UNWTO, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and African Tourism Ministers have committed to advancing the tourism sector’s support in the global fight against the surge in poaching that is threatening one of Africa’s main tourism resources – its unique wildlife and biodiversity. (ITB Berlin, Germany, 6 March 2014).
In a response to the alarming growth in wildlife crime on the African continent, UNWTO, the Ministers of Tourism of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe gathered at ITB to review the current situation in the individual countries, share experiences, and discuss the tourism sector’s role the ongoing global efforts against poaching. Joining the meeting were the Executive Director of UNODC, Yuri Fedotov and the German State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety, Jochen Flasbarth.
“Tourism is a key vehicle for sustainable growth, job creation and poverty alleviation across Africa, but without the draw of its spectacular wildlife, future tourism development and millions of people depending on it will suffer.” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai. “We are here to work together in supporting the global efforts in safeguarding Africa’s natural heritage and ensure the wellbeing of wildlife and people alike.”
Yury Fedotov noted the devastating effects of wildlife crime: “The killing and trafficking of wild animals not only destroys livelihoods and ecosystems, and undermines development and stability, but is a crime that steals revenues from legitimate economic activities, in particular tourism. As this crime becomes ever more organized and ever more destructive, it can only be stopped through comprehensive, coordinated responses. Commitments, such as those made today, are central in helping boost the necessary response to wildlife crime and as the guardian of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, UNODC supports countries in tackling this critical issue.”
Jochen Flasbarth stressed the importance of approaching the critical issue of poaching from a wider perspective and welcomed the commitment of the tourism sector in engaging in this global fight. “It is very encouraging to see tourism stepping up to engage in this global fight and particularly to see the UN agencies UNWTO and UNODC joining efforts to make this part of the tourism sector’s agenda”.
Wildlife in Africa is facing one of its greatest crises in decades. Poaching and illegal wildlife trade in ivory, rhinoceros horn and other biodiversity parts have reached unprecedented levels, affecting not only wildlife but entire ecosystems and effectively depriving local communities of their livelihood. Tourism, a principal export for many African countries, is by no means unaffected by the ongoing poaching crisis. Nature and wildlife watching tourism is one of Africa’s main tourism products, and as such a key contributor to the region’s socio-economic development.
“Wildlife has value far beyond its natural beauty and is worth much more alive than dead. Wildlife watching generates billions of dollars around the world each year and many migratory animals protected under the Convention on Migratory Species, such as elephants, whales, gorillas and flamingoes are some of the biggest tourist attractions in the world. Losing them would be like losing the Eiffel Tower, Golden Gate Bridge, the Pyramids or the Great Wall of China.” said Bradnee Chambers, Executive Secretary of the UNEP Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) “It is encouraging to see that the UNWTO and others are putting the fight against poaching and the illegal wildlife trade so high on the agenda of the ITB in Berlin. It is also encouraging to see that international wildlife protection is increasingly a topic of concern for those responsible for tourism” said Chambers.
UNWTO is currently conducting a study to assess the importance of wildlife for the development of tourism in Africa, to be presented at the upcoming UNWTO Regional Commission Meeting for Africa (Luanda, Angola, 28-30 April 2014). The study will provide an overview of the economic value of wildlife watching tourism in Africa, including data on the dimension and characteristics of wildlife watching tourism in Africa based on surveys with tourism stake holders, and will serve as the basis for an upcoming UNWTO awareness campaign on the effects of wildlife crime on tourism in Africa and the communities depending on it for their survival.