Tourism and Covid-19: Does wildlife management need tourism?

Tourism and wildlife conservation in Africa have developed a symbiotic relationship. Yet we must make a distinction between the horse and the cart to effectively manage this relationship. Does wildlife management need tourism, or does tourism need wildlife? We must answer this question truthfully to ensure we have a healthy relationship between tourism and wildlife. Misunderstanding of this relationship has contributed to loss of wildlife in Africa. Therefore, we need to define this relationship.

Tourism supports wildlife conservation in a number of ways. It connects tourists to participate in conservation actions generates income to provide funding for management of protected areas. Opportunities for ecotourism to support wildlife conservation goals, e.g. tourist’s payments for the protection of species in critical state, are helpful making wildlife habitats secure. This does not mean that wildlife needs tourism. We cannot measure the value of wild and open areas hosting wildlife through tourism revenue. Wildlife is a resource/ heritage, independent of tourism Wildlife conservation can be funded through other means, not necessarily tourism.

Wildlife management models that are anchored on tourism are popular but have inherent weaknesses. Research shows that Africa’s protected areas generally have failed to mitigate human induced threats to large mammal populations. Furthermore, in some destinations, political and economic benefits from tourism, rather than ecological reasons, prompts governments to set aside land for wildlife conservation. In relating the two, tourism should
be regarded as the cart and wildlife is the horse.

Risks and uncertainties continue to limit, change, or even eliminate tourism in protected areas around the world As COVID 19 could be shaping a new horizon for wildlife tourism, we should ensure a healthy relationship between the two.