By Amelia Meyer
The natural fauna and flora of a physical place are closely related to its success as a tourist destination. Regardless of the purposes of the tourists’ visits, they usually indulge in some sight-seeing;and, when a destination is known for its abundance in natural resources, these will generally become part of the tourists’ itineraries.
In fact, many tourists plan trips to specific destinations based solely on the game parks, natural wonders and intriguing animals that these offer. The continent of Africa is a popular destination for just such travel, attracting hundreds of thousands of foreigners every year to see the parks, reserves and animals of this multi-faceted land.
Eco-tourism is slightly different as it refers to an entire spectrum of travel dedicated wholly to educating visitors, raising funds for the conservation and preservation of plants and animals and uplifting the local communities.
Rhinoceroses are an important part of tourism, just as tourism is an important part of conserving this delicate, endangered species. Parks like the Kruger National Park in South Africa, Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve in South Africa, Mokolodi Nature Reserve in Botswana and the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Indonesia survive off the tourism industry, and use the funds raised and the profits earned to continue in their ongoing conservation initiatives.
Rhinos are endangered the world over as a result of habitat loss and, more significantly, poaching. In order to save the ever-dwindling population (which is now being killed faster than it can reproduce and, therefore, going into population decline), huge amounts of money are required. Equally important is the need to raise the awareness of the public on a global scale. Only when people are educated as to the frailty of the populations and the fact that there is absolutely no medical basis for the illusion that rhino horn can cure or treat any maladies will there be any sort of global revolution.
The money and awareness raised through tourism is required in the following areas of rhino conservation:
•Educating the local communities regarding the value of the rhino and its ecosystem, as well as about the fact that rhino horn has no real medical uses.
•Finding and / or creating large natural areas in which to breed and rehabilitate rhinos.
•Enforcing security and legislation initiatives that will prevent or deter illegal poaching and excessive habitat destruction.
•Creating incentives for rhino protection.
•Conducting research into specific rhino populations, habitats, and so on. Such research requires training, equipment, travel expenses and more, becoming a very expensive exercise.
The government of the various countries that are home to rhinos are important contributors to the influence of tourism on the rhino conservation initiatives. For example, Namibia’s Ministry of Environment and Tourism combines the two entities directly and works hard in creating a cohesive body. Its formal mission is to “maintain and rehabilitate essential ecological processes and life-supported life-support systems, to conserve biological diversity and to ensure that the utilization of natural resources is sustainable for the benefit of all Namibians, both present and future, as well as the international community, as provided for in the Constitution”.
The Kenya Wildlife Service recently re-introduced 20 Black Rhinos into the Ruma National Park with the express purpose of promoting tourism in this area. Black Rhino were removed from the park in the 1950’s due to poaching. Ruma recognises the need to increase biodiversity to appeal to a larger tourist market. Rwanda is another country that recognises the need to show tourists the rhino of Africa to boost the income and tourism industry. Importing rhinos into this tiny country will take more than a decade, and then animals will have to be supplied from other African countries like South Africa. This will be an effective draw-card to the country, and will help Rwanda to make its mark on the global tourism map.