Why one hunter is worth 1,500 tourists

A poaching-threatened reserve in the Greater Kruger area in South Africa has increased its conservation levy on visitors to fund anti-poaching and other costs, after discovering the true price of bringing thousands of phototourists to the region.

The Timbavati private nature reserve said it was standardising its conservation fees with those of the neighbouring Kruger National Park, aiming to increase revenue for the reserve without having to increase the number of tourism beds.

This came after the discovery that, in the last year for which data was available, the park’s 24,000 photographic tourists brought in less revenue than 46 hunters in the same year – in other words, each hunter is worth around 1,565 non-hunting tourists.

Don Scott, co-owner of the Tanda Tula camps in the reserve, said: “It’s not hard to imagine that 24,000 tourists have a much larger carbon, and resource use, footprint than 46 hunters, not to mention the  activity within the reserve required to support all of those photographic tourists – deliveries, waste management, water use, electricity provision, and staff, to name but a few.

“Traditionally Timbavati, along with many other private nature reserves within the Greater Kruger, has relied on hunting revenue as a significant contributor to the enormous operational costs of running and securing a private nature reserve (which receives no government subsidies). Hunting is regulated by government conservation agencies and is sanctioned by the Kruger National Parks’ (and the Timbavati’s) strict ethical norms towards sustainable utilisation of wildlife. Since the idea behind sustainable utilisation is for it to be just that – sustainable – increasing hunting quotas to boost income is simply not an option. Using the same logic, increasing revenue by adding too many commercial beds in the Timbavati would also be unsustainable.

“I fully appreciate that hunting is still a contentious issue which can polarise opinion and create heated debate. Tanda Tula is a photographic tourism operation and I am not a hunter myself in any way shape or form. However, my work on regional conservation forums has made me appreciate that in the Greater Kruger, hunting continues to play a role in creating revenue for the conservation and maintenance of the wilderness landscape. As a citizen of the Greater Kruger, the Tanda Tula philosophy is that we focus on the big picture – one where multiple land-uses co-exist, but where common ethical norms and standards are playing an increasing role in the regulation of all activities including hunting, tourism, security and conservation.”

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