Alan Murphy
Australia AU

Alan is a travel writer and author of over 20 Lonely Planet guidebooks, including the guides to Southern Africa and Zambia & Malawi.

Category: Alan Murphy's Column

This week Alan highlights the problem of poaching in Africa and how it stands ready to take advantage of the drop in tourist numbers in East Africa. Poaching has always been a problem in Africa. When there is a market for an animal skin, horn, hide, tusk etc…there are always those ruthless and greedy enough to take advantage.

I have highlighted in detail the sickening problem of poaching in southern Africa in previous blogs. In particular I have focused on the tragedy of rhino poaching in South Africa, which has escalated rapidly in the past few years. With rhino horn selling for outrageous sums of money in Asia there is plenty of incentive for would-be poachers.

Taking Advantage of Falling Tourist Numbers
But in East Africa poaching has become more opportunistic. Advice for visiting Kenya, from Western country’s foreign affairs’ departments (such as the UK), includes words such as ‘terrorism’, ‘piracy’, ‘kidnapping’ and ‘violence’ in their travel advisories. Even though these warnings apply to isolated parts of the country, the drop-off of tourist arrivals for the whole country has been dramatic.

The safari industry has been hard hit and when safari numbers drop, so do eyes on the ground and the locals don’t get paid. This is the time when the poachers move in…Although a definite link between poaching and tourist numbers is difficult to establish, Zimbabwe serves as a good reminder, that when tourist numbers decline…the poachers move in.

Hidden Corners
And Africa has hidden corners…places where tourists fear to tread through lack of facilities, services and organised activities. Again, these are places that poachers prey upon…in northern Mozambique, it has been estimated that almost 10,000 elephants (half of the country’s elephant population) have been illegally slaughtered since 2010.

uMkhuze Game Reserve
There is no doubt that poaching threatens the tourist sector in Africa, and by the same measure, the tourist sector can make a real difference to anti-poaching efforts. I saw this myself when on safari in South Africa’s uMkhuze Game Reserve, in Kwa-Zulu Natal last year.

I was in a safari vehicle with other tourists, when the conversation with our guide turned to poaching. He confirmed that there were poachers out in the far reaches of the park but they never came close to tourist areas. He said if they did they knew he would call the anti-poaching units. And it would just bring a whole lot of trouble down on them. So, the poachers steer clear of areas tourists frequent.

So, if you’re interested in conservation, and want to help save vulnerable species…come on…do a safari in Africa!

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