Africa’s wildlife tourism industry, which usually generates $29 billion a year and employs 3.6 million people, is under threat as the coronavirus has brought leisure travel to a near halt, a report published in Nature Ecology & Evolution said.
Many wildlife-protection services will struggle without money from safaris and hunting, according to research by scientists from various universities ranging from South Africa to the U.S. Hardest hit will be countries that boast the so-called Big Five — elephants, lions, buffaloes, leopards and rhinoceroses — such as Kenya, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Others like Uganda, where gorillas are a drawcard, will also suffer, the study shows.
“Tourism helps governments justify protecting wildlife habitat,” the scientists said. “It creates revenue for state wildlife authorities, generates foreign-exchange earnings, diversifies and strengthens local economies.”
About 50%, or $30 million, of the Kenya Wildlife Service’s annual budget comes from tourism, while that figure is 80% in Zimbabwe and the same percentage, or $52 million, in South Africa. Half of the budget of the Uganda Wildlife Authority is from tourism to view the mountain gorillas.
“The crisis demands a concerted international effort to protect and support Africa’s wildlife and wildlands and people that are dependent on them,” the report said.