A Balance Needs to Be Reached-Wildlife Conservation within the Context of Eco-Tourism
Although not without its disappointments my recent camping safari trip to Kenya and Tanzania had many highlights. While observing two male cheetahs nervously eating their recent kill while hyenas and vultures were sinewing their way to pounce on the remains, it was amazing to watch the interaction between these great predators and the scavengers. Once the hyenas approached, the cheetahs left and then a frenzied rush ensued for what was left of the kill. The hyenas were having a hard time warding off the vultures, so the jackals came in to cooperate. They were justly rewarded with some of the legs. Within 1 hour, almost nothing was left.
Hyenas chasing off the vultures. Photo Credit: Dr. Isabelle-Anne Bisson
The word "safari" is derived from the Arabic verb "safar," which means "travel"; in Swahili, it means "journey." The safaris in Africa have changed a lot since the European colonial era. Sadly, in East Africa today, there is still a pursuit of hunting the giant beasts of Africa among members of the elite classes in Europe and America. Fortunately, for the most part, the modern safari is not what it once was.
Cape buffalo Photo Credit: Dr. Isabelle-Anne Bisson
Today, the prevailing safari is where tourists now participate in wildlife gazing in the African savannah, woodlands, and rivers, photographing Africa's magnificent creatures with cameras, and displaying images on their walls. Through the power of ecotourism, Africa's tourism industry generates numerous jobs for local people and allows them to sustain their families and communities and thus circles back to the conservation of wildlife. The advantage of ecotourism in Africa is there is now a zero-tolerance policy on poaching in Kenya and other African countries.
Photo Credit: Dr. Isabelle-Anne Bisson
While tourism is necessary to fuel the required conservation efforts in terms of dollars, safaris must be conducted respectfully and with the animals' welfare in mind. For example, in Samburu Park in Kenya, we were 10 vehicles chasing one leopard who had unsuccessfully tried to catch a baby zebra. Exhausted by the chase and the subsequent chase by the vehicles, he hid and rested under a bush. And there, some jeeps remained, hoping it would come out. So we have replaced hunting with guns with chasing with off-road vehicles, which have no doubt a more cryptic and long-term effect on the health of these beautiful cats. Here are just a few studies showing tourism's negative impacts on cheetahs: https://www.cabi.org/leisuretourism/news/65270 and elephants https://zslpublications.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jzo.12661. These studies add to a limited but growing body of literature on the effects of non-consumptive wildlife tourism on wild animals.
Photo Credit: Dr. Isabelle-Anne Bisson
Development impeding natural spaces
Furthermore, we learned that Kenya and Tanzania have issues with development in parks, which are destroying the corridors that once existed between the parks and are essential for genetic diversity, and animal migration. Our guide told us that Kenya's Masai Mara park has shrunk in the last few years, yielding to population demands for more land. Sadly, the same here is true in the developed world as well. In Canada, we also see development destroying wild habitats and impeding animal movements. One solution which is proving to be successful across the planet is to empower local communities and integrate them into the conservation measures. Because, after all, they are often the knowledge keepers.
Masai Mara in a red cape. Photo Credit: Dr. Isabelle-Anne Bisson
About TerraHumana Solutions
TerraHumana Solutions is a consulting firm which specializes in helping community and business leaders to find sustainable solutions to environmental and social issues. Our approach is simple - we listen. Bringing 20 years of international experience in natural resource sciences, strategy, project conception, and management, we can find the right strategic approach for you. At TerraHumana Solutions, we contribute to informed decision-making on community and business engagement projects, and conservation projects with Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.
For more information, please contact:
Isabelle-Anne Bisson, Ph.D.
+1 514 654-7835