Effects on the welfare of African animals with forever increasing tourism
This October, I went home to Zimbabwe for a massive family reunion, where we stayed at my aunty's site along the Zambezi River. As a result of COVID-19 I had not been back to Africa for over 7 years, and how much change that has happened in that time is incredible. The good change had occurred yes, but the element that stuck out to me the most was the sheer number of camps that had been built, in such a short period of time.
I get it, camps are great for their economy and great to attract tourists for business, but let's think about this carefully. So, what attracts tourists to these camps? Remote destinations, far from the busy hustle of towns, mean a chance to see animals, the big 5 perhaps, in their natural habitats. But what happens when lots more camps get built, overcrowding an area of land, filling it with mankind, and creating a busy hustle environment? Animals migrate to these areas, their homes and sources of food being taken away, pushing them to other areas of land that are slowly filled with more and more animals. Not only are these overcrowding camps pushing animals away, restricting their space to live and breed, but this also has a knock-on effect to the camps built as all the wildlife has been slowly pushed away, defeating the point of why tourists visit, to see them in their natural habitat.
How much space do they need?
So, what happens if this is not met? More animals in a smaller area mean more rivalry for food and territory. Predators and prey are pushed in close proximity of each other giving the prey a feeling of unsettlement with the likely hood of more attacks that could be taken on them. Animals vs animals, more attacks on one another mean more deaths, particularly the animals that can't protect themselves. If we take a look at elephants, in particular, the range of space they need in order to live happily can extend up to 11,000 square kilometres. The more campsites getting built, narrow this space down. But could they adapt to a smaller environment? Well, this is difficult to answer, adaption takes years to occur but if we are building quicker than they have time to adapt to, then the likely answer is no.
So, what does this mean and what can we do?
Looking at recent stats of the population of Elephants, they are slowly becoming endangered, with only around 40,000 left in the wild. Look at the recent extinction of Rhinos in the wild. It won't take long before we take out other animals, if we are not careful and take them into consideration when making decisions.
How can we ensure that these wild animals can live happily alongside humans? For a start, I believe laws should be put in place for how many camps can be built within a certain radius. There are wildlife reserves that have these laws in place, but unfortunately, this is not mandatory everywhere. Should it be?
The debate of, can us mankind and animals live in harmony? The honest reality of this comes down to situations like this, should we prioritise the homes of the precious animal kingdom, or look at the benefits camps can have to the economy for mankind.