While the world goes into “lockdown” in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus, international travel, tourism and hunting activities have ground to a halt. The flow of money that used to reach rural African communities in the form of hunting income has dried up. What are these custodians of African wildlife resources going to do?
The tourism and hunting industries are generally not sufficiently organised to have reserve funds to pay workers in their industries at such unexpected times of stress. Large numbers of employees in safari and bush camps all across Africa have lost their jobs.
It is to be hoped that those operators that have made good profits during the good years will support their loyal employees during this stressful time. The NGOs that work with rural communities also have a vital supporting role to play. Nobody knows how long it will take for international travel to resume, and for visitors to return to Africa. But it will happen, sooner or later, and the challenge is to weather the storm until it is spent.
Until then, it is important that the valuable wildlife resources of Africa be protected against exploitation by the criminals who are already advantaged by the CITES bans on trade in ivory and rhino horn. Because no legal trade is allowed, only the illegal trade is allowed to flourish, thanks to the lunacy of CITES and the animal rights activists that seem to determine policy there.
Government conservation agencies are under extreme pressure to maintain their presence and uphold law enforcement among rural communities that have lost their incomes from tourism and hunting. What they can do is ensure that such communities have access to protein from controlled and sustainable subsistence hunting of non-threatened species. In this way the wildlife of Africa can at least support the lives of their custodians until such time as the currency-based economy returns to rural regions.
Those rural communities that have nurtured their wildlife populations over the years for the benefits of ecotourism and hunting, can now turn to their valuable assets as a sustainable source of food in times of need. They deserve nothing less.
Dr John Ledger is a past Director of the Endangered Wildlife Trust, a consultant and academic on energy and the environment, and a columnist for the African Hunting Gazette. John.Ledger@wol.co.za