Reports from Africa confirm what I’ve written about the continuing criticality of hunting to wildlife conservation, along with the inability, unwillingness, or lack of awareness of the need for the eco-tourism industry to step up to the plate, replace hunters’ dollars, and protect wildlife.
Domestic and international travel bans and internal economic shutdowns brought international travel to a standstill around the globe, and Africa was no exception. Some countries, like South Africa, imposed some of the strictest travel bans and quarantine requirements in the world.
Tourism is a significant source of revenue for these countries, and eco-tourism represents a major portion of the tourism segment in Africa. To the extent that tourism has begun to fund wildlife conservation in recent years, supplementing or replacing hunters’ dollars, this ended during the coronavirus pandemic of 2020.
Multiple articles have been written about the potential harmful impact on wildlife caused by the pandemic-driven loss in tourism. The headline of an article in the Financial Times perhaps sums it up best: “Africa’s Year of Zero: A Special Report on the Future of Wildlife Tourism.” An article in the Earth Island Journal, “Wildlife Conservation Suffers as Covid-19 Cuts Ecotourism Revenue in Kenya,” bemoaned the loss of ecotourism dollars on wildlife in Kenya.
Hunters were no exception to the travel ban. Thousands of hunters, myself included, who had planned, put down payments on, or paid in full for African hunts scheduled for 2020 saw their hunts cancelled. Many of the outfitters, professional hunters, and landowners who had counted on these hunts to enable them to make a living and manage their wildlife herds suffered huge losses in income this year. Based on all appearances, my outfitter has gone out of business.
Even amid this bad news for African wildlife conservation, there were bright spots, and they came from the hunting community, not non-consumptive eco-tourists. For instance, a story in the July 10 issue of Lone Star Outdoor News highlights a program instituted by the Dallas Safari Club (DSF) called Hunters CARE (with CARE being an acronym for Covid Anti-poaching Relief Effort). By July the program had already raised more than $130,000 to support anti-poaching efforts in Botswana, Cameroon, Namibia, Mozambique, South Africa, Uganda, Zimbabwe, and Zambia. The author quotes DSF’s executive director: “100-percent of the donations are being disbursed into the field.”
My Google search uncovered no similar program from any non-consumptive ecotourism group or travel agency devoted to ecotourism. They didn’t fly, their cameras didn’t click; thus their dollars evidently didn’t fund much wildlife conservation this year.
On a personal note, my hunt was purchased at auction at the Dallas Safari Club’s 2019 annual convention. The DSF dedicates the lion’s share (pun fully intended) of the revenues from donations at its annual convention to wildlife conservation. As a result, although I and many others in similar situations didn’t get to take our hunts—and may not ever get to—we still devoted money to wildlife conservation in 2020, through such charity events and through our other hunting-related purchases, like licenses and tags.
Sterling Burnett is managing editor of the Heartland Institute’s Environment & Climate News and a regular contributor to this blog.
Image by Kevinsphotos at Pixabay.