It’s an interesting thing that holidays can be both a wonderfully self-indulgent treat and a vital lifeline for the conservation of our planet. Sound a bit far-fetched and idealistic? Perhaps not...
Last year there was an interesting online debate about the ethics of travelling to Zimbabwe. Amongst the various arguments was one made by a Zimbabwean who pointed out that the future of wildlife in his country relies on the revenue generated by tourism and, by staying away, travellers may actually be helping to expedite the loss of these precious resources.
Zim is not the only place where tourism plays a hefty part in conservation. Pick up any travel mag and there will be stories about the likes of lodge owners in Zambia who recently saved a lioness injured critically by a poacher’s snare. Beyond the emergency response; many small camps are involved in training rangers, supporting long-term research and educating adjacent communities about the value of wildlife. Plenty more companies opt to take local communities as business partners, providing them with a stake in the future of their environment.
Of course, it is absolutely in the best interest of these companies to invest in conservation – after all, their businesses depend upon it. But more often than not, this is a secondary concern and the extraordinary lengths that people go to come from a deep sense that this is just the right thing to do. Sadly there are others with a much shorter-term view and less integrity where tourism does leave large and grubby footprints on our natural heritage. Tourism undoubtedly has the power to support livelihoods, bestow economic viability on wilderness that might otherwise be used for mining or agriculture, and conserve and regenerate habitats.
Therefore, the important question should not be “should I travel?” but rather “how can I support the people who are themselves busting a gut trying to save the world all on their tod?” (or words to that effect). Just as you would want accountability from Oxfam as to how they use your donation, choose carefully who you entrust your hard-earned safari dollars to. That way, while you are enjoying your holiday, you know that you’ve invested in the conservation of those fabulous places that you are privileged to visit: killing two birds with one stone, so to speak.
Posted by: Amanda Mitchell