Africa Tourism Under Threat Due to Elephant Poaching

A new research study has estimated an annual economic loss of about $ 25 million from tourism in Africa due to illegal killing of Africa elephants. The lost revenues as a result of killing elephants are much bigger that the costs that would be used to reduce or otherwise stop the illegal killing of elephants.

African elephants numbered to over 5 million in the 20th century but the apparent population stands at 415,000 elephants left which represents 50 % decline. One may suppose that if protection of elephants is not increased, our grandchildren may never be able to see one apart from pictures in books.

Both species in Africa, the forest and savannah elephants are being killed for their ivory which is on high demand by China and Vietnam that use ivory to make expensive ornaments and jewelries just for wealth and prestige despite the international ban on illegal ivory trade by CITES (Convention on International Trading of Endangered Species).

African elephant being the world’s largest land mammal is a big tourist attraction in countries with large numbers like Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. A study conducted in 216 protected areas that protect elephants across Africa revealed that the decline in elephant numbers at each of the protected area reduced annual and repeated tourist visits based on elephant tourism.

The study concluded that the conservation of elephants is a wise investment decision for countries with savannah protected areas that harbor the large population of elephants in Africa. However, elephant conservation in savannah protected areas was found to be based higher due to the economic return-on- investment in elephant based tourism than in forested protected areas of central Africa because it’s hard to see elephants in forests.

Elephants are part of the animals that attract tourists into African national parks for wildlife game drives.

The results also indicate that many tourists visiting protected areas were willing to pay high costs to see elephants during their tour because elephants are among the most loved mammals in Africa to view by tourists. This would generate much money that would offset costs involved in protecting elephants such as use of modern technology like unmanned aerial vehicles and ranger based anti-poaching.

Since elephants based tourism differs in savannah and forested parks, it cannot be a viable mechanism to fund conservation of elephants. Elephants range states must therefore implement different mechanisms such as partnerships to save elephants to fund conservation of elephants if their decline was to be put to an end.

Although there’s a serious general decline of elephant population across Africa, in some countries like Uganda, elephant numbers are increasing due to political security and strong conservation for the last 3 years.

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