Africa is becoming increasingly popular as a holiday destination. Kenya, for example, received 25% more visitors in 2005 than the previous year. Tourists visit the country mainly because of the beautiful beaches and the special wildlife parks. Tourism to Kenya is taking on massive forms, which of course has an impact on nature reserves. The many safari jeeps, which do not always stay on the trails, create erosion. Also, the animals are disturbed if the jeeps get too close. The tourists all go to the same areas, so the game parks are increasingly like a zoo or theme park. Spreading tourism to reduce the burden on nature is therefore essential. By encouraging tourists to come in the off-season and also to visit the lesser-known, but no less special, parks, dispersion is achieved. As a result, other areas can also benefit economically from tourism and the pressure on the popular game parks is less severe. There are of course also positive aspects to safari tourism: the tourists visiting the game parks means that there is support to protect this nature. Because visitors have to pay entrance fees, there is an economic impulse to protect the area. A visit to the game parks also raises awareness of the importance of preserving the special flora and fauna.
Not only the involvement of tourists in the conservation of nature is important, also the role of the local population in this is essential. It must be able to earn from nature conservation. Otherwise, there is no motive to protect nature and animals. Involvement of the local population in planning and developing tourism in their region is very important in order to be able to protect nature reserves.
In addition to safari tourism, hunting tourism takes place in a number of countries in Africa. In Kenya this is forbidden, but in countries such as South Africa, Zimbabwe and Tanzania it is still allowed. It is said here that trophy hunting benefits nature conservation. In any case, a lot of money goes into it: a tourist pays around $5000 for a lion and $9000 for an elephant. Some of this money will go to conservation programmes. But due to the high level of corruption in African countries, that is never certain. However, hunting quotas have been drawn up: If there are too many of a certain species, the old and sick animals are shot to maintain the wild population. There are exceptions: there should never be hunting for protected species, such as the cheetah and the wild dog. Despite the fact that hunting tourism makes a lot of money, the wild animals are still worth more alive than dead: safari tourists pay money time and time again to see the wildlife, which always yields more money, also in a long-term perspective. To conclude, there are caveats to hunting tourism.
In the wild, animals should be able to behave naturally, without disturbance or intervention. If they cannot exhibit this natural behavior, it can have severe consequences. For example, cheetahs in Kenya’s Amboseli National Park are disturbed by their behaviour due to the high numbers of visitors in the park, sometimes collecting more than 30 cars around an individual cheetah or a group. Under these circumstances, cheetahs actively try to avoid the cars, delaying the daily hunt. Another example is Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe. Here, the large numbers of boats and the noise they produce have disrupted the drinking behaviour of elephants and black rhinos. A further increase in boats is likely to negatively affect the reproduction of the hippos present.
Too little local tour operators and suppliers are aware that, in order to sell a ‘nature based’ or ‘wildlife’ product, they benefit from conservation and management. But there are still tour operators who use the natural environment to make a profit in the short term. On the other hand, fortunately, there are also local tour operators and suppliers who do contribute to the conservation of biodiversity and the natural environment in which they carry out their activities.
The policy of the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) ensures that the meat of hunting tourism activities is distributed to the local communities that live in the area. In addition, 50% of the income from hunting tourism should benefit projects of local communities. The communities decide for themselves what happens to the money. These marginalised rural areas use the money to improve schools and hospitals. Money dams are also being built with hunting tourism and people are being put to work to protect nature and animals. Hunting tourism contributes to nature conservation and to improve the standard of living of the local population in certain regions of Zambia.