Posts Tagged With: travel

What are 8 billion tourists worth?

Money talks. It’s the basis for corruption and the decimation of wildlife. BUT it’s also paramount to protecting our animals and their wilderness.

YOUR tourism dollars and YOUR choice on spending them can make a difference.


In 2015 PLOS Biology did a global study to try to calculate the value of ecotourism. They estimated that protected nature areas attract 8 billion visits per year. (That’s more than 1 visit per person on earth.)

Researchers then calculated how much 8 billion visits are worth and came up with $600 billion per year.

In Africa alone, it is estimated by 2030 some countries will see 134 million tourists. –United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)

Tourism stabilizes communities by providing jobs, protects the wildlife by making them the focus of these jobs, and of course provides an opportunity of a lifetime to the tourist.



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Mixed Messages are killing our elephants and rhinos

To crush or hoard?

That is the dilemma for African countries with ivory stockpiles. It’s a polarizing debate. Destruction eliminates any and all possibility at corruption, it will not find its way back on the market and it sends a clear message ivory NOT attached to the animal has no value.

But the other side believes saving and selling the ivory allows the money to be rolled back over into conservation efforts for the animals, and the communities.

The problem is that elephants and rhinos exist throughout the African continent, making the “product” available in multiple countries, and each country has its own stance on stockpiling. So while Mozambique destroys ivory, directly across the border in Zimbabwe the country stores it, awaiting an opportunity to sell. This creates mixed messages and a lack of unity.

horns and tusks by reuters

Seized horns and tusks on display in Hong Kong. Photo: Reuters

Selling Ivory Funds Communities

Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa have a stock and sell take on ivory.

Namibia  Minister of Environment and Tourism Pohamba Shifeta has said destroying the ivory and horn goes against government policy. Instead the stock is auctioned off to other interested countries.

“We will get a lot of money and the proceeds will go to state coffers to alleviate poverty. Also, we feel it is not an effective deterrent in fighting poaching,” said Shifeta.

While Botswana states it is “out of the question” to sell rhino horn, they’ve just announced they will seek permission to sell their ivory stockpile after the 10 years moratorium with CITES has expired in 2018.

Good news for the rhinos, considering the fact that Botswana is key to future rhino populations with the current translocations taking place from Kruger National Park.  Not so great for elephants.

Overall,  an interesting proposition considering the country’s strong stance on anti-poaching, and the large stake in their wildlife. 90% of tourists in Botswana come for the wildlife.

bots tourism

The wildlife tourism industry is estimated to continue to grow throughout the coming years, making it an invaluable component to the economy. Graph: World Travel & Tourism Council


 Destroy Ivory, Stop Poaching

Kenya, Mozambique, Malawi and Ethiopia have all held public burns/crushes to destroy their stockpiles of horn and ivory.

Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) spokesman Paul Udoto says the illegal ivory has no economic value to them, saying that “the selling is what has brought us to the state of poaching that we are in.”

kenya ivory burn bbc

Kenya burned 15 tonnes of ivory in March. President Kenyatta has vowed the entire stockpile will be burned this year. AFP photo

One-off Sales

So the hoard and sell leads to occasional one-off sales of a set amount for a limited time.

It is the belief of some that by CITES issuing these sales of horn or ivory, it fans the flames and results in a poaching spike, sending elephant and rhino populations into a tailspin. Afterall how can we  allow LEGAL one-off sales of a product AND simultaneously strive at reducing demand for the same product? Confusing to say the least.

The experts who work with elephants are in agreement.

cynthia moss 1It is very discouraging having to fight the battle to save elephants once again. The 1989 ban helped elephants to recover in most parts of Africa. Now even in Amboseli we’re losing elephants to ivory poachers for the first time in many years. The sale of any ivory–legal or not–is creating demand. No one needs ivory. It is a beautiful substance, but the only ones who need it are elephants.

– Cynthia Moss, Amboseli Elephant Research Project

ian redmond 2As long as ivory is valued as a commodity, every tusker is at risk from poachers, and only where anti-poaching efforts are sufficient will elephants survive. Anti-poaching costs money and lives. Banning the ivory trade has been the single-most effective and economical way to slow the loss of elephants across their whole range – not just where they can be protected by anti-poaching units. 

Ian Redmond, OBE Wildlife biologist and Ambassador for the UNEP Convention on Migratory Species

So who do we listen to? The experts who work with these creatures, seeing their lives and deaths and the daily effects of poaching? Or political officials with a mixed bag of agendas?

If we must view elephants, rhinos or other animal in economic terms, then we must factor in tourism. Without wildlife, there is no tourism. Period.

To read more about the fight to ban ivory and save elephants: Born Free Foundation 


Elephant herd on a dusty day in Amboseli National Park, Kenya. Photo: Tisha Wardlow







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The Photo Seen Around the World

You want to see rhinos on your holiday? Vacation to Kruger National Park, South Africa-home to 90% of the world’s remaining rhino.

With promise of witnessing Africa’s Big 5, that’s just what a group of Belgium tourists did. On final days of the trip, having seen everything BUT a rhino, they were excited to finally see one of these beautiful elusive rhino come galloping poached rhino in krugerout of the bush, only to realize…

it was moving very slowly towards the vehicle, and when I got the pictures, I looked over my photo equipment and noticed the rhino’s horns were missing.”

“At that moment everybody got very emotional and the rhino disappeared back into the bush. It was at that moment we realised we were seeing something that has never happened before. It’s very emotional for all of us. I couldn’t stop crying. You can’t stop crying when you see something that outrageous”, said Louis Dillen, one of the tourists on the safari.

Horrible, heartbreaking, devastating to bear witness to…BUT is there a bright side to this brutality?

One of the tourists was the personal aide to the Belgian Deputy Prime Minister,Johan Maricou . After the incident, Maricou expressed outrage, stating

 “I urge the South African government to put this at the top of their agenda.”

“…South Africa carries a certain responsibility. But without international co-operation and agreements, especially with Asian countries where the demand is mostly, this is a very difficult issue.”

With poaching rearing its ugly head directly in the face of tourists, especially one so closely connected in the political community, this is a wake-up call. If Kruger, or South Africa itself, wants to continue making profit from tourism, things Must change.

Belgium is aware and watching, and after the photo went viral this past week, so is the rest of the world.

Fresh off the London Summit on Wildlife Trafficking, where 50 countries attended to get serious about putting an end to illegal trafficking, this may be another push toward change.

As horrific and haunting as this must have been, she is one of thousands who have been slaughtered over the last several years;  2-3 a day, every day.

rhino poaching graph 2013

In 2014, there have been an additional 163 poachings so far (OSCAP).

Please be a part of the change. Read, sign and share this petition/proposal to the South African government:              Dehorned Rhino in Kruger: Enough is Enough 

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Be Wary Animal Lovers

Tourism is helping save wildlife. That’s what we’re told. If this is true, where you spend your next holiday could be the most important decision you make, the world is counting on you.

Cuddling baby lions sound endearing? As cute and cuddly as they seem , you might as well shoot them. This is the first part of the circle of “life” for lions in canned hunts. The cubs are used to entice you there, and ultimately to use your money to help fund the whole operation You feed them, hold and coddle them, sometimes even bottle feed. But ask yourself “Where’s mom?”  (For more on canned hunts, see: Shooting Fish in a Barrel)

lion cubs in cageElephant rides? Not unless you enjoy knowing they are beaten, starved and tortured in order to “train” them to comply. What about the sweet baby elephants rolling on the beach, splashing in the waves? Surely they are enjoying themselves. Sadly no. Once again ask “Where’s mom?” They are torn from their families and enslaved in the name of entertainment. (For more, see: The Dark Side of Thailand Tourism)

elephant trainingA photograph next to a tame tiger in a buddhist temple? Buddhist monks must be peaceful and enlightened. Here tourists unknowingly play into the larger exploitive scheme of the illegal tiger trade. Slight of hand, babies coming and going, tigers seeming drugged, lethargic and often in need of medical help-all part of the famous “Tiger Temple”. Ask yourself “What tiger in the world would willingly let you pet him, let alone get anywhere near him?”  (See: The Tiger Temple…)

chained tiger 2A family trip to Sea World…if you haven’t seen Blackfish, please watch. Psychosis, food depravity, stolen from their families is just a part of the torture the Orcas are subjected to.

Bottom line: please educate yourself on where you’re going. If something doesn’t seem natural for an animal, it’s probably not! Don’t give your hard earned money to people who torture or enslave them.

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The Dark Side of Thailand Tourism

Vacation time! Animal lovers the world over choose their travel destinations to include up-close and personal wildlife experiences. There are plenty of options. Today it is important more than ever to be  educated and vigilant about what our tourism money is funding.

Thailand- Tourists come to Thailand for the opportunity of close encounters with the elephants. Cute baby elephants on the beach, riding baby ele on beachelephants through the trees, getting photos taken with them for vacation memories to display on the mantel at home. Yet this image of the gentle giants is cruelly deceptive. Some places even hide behind the guise of being sanctuaries or conservancies leaving people with the impression they are in fact helping the animals.

The Thai tourism industry is actually fueling the illegal trade in baby elephants and is responsible for the death and diminishing numbers of their species. Taken from the wild in Burma, they are beaten, starved and tortured with the intention of breaking their spirits in order to remain docile for the tourists.riding eles

At least 50-100 babies are ripped away from their families every year. It is estimated that for every calf taken, there are 5 adult females and adolescent elephants from the baby’s immediate family who are slaughtered-gunned down in cold blood-so the baby can be easily taken.

They are “trained” to “play” with the tourists on the beach or in the water, provide rides, perform tricks, and are even dressed in ridiculous outfits to humanize them. This takes place in resorts. One resort “The Golden Triangle Elephant Camp and Resort” who claims to help with elephant conservation,  advertises the opportunity to learn to “drive” an elephant or for a little extra you can learn how to be a mahout trainee and command them. Then there’s always elephant yoga.street ele

It’s not just the resorts. Babies are also being used by individuals in the city. They are forced by their owners to live and work in an urban environment, roaming the streets begging tourists for money. They teach the babies tricks, give photo opportunities, and even sell over priced fruit to passers-by so they may feed the animals.

Elephants are not designed for concrete jungles. This is why in zoos and in the situation of city living, they suffer from foot problems, sunstroke, dehydration, gastric and respiratory problems. In addition, there is always the complication of traffic; at one point there were up to 20 elephants a month being involved in traffic accidents. There are many who simply collapse on the street, and one even fell into a manhole.

So how do you know if  a resort is safe or animal friendly? Bottom line-if what the elephants are doing is not something they do in the wild, it’s wrong. They do not provide rides for anyone, or paint or do tricks or pose for photos. By giving these people your money, you might as well be holding the bullhook that beats the animals into submission. Please be aware of where you go and keep the elephants safe.

elephant training

Typical elephant training to break their spirits and “tame” them.

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Dreaming of Africa

Since I was a kid, I’ve always welcomed the company of animals over people  (I’m sure some of you can relate). Growing up my life revolved around the pond and fields near our house. Summer days were spent collecting snails and tadpoles, trying to see how close I could get to the rabbits, climbing trees and looking under rocks to see who might be there; while at night, I was lulled to sleep by the crickets and frogs; and on the lookout for fireflies.lion on plains

When I couldn’t be outside, I watched animals on tv. In particular Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. THAT was my  introduction not only to Africa, but to reality; to the fierceness of nature.  Watching the lions hunt and capture a gazelle…it brought me to tears. Yet it also fascinated me-the savannah grass, the acacia trees, the strength and beauty of the lions; I couldn’t look away.

Sometime in the 90’s I made a visit to the Cincinnati Zoo in Ohio. I fell in love with Emi, the Sumatran Rhino. THAT is when my passion for  rhinos began. (See previous post: Emi the World-Famous Sumatran) The more I learned, the more I loved; and simultaneously it brought back that feeling of awe and fascination with Africa.

Africa: my ultimate destination,  a lifelong goal to go.  My husband and I have talked about it.  I’ve even taken out  every library book  I can get my hands on to “plan” my trip. I have notes, ideas, and itineraries. A girl can dream. But like the movie UP, there are never enough coins in the piggy bank, something else always comes up. Life gets in the way.

Then after years of depriving the rest of the city of the African books in the travel section, one day my mom calls and asks me to think about the possibility of taking a trip with her…a bucket list thing, that one BIG trip neither of us have ever taken…to Africa.

Of course there’s a lot to consider. I don’t have the funds, I don’t want her to have to foot the bill, there’s time off from work, my husband won’t be going…then after a few days it hits me… How can I say no?rhino mom n babe

To be on the savannah, to see a rhino where a rhino belongs, before it’s too late, before they’re gone-to be connected to the place that lives in my heart!  The opportunity to look under rocks, see how close I can get to animals, and be lulled to sleep by dream is coming true.

October 12, two weeks in Kenya. Photographs, a travel journal, and as much insight as my brain can absorb! It’s sure to be the most unforgettable two weeks of my life.

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