Rhino poaching threatens tourism, economy

(Picture: Green Renaissance)
(Picture: Green Renaissance)
Cape Town - The impact of poaching in South Africa could soon take its toll on one of the country’s most lucrative sectors, namely tourism, the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (Wessa) warned on Friday.

Wessa said according to a number of reports this is already happening in Tanzania, where tourism is the second most valuable sector to the economy.

The Tanzanian Wildlife Research Institute has reported that there may be as many as 30 elephants being poached per day. This is believed to be contributing to a declining tourism economy over the last two years.
 
Similarly, tourism in Mozambique is extremely important as it has shown a 13% year-on-year increase since 2006 and is estimated to account for 14% of the GDP by 2014.

South Africa has lost a total of 2 409 rhinos since 2000 - 95% of these in the past five years. There are only about 25 500 rhinos remaining on the continent.

At present, South Africa is losing one rhino every nine hours and a total reported number of rhinos killed so far this year is sitting at 635.

"Currently, with the uncontrolled nature of poaching in the country it has resulted in a culture of unsustainable resource consumption preventing the growth and development of safari tourism in Mozambique," said Chris Galliers, co-ordinator of Wessa's Rhino Initiative.

"Ultimately, sustainable employment opportunities for a poverty stricken population will be lost."

According to South Africa's Minister of Tourism Martinus van Schalkwyk tourism provides more employment opportunities than mining.

“Tourism is also the only major sector that has experienced sustained growth way above that of any other sector during a period of global economic stagnation," said Chris Galliers, co-ordinator of Wessa's Rhino Initiative.

"The question is whether, as a country concerned about future economic growth, SA is giving due consideration to the actual economic value of these animals to the country from a non-consumptive viewpoint"

Galliers said responsible safari and ecotourism operations are major draw cards and South Africa still offers the world’s most accessible opportunities to view rhinos in their natural habitat.

"This gives our safari tourism a hugely competitive edge over other African countries," he said.
 
"Therefore, there is good reason for government and every citizen to take action against a crime that could negatively impact on our tourism and ensure that it continues to play a vital economic role."

Although it may seem that no headway has been made, Wessa is of the opinion that the situation would be far worse if it were not for the difference that a wide range of continued committed government departments, conservation organisations and individuals have made.

- Fin24

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