Tourism’s front row seat, as global wildlife drops 60% in 35 years (03.11.18)

International travellers, although hugely saddened, will not be surprised by this week’s harrowing WWF Report confirming a devastating 60% drop in global wildlife between 1970-2014.

Tourists have had perhaps the best view of the decimation of wildlife over this period, as animal populations in national parks, wildlife reserves and wilderness areas around the world have shrunk at an accelerating rate.

The statistics are brutal.

Mike Barrett, Executive Director of Science and Conservation at WWF, said that ‘we are sleepwalking towards the edge of a cliff’, and that the 60% figure is akin to a ‘decline in human population that would be equivalent to emptying North America, South America, Africa, Europe, China and Oceania’.

The report makes grim reading, and induces a feeling of helplessness, backed up by rage and incomprehension as to why humankind continues to devastate our rich diversity of wildlife, without so much as a by-your-leave.

Just this week I experienced an example of just how delicate the balancing act is between sustainability and extinction. While travelling in Zambia and Zimbabwe, I was privileged to visit several wildlife areas that have changed enormously since my first visit 35 years ago.

Over this time, the continent has seen a gigantic decline in animal numbers, with West Africa in particular suffering an 85% wildlife loss.

The clock is ticking. And despite some success stories which I have highlighted in previous blogs, such as the link between tourism and the survival of the Silverback Mountain Gorillas, as traveller numbers rise the travel industry has many challenges.

This week’s WWF Report shows that protecting and saving the world’s wildlife is a tough gig, as humans’ disproportionate impact on wildlife continues to disrupt the balance of nature. A balance that our very existence relies on.

Evidence of the struggle is all around. For example, two of the African national parks I visited last week face differing wildlife dilemmas:

Busanga Plains, a new wildlife region in the heart of the Kafue National Park (Zambia), is having difficulty maintaining its fragile wildlife numbers (including lion, hippo, buffalo, lechwe, wildebeest, antelope and jackal) following the expansion of local urban encroachment and poaching.

Hwange National Park (Zimbabwe) is battling with a wholly different problem. An over-sized elephant population. Thanks to overly successful water-pumping installations, the sustainable elephant population of 15,000 has swelled to over 45,000. This in turn has led to mass destruction of other species’ environment and food sources.

On the basis that we have been warned that ‘we are the first generation to know we are destroying our planet and the last one that can do anything about it’ I urge you to visit the following links for further inspiration.

WWFWildlife Conservation SocietyProject AwareInternational Rhino FunPantheraInternational Union for Conservation of Nature