Elephant Appeal: Tourist cash can save the elephant

Just as money drives the poachers, so visitors’ dollars can give communities a sustainable reason to protect their valuable wildlife. Simon Calder looks at the possibilities for East Africa

Share
Related Topics

Having the world’s most extraordinary wildlife is crucial to the economy of the world’s poorest continent. The challenge lies in how to make that wildlife worth more alive than it is dead. The answer might be tourist dollars.

Tanzania’s national parks and reserves comprise the country’s most valuable resources – in two senses. The precious natural heritage of Mount Kilimanjaro, the Serengeti and the Selous Game Reserve has been recognised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) as possessing “Outstanding Universal Value”. As Unesco says, the chances of success for conservation depend on “ensuring sufficient benefits for the local communities through the wildlife management areas and the improved management of hunting and photographic tourism”.

Two years ago, some members of the community evidently concluded that their interests were not being given sufficient regard. There was a sudden rise in the killing of elephants on the fringes of Tanzania’s Udzungwa Mountains National Park. Unesco said: “Rapidly expanding human populations in areas around the park and the farming of land up to the park border have led to conflicts between people and wildlife, particularly elephants roaming within the park, [with] a rapid increase in the number of elephants killed as villagers lose patience with elephants leaving the park to forage in their fields, destroying crops.”

The Wildlife Conservation Society of Tanzania was given an emergency grant by Unesco. It was used for some unusual defences – such as fences smeared in chilli oil, and beehives on the park boundary. They largely succeeded in repelling and containing elephants, and tensions eased. The same dynamic applies to creatures both great and small.

Shooting fish in a barrel might sound easy, but for a more substantial catch blast fishing proves extremely efficient. Detonating underwater explosions in order to stun fish and make them easy to harvest has been practised in a wide range of locations, many of them tropical. It is a lucrative business: “One blast can lead to a catch of up to 400kg of fish and a profit of US$1,800 in market sales,” says the Washington-based World Resources Institute.

The Coral Reef Alliance says: “Dynamite fishing is practised in up to 30 countries in South-East Asia and Oceania and is also common in Eastern Africa.” In a predominantly low-income nation such as Tanzania, the temptation is understandable. However, the practice turns coral reefs into rubble – and traumatises the rich eco-systems that they foster.

Tanzanian law stipulates “imprisonment for a term of not less than five years and not exceeding 10 years” for perpetrators. In practice, though, enforcement is patchy. The best hope for protecting the fragile marine environment is to align the coastal communities’ interests with protecting the coral – and sustainable tourism is an effective way to achieve that. Demand from divers and snorkellers for dazzling sub-aqua experiences endures only as long as the coral reefs exist.

The best way to tackle the problems: hard currency. An excellent example is the way that the mountain gorillas are protected with the help of tourists’ dollars. It is the world’s most expensive wildlife encounter: a gorilla permit, price $750 per person, allows a visit to a group of gorillas lasting just one hour.

Thankfully, people are queuing up to pay. The cash is needed to pay for manpower and equipment for the anti-poaching teams, and protection of the creatures’ natural habitat. Exodus, the adventure company, explains bluntly that the money is needed “to make sure that those involved with protecting the gorillas are paid enough not to be tempted by bribery from would-be poachers”.

The market price for a close-quarters encounter with elephants is much lower than for mountain gorillas, but the imperative to prevent poaching is just as strong. In the absence of a globally agreed and professionally enforced moratorium on the trade in ivory, nations that are blessed with elephants must make a pact with those who come to gaze.

 It’s not just animals: the people of Africa also benefit enormously from eco-tourism. Organisations such as Kenya’s Northern Rangelands Trust are crucial in supporting fragile local livelihoods by providing school bursaries and water projects. Community-led conservation action, underwritten by eco-tourism, is the only solution to Africa’s enduring poaching crisis.

Each day, two Boeing 777s depart from Heathrow for Nairobi. The hundreds of passengers on board pay £83 each in air passenger duty – a tax that goes straight to the UK Treasury. While any levy has a dampening effect on tourist numbers, the prospect of paying a fee for the privilege of helping to protect East Africa’s wildlife should at least be on the table.

Meanwhile, an effective way to contribute (while at the same time having your own, unique encounter with The Independent team is to bid in our Christmas Charity Auction. The opportunity to climb a mountain with Simon Calder is Lot 22 in the auction: see independent.co.uk/Auction2013 (UK only – not Kilimanjaro).


To read more about The Independent's Elephant appeal click here

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst - Banking - London - £550 - £650

£550 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Business Analyst - Traded Credit Risk - Investmen...

Data Insight Manager - Marketing

£32000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based o...

Data Centre Engineer - Linux, Redhat, Solaris, SAN, Puppet

£55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A financial software vendor at the forefro...

.NET Developer

£600 per day: Harrington Starr: .NET Developer C#, WPF,BLL, MSMQ, SQL, GIT, SQ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letters: The West flounders in the Middle East morass

Independent Voices
David Tennant as Hamlet  

To vote no or not to vote no, that is the question... Although do celebrities really have the answer?

David Lister
All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf