Climate Action

An Increase in African Tourism May Be the Key to End Poaching

Over 80,000 of Tanzania’s elephants have been killed in the past 5 years, decreasing the population from 109,051 in 2009 to 43,300 in 2014, all driven by a thriving ivory market in Asia. While most items previously made of ivory have since been replaced by plastic, the ivory trade, which is illegal, has doubled since 2007, mainly due to the large demand in Asia. But this is not to say that there is no ivory trade in America. Just last month, there were hundreds of pieces of ivory for sale on Craigslist, which have since been banned.   Yet regardless of how many elephants are slaughtered for this horrifying ivory business, it continues to grow. It’s difficult for people in African countries to prevent the killings. The poaching is widespread and basic resources, like radios for communication, are hard to come by.  Gabon, a country bordering Cameroon and the Congo, has enlisted the help of soldiers and park rangers to stop the poaching. But without even enough food or fuel for these men to get around, how are they supposed to control the poachers who are spread out over 2,700 square miles?   While Gabon and other African countries are struggling to prevent the massacre of tens of thousands of elephants every year, tourists might be the solution. There seems to be a link between tourism and poaching rates.  Between 1977 and 1983, there were 60,000 less visitors to the Serengeti because of the border closing between Kenya and Tanzania. Not only did tourism decrease during this time, but anti-poaching patrols also decreased by 60%, and as a result, poaching increased. Then again when tourism rates declined in Zimbabwe during 2003-2008, poaching increased.   Fewer tourists means less money, and less money for these African economies makes it harder for citizens to survive. Poachers are killing elephants as a source of income and to provide meat for their families. If there are more visitors to Africa over the upcoming years, we may see a decrease in elephant poaching. So visit Africa and start saving those elephants.   Marisa Barley, Intern