Who will conserve conservation in Africa?

Lifestyle

Who will conserve conservation in Africa?

Covid-19 has taught the industry that for many there’s no plan B

Richard Holmes

For decades the perceived wisdom around preserving much of Africa’s wilderness areas has been simple: set aside large swathes of land for conservation, and charge well-heeled international travellers — mostly from Europe, the US and Asia — a hefty fee to enjoy them in relative seclusion. Local travellers? Largely an afterthought to fill up the quiet months.

And for decades, it worked. Wildlife was left to roam and multiply largely undisturbed. Lodge operators profited and expanded. Governments earned concession fees. Local communities enjoyed a boom in employment in corners of the continent often forgotten by the formal economy. According to figures from the World Travel & Tourism Council, wildlife tourism on the continent is worth $71bn a year. No small change.

Then in 2020 it all fell apart as Covid-19 closed the tap on international tourists. From Namibia to Rwanda, Botswana to SA, lodges — and the landscape — were left empty. Lodge staff lost their jobs. Poaching began to rise. Conservation initiatives came to a halt...

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