From a western perspective, Africa often conjures up the image of the final frontier… excitement, adventure, incredible biodiversity and a little danger. Just imagine watching the great migration across the plains of the Serengeti; returning home and telling your friends and family that you’ve climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and defied all odds. Sharing facts like… “did you know that African hippos are the most dangerous large animal in the world?!” and “a group of rhinos is called a crash?”
The clear majority of travelers to Africa, arrive to go on safari – to have adventurous experiences and bring home epic stories to their friends at home.
But…how would you feel if you spent thousands of dollars on a flight, travel halfway around the world and suddenly discover that our version of wild Africa simply isn’t true?
Unfortunately, wild Africa isn’t always the idyllic ‘Lion King’ image many of us imagine. “Safari conservation” has played an unbelievably significant role in tourism and sustainability on the continent. However, as the world changes, so does tourism and here are 3 basic things to know before you go spend time traveling to view African wildlife in the “wild”.
The hunting of large game is a culturally accepted way of life in Southern Africa. In fact, 11 sub-Saharan countries allow for legal game hunts. It’s difficult to separate hunting and conservation in the African context. Historically this is one of the reasons that conservation of African species has been so successful in southern Africa. There is very little government funding for environmental conservation in South Africa. Therefore, most of the land is privately owned. Most safari reserves are privately owned as well and reserve owners have to find a way of funding conservation and paying land tax. A male lion trophy hunt on a reserve can sell for as much as $20,000 USD. Therefore, hunting can be very lucrative and easy solution to these common funding problems
In essence, we can all thank the hunting industry for saving our beloved lions, cheetahs and rare antelope species. There is a MASSIVE debate about the industry in its modern form and how much money from wildlife hunting permits is actually going back into conservation. Regardless of my personal views on killing another creature (which I could never fathom), this is fact – the history of safari tourism and game hunting have helped preserve Southern African species diversity.
Read up on the history of game hunting before you go – HERE
Canned lion hunting/breeding
There is a MASSIVE exploitative industry in Southern Africa involving lions. Companies breed cubs for tourism purposes – for cuddly photos and to walk with the adult lions in an “open” environment. They also commonly use volunteers to “rehabilitate” the lion cubs or adults. Once they reach maturity these lions are too expensive to feed and care for, so they are sold to a hunting reserve. The lions are often baited for the hunt, tracked by guides and have been raised by humans. Another common practice is for these lions to be sold to Asia for rare meat consumption and the bones are used for medicinal purposes. Watch this short informative video from http://www.cannedlion.org or the new documentary “Blood Lions” and sign the Petition HERE
Engage, and form your own educated option – and steer clear of organizations promoting anything to do with lion cubs or lion walking for the time being.
Rhino poaching is a severe and very real problem on the continent. This doesn’t present any physical harm to a traveler – but you should be aware. This will be talked about and you should be informed and involved.
Rhinos are poached for their extremely valuable horn. Their horn is brutally hacked off and sold to Asian countries for medicinal purposes and sometimes used as a “party drug”. Rhino horn is made of keratin, the same material as our own fingernails. Although there is no REAL benefit for human consumption, this horn is sold for $30,000 per pound – more than the street price of cocaine. This has compounded in disastrous effects for Southern African rhino populations in the past ten years. There are several prevention methods in use including drones, dehorning rhino and transporting rhino to surrounding African nations.
Don’t be mistaken, the African safari as we envisage does exist, there are many national parks where you can go on safari and explore the wild lands and view the magnificent wildlife, knowing you are not roaming on hunting plains or viewing canned lions. National Parks such as Chobe National Park, Serengeti & South Luangwa are idyllic locations to watch nature’s greatest beasts.