I wanted to take an opportunity to reach out to you today because of the challenges Africa is facing due to fallout resulting from the tragic Ebola outbreak in Western Africa.
When this situation first developed, the first challenge was clear – to assist those suffering with medical and other necessary support, and to contain the virus. The next challenge is equally daunting with critical long-term implications, and stems from perception and basic geography.
Our world leaders, both at home and abroad, have a responsibility to be the voice of reason. We in the travel industry have come together, competitors and friends alike, in a common cause to support the tourism destinations in Africa, whose economies depend on tourism revenue for their survival. We have gone to great lengths to provide accurate information about the scope as well as the distances involved.
People are beginning to understand. But even as we in the industry are answering fewer questions about catching Ebola; we are now fielding questions about whether or not citizens of the US or Canada will be allowed back into their respective countries. These fears are exacerbated rumors about our borders being closed to anyone returning from Africa.
I urge you to become the leaders that we need on the home front. When our elected leaders choose to stay quiet or take the opposite tact of political grandstanding, it is up to each of us to be the beacon of leadership.
This is so crucial because right now there is a major battle playing out behind the scenes that could have severe consequences. Poaching of endangered species. While the effects of poaching due to the slowdown in tourism to Africa will not be known for many months, the warning signs are all there.
If you have not already read the recent article in The Daily Beast, “Ebola Could Deal a Deathblow to Africa’s Wildlife,” you will find it, along with other articles, in our Media Center. In it, I and several noted conservationists based in Africa talked about tourism as the single biggest resistance to poaching in Africa. I urge you to share this letter with your clients, your peers, even local leaders in your community. We hope you will also repost the article to your social media outlets to help spread the world. This reaches far beyond an individual, a company or an even industry.
Africa thrives on tourism and it needs our leadership to become the stewards of sustainability as the safari industry begins to recover. In a proposal published on October 27, 2014, The US Fish and Wildlife Service suggested an Endangered Species Act to protect the African Lion stating that they “…face a serious threat to its long term survival.” While the effort is applauded, it comes six years after National Geographic estimated that the population of African lions had dwindled in the last 50 years from over 400,000 to just barely over 20,000 in 2008. The statistics for elephant and rhinos are even more dire.
If the tourism destinations in Africa are to survive, the wildlife and local communities must also survive. For them to survive, we must move beyond half-measures and hesitancy through one of our most important tools – education. Educating ourselves and our clients is the first line, and sharing what we learn with others in our local communities, and our friends and families. I cannot believe that anyone reading this post wants to imagine a time when our children and grandchildren can see a lion, an elephant or a rhino only in a zoo, a book or a museum.