Addressing wildlife tourism and poaching at World Travel Market

rhino horn close up

poaching is pushing the rhino ever close the extinction

No one who heard Charlie Mayhew, founder and chief executive of Tusk, speak on World Responsible Tourism  Day at WTM in 2012 will forget the power of his speech or the images of the cruelty of poaching. We heard how poaching has  reached catastrophic proportions sweeping through the continent, decimating wildlife and destroying national and local economies, including the tourism industry.

Over the last two years the situation has worsened, with reports of 1,004 South African rhinos killed in 2013; and by August this year 695 rhinos had been poached – 418 of them in the Kruger National Park. On the black market rhino horn sells for £39,000 a kilo – more than platinum or gold.

Since 1979 the number of African elephants has fallen dramatically, from an estimated 1.3 million then to some 400,000 today, with as many as 35,000 elephants slaughtered in the past year alone. Between January and December of last year, nearly 30 tonnes of illegal ivory were seized around the world, providing grim proof of a continent-wide slaughter of epic proportions that by many accounts threatens the very existence of African elephant in the wild.

elephant ivory madikwe

The desire for ivory sees thousands of elephants killed each year

We have invited Charlie Mayhew to discuss how to improve and progress anti-poaching action in Africa with Colin Bell. Colin Bell co-founded Wilderness Safaris in 1983, sold his shares in 2005 and co-founded Great Plains Conservation in 2006. Now completely independent, Colin is campaigning for a Green Safari model. He believes passionately that allowing the trade in rhino is no way to stop rhino poaching – the Times reported in August this year that poachers are putting rhino farmers out of business with South African National Parks selling live rhinos at a fraction of what their horn would fetch on the black market. The two of them will be interviewed by our sponsor BBC World News Hardtalk’s Stephen Sackur on Wednesday morning in what promises to be a lively and hard hitting interview.

This session will range over poaching, the market for rhino horn and elephant tusks, and what the tourism industry can do to contribute to the survival of these charismatic species. Colin argues that the South African tourism industry generates around R100 billion a year and proposes that a  1% levy be charged on all tourism accommodation and related services to support a ‘Natural Capital Fund’. This could generate as much as R1 billion a year and could be used to work with communities, and in the consuming markets, to end the trade.


The tourism industry can’t afford to sit back and let some of its prime assets be destroyed

Colin will also be on the Better Wildlife Tourism – Whose Responsibility? panel at 15:45 on Tuesday 4th November with Sandra Carvao of UNWTO, who will be arguing for greater efforts against the trade in artefacts from endangered species. On the same panel, Geoff Manchester Co-Founder & Director at Intrepid Travel will be talking about why they have stopped including elephant rides on their trips, and Mohammad Rafiq will be talking about the wildlife work of The Long Run Initiative.

There is much to debate. You can read more about Colin Bell’s controversial Plan B to make safari sustainable here.

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Harold is Professor of Responsible Tourism at Manchester Metropolitan University, where he teaches and researches in the Centre for Responsible Tourism. Harold researches on tourism, local economic development and poverty reduction, conservation and responsible tourism and teaches Masters and PhD students. as well as the industry, local communities, governments, and conservationists. Harold also undertakes consultancy and evaluations for companies, NGOs, governments, and international organisations. He is also a Director of the International Centre for Responsible Tourism which he founded in 2002 and which promotes the principles of the Cape Town Declaration.

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