t even eat,” he said.

Madhubala, a source said, was also occasionally used for tourism activities. Jaldapara now has 93 guard elephants while Gorumara and Buxa have 18 and 2 jumbos respectively.

Meanwhile, a male rhino, about 30 years old, was sedated, treated and revived successfully in Jaldapara on Sunday. The rhino was injured while fighting with another; it had deep gash wounds, a senior official said.

The safari industry is no stranger to hardship, but what will it take to recover now?

By Tourism No Comments
Stacey Lastoe, CNN | April 22, 2020

Read the original story here.

The last Hippo Creek Safari was cut short — in mid-March, the veteran tour operator’s guest flew out of Botswana several days early once news of impending lockdowns hit. She never made it to Rwanda.

Covid-19 had arrived in Africa, restricting travel in and out of the continent.

The restrictions spell trouble for Africa, both its people and its animals, the bread and butter of safari travel.

Daniel Saperstein, owner of Hippo Creek Safari, said it was a “scramble” working to get the guest out on a flight before flights filled up. His team worked overnight facilitating the departure of the safari guest.

Original photo as published by CCN. Elephants roam around Xakanaxa in the Moremi Game Reserve. Courtesy Laurie Newman

Meanwhile, Laurie Newman was on safari with nascent operator Brave Africa. She ended up on a private safari with Tabona Wina, one of the company’s co-owners. Isolated in the Okavango Delta in Botswana, Newman extended her trip but made it out of the country — and Africa — and back to the United States before it would become impossible to do so.

“She successfully made it home on the last flight out of the country,” says Colorado-based Kelly Vo, who along with her husband, Patrick Vo, co-own Brave Africa with Wina.

As Covid-19 escalated, reaching South Africa and eventually Botswana and other African nations, safari operators and tour companies focused on rescheduling, postponing, deferring and sometimes refunding most of a party’s planned safari as the industry went dark nearly overnight.

“Coronavirus has put a stop to everything,” says Patrick Vo.

“I have not had a new safari booking since this started,” says Betty Jo L Currie of Currie & Co. Travels Unlimited in Atlanta.

Currie, who also consults for luxury travel adviser Virtuoso, finds herself — like the Vos and Saperstein — in a holding pattern, at the mercy of things she cannot control.

Several months into the pandemic, with lockdown restrictions in place around the world, the safari has literally been canceled. While the virus had run loose for months, the pandemic wasn’t officially declared until March 11, creating a kind of panic for those traveling, especially internationally.

It’s neither clear when safari travel will return nor what it will take for it to recover.

Once travel resumes, and in some parts of the world, that’s already starting to become a reality, it’s possible the safari’s recovery will lag behind other industries. Patrick Vo expresses concern about the potentially slow recovery, especially as it relates to poaching.

“The longer we are not out in the wild, the longer the poaching can be without any type of constraint or without any opposition, so to speak.”

Keeping Calm and Carrying On?

In spite of the uncertainty, the empty lodges, the grounded flights and the increase in poaching according to a report in “The New York Times,” industry leaders express optimism about the safari’s future.

Saperstein says the vast majority of his company’s clients are looking forward to traveling as soon as it is feasible — whether that translates to as early as this summer or in the fall.

“A few have indicated that they would like to wait until vaccines are available, which is completely understandable as well, and we have already moved several trips into next year to support that (and have agreements with the camps that will allow further postponements if it’s still not medically safe for those particular travelers to be in Africa by then).”

Although the safari is no stranger to tragedy and upheaval — Ebola outbreaks and the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001, two examples cited by Currie and Saperstein, respectively — the current issues are what Saperstein, an industry veteran, calls “unprecedented.”

As such, companies such as Hippo Creek and Brave Africa are trying to be as flexible as possible as the situation evolves.

Wina notes that many of Brave Africa’s guests who were supposed to be on safari now have opted to postpone rather than outright cancel.

April safaris have been moved to September and beyond.

Nicole Robinson, chief marketing officer for luxury safari company andBeyond, says they are also seeing postponements instead of cancellations: “Ninety percent of our guests opted to postpone travel instead of canceling.

“We’re preparing for a slow recovery. What we’re hearing from our key markets is that local travel will most likely pick up first.

“We’re also hearing, something very encouraging to us, that travelers are more likely to be interested in travel to explore nature and turning to more meaningful, purposeful travel experiences.”

Patrick Vo says: “If our guests can get to Africa, we can take them out on an amazing safari.”

Waiting for Takeoff

But until international travel resumes, no one can go on safari, making “the safari as good as dead,” according to Wina, and underlining the industry’s dependence on outside factors, namely flights.

If you can’t get people to Africa, you cannot get them on safari.

Saperstein views the early African precautions as going a long way toward things getting up and running again. He’s based in the United States and says Africa’s “much more stringent lockdown” has him feeling “hopeful that they can reopen quickly when it is safe to do so.”

Even though there’s no date on the calendar which you can look to and say “this is when safaris will be back in session,” Wina nonetheless encourages booking: “You can book for end of this year” with the option to defer if travel to Africa does not resume. But of course, Wina and the other operators are eager for the safari’s recovery; it’s directly related to their livelihood and to the protection of the animals.

Yet, it’s perhaps unsurprising that Currie hasn’t had a new safari booking Covid-19 was declared a pandemic. For now, she’s just actively rescheduling and hoping that the demand will be there when it’s safe to travel again.

Safaris are often planned quite far in advance since lodges, especially in the luxury category, are small and fill up quickly; Brave Africa has inquiries for safaris in 2021 and in 2022.

Currie has faith in would-be safari-goers: “And if you care about conservation and sustainability and wildlife and cultural and communities, then clearly that deposit is going to go toward that effort.”

Still, cost combined with a deep uncertainty about whether that scheduled flight will take place as planned (among myriad other concerns) might deter some people from booking a safari, often considered a bucket-list trip because of its high price tag.

Budget, DIY safaris exist, but guests have less protection and assistance if they choose to go this route.

Newman, having gone through a safari operator, had help getting out of the country and continent.

“There is an eight-hour time difference between Botswana and Colorado, so Patrick and I would be on the phone at 2 a.m. onward to give updates on the progress of the pandemic and to ensure Laurie could make informed decisions about how to continue her journey in Africa after her Brave Africa safari was completed or to start making her way home to the US,” Kelly Vo explains.

As for future safari travel? Currie believes if you have the means, you should want to go on safari.

The Vos loved their first safari so much, they went on another one. It was during the second safari that they hatched a plan to launch a business with their guide at the time, Wina.

Cheetahs, leopards, elephants, rhinos and lions: Patrick and Kelly were hooked after seeing the animals in the wild interacting with each other.

The Poaching Problem

Add the increase in poaching to the devastating list of Covid-19 side effects, and you can see why the safari is in a different kind of danger.

It is most definitely a concern, say many industry experts. With countries on lockdown and stay-at-home orders in effect in much of Africa, official anti-poaching efforts have largely been abandoned.

In some South African lodges, where safari guides live on-site, there’s a continued lookout for illegal activity.

To wit: Michel Girardin, general manager of Djuma Private Game Reserve in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve in South Africa, says there hasn’t been a “major increase” in poaching, and that he’s heard of “a drop in the incidents of poaching being reported.”

Yet a lack of reporting and a lack of poaching are two different things.

Typically, explains Kelly Vo, safari guests and staff can be counted on to report bad or illegal behavior.

In Botswana’s bush, far more remote and hard to get to than Sabi Sands, no one is out there enforcing anti-poaching laws, according to Patrick Vo.

Map Ives, director of Rhino Conservation Botswana disputes the claim that anti-poaching efforts have stopped; in fact, Ives says his organization has actually increased their aerial presence considerably.

Wina, however, speaks to what he views as a decrease in vehicular monitoring: “When everything is up and running, you have so many vehicles driving around there. You have camps, you have guests all the time and you get these guys driving in the park in an out and it keeps the poaching very low.”

“The challenge, though, is that’s a drop in the bucket,” Patrick Vo says of the efforts of some South African lodges, adding that in the past couple of weeks in “the northwest corner of South Africa, already nine rhinos have been poached in the last week.”

Poaching is “big, big, big business,” Currie says.

“Killing the rhinos is driven by big syndicates out of Asia and possibly other places,” she adds.

But will severe travel restrictions hurt the poachers’ supply lines? If they can’t get illicit goods out of Africa, is there a chance poaching will become less lucrative, less of a lifeline for the sellers?

It may slow things down, Kelly Vo says, but ultimately, “we have no idea.”

“Africans in Africa, they have zero use for ivory,” Patrick Vo adds.

Safari on Sale?

Travelers are unlikely to see a significant decrease in the cost of a safari, which varies widely but is rarely considered budget-friendly.

A 10-day, low-budget safari, not including flights to or within Africa or a slew of other amenities, can start at about $3,000 a person, according to Currie. But for this relatively low-cost safari, the conservation component may be absent, says Currie, and the guides may not be as outstanding as the ones leading a more expensive trip.

But a five-star luxury safari can cost well beyond $10,000 a person, with add-ons such as massages and top-shelf alcohol coming at a premium.

Gratuities, at $25 to $50 a day, are another additional expense.

A fraction of the price for accommodations, which run the gamut from rustic raised tents in the remote bushlands to upscale enclosed lodges with private butler service, often goes toward conservation efforts.

Brave Africa, for example, gives $5 a night per guest toward conservation funds, according to Kelly Vo, and she points out that many, if not most, safari companies practice this distribution.

Of course, there are plenty of conservation efforts individuals wanting to protect the animals can contribute to now. Brave Africa, for example, in partnership with Victoria Falls Anti-Poaching Unit set up a GoFundMe to assist with the effort to protect wildlife;

Currie credits philanthropists with helping as well and explains the mission of many luxury operators: “It’s part of the larger intention on the part of these companies to protect wildlife, to protect sustainability, local community, land preservation and all of that will continue to happen regardless of this virus, at least for the foreseeable future.”

These protection efforts, along with salaries for safari staff — especially those on the ground — come at a cost.

Brave Africa’s Botswana staff took a voluntary pay cut, Patrick Vo says, making 50% of what they were making when safaris were in session.

“The truth of the matter is that this team cares about each other so much that everyone is pitching in so that no one has to be let go,” Patrick Vo says and Kelly adds: “Well, if you care about the animals, too, you have to care about the people.”

While Currie isn’t expecting a steep increase in all-inclusive lodging in the 2022 rates (which won’t be released for another year), she’s also not predicting a price decrease.

Saperstein agrees, though he says maybe you’ll see a special here or there (book five nights for the price of four or along those lines).

If what andBeyond’s Robinson is hearing is accurate — “travelers are more likely to be interested in travel to explore nature and turning to more meaningful, purposeful travel experiences” once they are free to roam — the safari may rebound as quickly as any other niche travel industry.

“Africa,” says Patrick Vo, “is the least scripted.”

“You wake up every morning, you have no idea what you’re going to see. You don’t really need a plan. You just go out there and you see what nature is going to show today.”

Can tourism reverse the impact of poaching in Zambia and Zimbabwe?

By Antipoaching, Conservation, Tourism No Comments
Tamsin Wressell, National Geographic | April 21, 2020

Read original story here.

The sun yawns over the land, vast savannahs stretching until they blur into the horizon. I can see elephants stomping up dust storms and hippos smacking their tails on muddied banks. I’m in a hot air balloon with Eric Heseman, owner of Namib Sky Balloon Safaris, watching a new day come to life. It’s a peaceful morning on Zambia’s Busanga Plains: the only sounds come from the fire bellowing above our heads and the distant growls of hyenas.

“Look at all this land and not a single person in sight,” Eric says, echoing what’s in my head. “This is the wildest safari I’ve led in Africa. If this was the Okavango in Botswana, we’d have passed at least three camps by now.”

Below us, antelopes leap over a trickle of a river, a barely perceptible waterway clawing its way through parched earth. In the 11 years Eric has worked here, this is the most brutal drought he’s witnessed. The resulting lack of vegetation has made it difficult for conservationists like Eric to safeguard the wildlife: poachers can now spot patrols a mile off and thus evade capture.

Busanga Plains in the north of Kafue National Park, which is Zambia’s oldest and largest park, stretches out for 8,500 square miles. Yet with growing funding concerns, the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) has just three cars to patrol it. Eric runs these balloon tours to support the organisation. “People come and pay $200 (£150) for a ride and that all goes back into conservation. Plus, the more tourists we can get here in the sky, the more eyes we have on the poachers,” Eric says.

Original photo as published by National Geographic. A white rhino roams the wilderness in Victoria Falls National Park, Zimbabwe.

“All parks are struggling,” Ben Goodheart, field ecologist in the Luangwa Valley Team at the Zambian Carnivore Programme (ZCP), tells me over dinner that evening. “People come to Busanga because they can see lions, wild dogs, cheetahs, hyenas and leopards,” he says, adding that these plains have 21 species of antelope — the highest diversity of antelope anywhere in Africa. One mammal the area doesn’t have, however, is white rhino: poaching on Busanga was so intense between the 1960s and 1980s that every last one was killed. “Once you start losing animals to poaching, travellers lose interest in the area and the economy suffers.”

A lot of the poaching here, Ben tells me, is for the bushmeat trade. It’s a big commercial operation and, for conservationists, a big problem. Wire snare traps are hidden in the bushes and hooked on trees to catch animals like buffalo and wildebeest. In some cities, like Lusaka and Solwezi, bushmeat has become a delicacy. “I hear it tastes terrible, but there’s a demand for it,” Ben continues. “Guys come in, illegally, six at a time, shoot everything they see and set hundreds of snares. They can end up with hundreds of kilos of meat.”

But the traps are catching more than just prey species. On a game drive, I spot Queen, leader of a 16-strong pride of lions. My guide, Lazarus, tells me about her: Queen got trapped in a snare in 2013. Every lion on this plain is descended from her, and without anti-poaching efforts to free her from the trap, the plains would be a very different place: with no lions, the entire ecosystem could crumble.

“Kafue is the second-largest national park in Africa — it should be a crown jewel, but because of traps, it’s severely depleted,” Ben later tells me. We’re eating dinner at Shumba Camp and have the place to ourselves. “Without big herds of prey, there’s a lack of carnivores, and tourists just aren’t coming. That’s why anti-poaching is such an important operation. More tourists would be the solution to more infrastructure and income for locals,” he adds. “And there would be more eyes on the poachers and more funding to stop them.”

Return of the Rhino

The next morning, I travel south to Toka Leya, a camp that sits on the banks of the Zambezi in the diminutive Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park. Turning off the main road, I drive between spindly parched trees to meet Bazel, one of the four rangers assigned to watch over the rare white rhinos in this park.

“We protect these rhinos 24/7,” Bazel tells me as we carefully approach a four-month-old white rhino. The youngster stands statue-still next to its mother while she grazes on small patches of sprouting green grass. “We even plant grass for them because of the drought.”

Rhinos were completely wiped out in Zambia in 1989 as a result of poaching (the keratin from their horns is erroneously considered to be an aphrodisiac in a number of foreign markets, including China). Four were reintroduced in 2008 by the DNPW, and the herd today numbers 10. They’re not in their best habitat: while black rhino are searchers and feed off trees, white rhino are grazers who like to roam, and the grass here is in short supply. The rangers tell me they’d like to introduce them to more areas, but it’s once again a question of funding and having the bodies to watch and look after them. Local organisations and farmers support the rangers’ efforts, and Wilderness Safaris — one of Africa’s foremost ecotourism operators, which has been bringing travellers to this area since 2006 — provides additional supplies, fuel and logistical support.

I leave the rhinos and head to catch the sunset on a boat ride along the Zambezi with Arnold Tshipa, the Zambezi Environmental Officer for Wilderness Safaris. The eyes of numerous crocodiles linger on a hippo carcass; nearby, an elephant bathes in mud on the shores. We pause to soak in the scene before conversation turns to the topic at hand.

“I believe poaching is fuelled by three things: corruption, greed and poverty,” says Arnold. “The people who poach, their food security isn’t as high as yours in the Western world. The cost of living is increasing, so they’re more willing to put themselves in danger to feed their families. In Zambia and Zimbabwe, you get nine years in prison for stealing a cow, but for crimes against wildlife, people are getting away with bail or community service. That’s something the DNPW is hoping to change.”

Africa’s population is projected to double in size by 2050, and with growing habitat fragmentation, habitat loss and poaching, the future for wildlife looks bleak when conservation is taken out of the equation. Effects are far-reaching: with the gene pool depleted, animals’ genetic structures are changing. But Arnold can see progress.

“One solution is for tourism to be conscious rather than voyeuristic,” he says. “Any tourism that doesn’t include locals will quickly be undermined by locals.” Wilderness Safaris, he tells me, has developed an effective model that combines conservation with park collaborations and community work. All these cogs are working together to create change that will, Arnold hopes, stick.

Tourism for Change

A thousand pearl black eyes are on me, unsettling my stomach. I’m in a car in the pitch black of night in Hwange National Park, having crossed the border into Zimbabwe, and we’re surrounded by a herd of buffalo.

“They say buffalo look at you as if you owe them money,” Livingstone, my guide, says. “A lone buffalo is more dangerous than an angry crowd. When they get old, they separate and parasites set in. They see humans and think we’re the cause, so they attack.” We’re not the cause of this particular problem, but we’re causing other issues: namely, climate change. “I haven’t seen the ground this dry in a long time,” Livingstone laments.

In 2019, Hwange saw its worst drought in nearly 30 years. “The Western world wants to have all these big talks about climate change, but if I ask for funding to remove snares, I’m not going to get it — it doesn’t sound sexy enough. But we need to be acting on the day-to-day issues facing conservation, away from trending topics and buzzwords, if we’re really going to address climate change and conservation on a larger scale,” Arnold tells me.

He’s brought me to the Scorpion Anti-Poaching Unit, an eight-person response team set up in 2011 to tackle increases in bushmeat and ivory poaching in Hwange National Park. The results of their efforts are notable. Columns of gnarled and rusted snares decorate their base camp, some of the 2,500 the team have found in the park. They’ve noticed the use of snares drop massively since the project began. Now, they tend to find older snares rather than fresh ones.

“The situation is currently under control, but we can’t relax,” Tyrone, one of the Scorpions, tells me. The unit spends a lot of time telling nearby communities that keeping animals alive, rather than resorting to illegal poaching, is good for tourism, which in turn creates jobs. “It strains us, but with passion in our heart, we keep going and we try hard.” They also work with Children in the Wilderness, a programme that educates young students about conservation. “They go home and spread the message to their family and friends. It’s definitely changing perspectives,” Tyrone explains.

“We’re thinking of our future leaders. We want to see them be eco-conscious and responsible,” Moyo, head teacher at Ngamo Primary School, explains to me later. “They see the world is using up its natural resources, but we still have our wildlife here — and that’s a resource we can use. For one person to poach an animal, only they benefit from that. But to keep it alive means the whole community can build on an economy from tourism and create funding to build schools and farm crops.”

The importance of conservation has never been something locals have disregarded, as Mr Johnson, a resident in Ngamo village, argues: “Some people say our ancestors were the roots of this problem but, if you know our history, hunting bushmeat was careful and seasonal. It was only for the winter months when the meat wouldn’t rot, and they knew when these animals were breeding and gave them time in order to keep numbers high. The knowledge of conserving is within us. It was only when the white men came that they took that away; they didn’t have the same mindset and came with greed,” Mr Johnson explains.

It was this style of hunting that caused an imbalance in the ecosystem, to the point where it’s now so fragile, Mr Johnson continues to tell me.

As I go to leave, Mr Johnson adds a final comment: “The eco-safari camps here have made local people and tourists connect in a healthy way. If it wasn’t for the wildlife, we wouldn’t have tourism. And because of that we now have good schools and community development. We’re better off than any other area in Zimbabwe, so all the credit goes to our wildlife. That’s something worth saving.”

Reintroducing Endangered Animals 

Black Rhino 

Black rhinos were reintroduced into Chad in 2018. Wild black rhinos had been wiped out by poaching 50 years earlier, but a collaboration between the governments of South Africa and Chad, as well as conservation non-profits SANParks and African Parks, enabled six rhinos to be securely translocated from South Africa to Zakouma National Park. africanparks.org

African Wild Dog 

The first ever African wild dog introduction happened in Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park in 2018, after 25 years of local extinction. The project was spearheaded through conservation group partnerships, including KwaZulu-Natal Wild Dog Advisory Group and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. The South African state of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) has protected the largest population of wild dogs outside of Kruger National Park and is now a key player in redistributing the species into their historic range.

White Rhino 

White rhino became locally extinct in Zambia in 1989. In 2008, the Zambia Wildlife Authority successfully reintroduced four white rhino from South Africa into a secure section of Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park (Victoria Falls), creating a protected population on the north side of the Zambezi. After a number of births, the herd’s population was up to 10. Tragically, in February 2020, two were killed after being hit by a truck.

Pangolin 

With increasing demand for its meat and scales on the black market, the pangolin is believed to be the world’s most trafficked mammal. A reintroduction programme in South Africa, announced in February 2020, aims to reverse Phinda’s local extinction. &Beyond has partnered with the African Pangolin Working Group, Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital and the Humane Society International-Africa to launch the programme.

Addax 

Once roaming in their thousands in North Africa, poaching and industrialisation pushed the African population of the critically endangered antelope to just a handful by 2016. In 2019, 15 addax were brought over to Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Achimal Wildlife Area in Chad from Abu Dhabi where they were acclimatised before being reintroduced into the wild. africageographic.com.

How to Do It 

Africa Odyssey and Wilderness Safaris offer two nights at Wilderness Safaris’ Shumba Camp, Zambia, and three nights at Linkwasha Camp, Zimbabwe, with a night in between at Toka Leya at Victoria Falls, from £6,200 per person. Includes all flights, transfers, game drives and activities including a tour of Victoria Falls, all-inclusive.

Published in the May 2020 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)