As South Africa grapples with the tragic effect of the coronavirus on people, the economy and society it’s increasingly clear that our status as a megadiverse country is a blessing, but that our reliance on nature tourism is a risk.
In good times and bad, our natural places are our greatest assets. In addition to offering beauty and a source of mental health, our grasslands, shrublands, forests and coastlines shield us from hunger and poverty, safeguard us from pollution and climate change, and supply us with medicine and leisure. Researchers estimate that these services provided — for free — by nature are worth R275-billion each year.
Our abundant biodiversity also attracts millions of visitors from across South Africa and the world. The game industry alone generates R7-billion every year.
But the tourism industry — especially ecotourism — does so much more than generate cash. Our world-famous national parks, including Kruger and Karoo, protect lions, rhinos, and countless birds under threat from poaching and habitat loss.
They have done so through partnership with farmers in the vicinity of the parks. Successful programmes supply people with jobs or provide them with resources and they may aid with anti-poaching activities and operations.
When local residents view protecting nature as an economic opportunity, they are less likely to risk their lives and jail time to poach, a source of income that’s hard to resist when no other income is available. Read more…