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The East African : Nov 3rd 2014
The EastAfrican OUTLOOK NOVEMBER 1-7,2014 n 33 nal reluctance to capitalise on global tourism? US to list the lion as endange≥ed By DARRYL FEARS The Washington Post FEARING THAT the world’s most iconic big cat could soon become extinct as humans invade its range, the Obama administration has proposed listing the African lion as a threatened species. The proposal by the US Fish and Wildlife Service would make the African lion the last big cat to receive federal protection under the Endangered Species Act. In the past two decades, their numbers have fallen by 30 per cent, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Over that time, human develop- ment in areas inhabited by lions has increased. Their prey “is hunted by humans at unsustainable levels” for bush meat, the federal agency said. To survive, lions kill livestock, and in response, ranchers slaughter lions. Public comment “Demographers believe the hu- As they come up with their own Above: People walk past a stand offering trips to Mali and Ethiopia at the International Travel Trade Fair in Berlin in March. Left, a tourist deep sea diving off Kenya’s Coast. Picture: File dle East market is relatively small, they are considered the fastest growing markets at 6.2% and 9.9%, respectively. Nature-based tourism Tourism experts say that global trends suggest that 80% of the international tourists travel within their regions while the top global destinations are driven by strong domestic tourism demand. “This is a growing trend in Africa and the challenge for the Igad region is to develop appropriate products to tap into the respective domestic and regional tourist markets.” plans, it would be interesting to see how the Igad member countries adhere to the caution raised in the bloc’s blueprint against over-reliance on nature-based tourism. Among the alternative tourism products suggested in the regional plan are health tourism and gastro-tourism. They also include tourism based on cultural resources, the region’s heritage, and more importantly contemporary culture or urban tourism — sports tourism, entertainment — or those products that would make a Kenyan tourist want to visit Ethiopia. “The idea really is to shift from the traditional approach to tourism development in Africa where the focus is on nature-based tourism targeting mainly Western clientele, to one that is innovative and people-centred,” said Dr Manyara. However, this recommendation flies in the face of critics who say that the new tourism products suggested by those who formulated the Igad Master Plan — particularly health tourism and gastrotourism — are somewhat ‘alien’ to the region but that their full development would require raising the level of IGAD’s economic and social development to a level that which may not have been attained by 2023. “I think there is a misconcep- tion here that these are ‘alien’; if you look at Kenya for instance, we are benefiting from what you could call Ugandan health tourists.” Dr Manyara said, adding, “only problem is that the critics do not consider these as potential products because we have not yet packaged them well.” But whether the regional plan or the individual member countries’ plans will succeed in bringing about significant development in the sector largely depends on how member countries create a safe and secure environment for visitors. The Igad region is reputed to be one of the highest risk regions in the world. Indeed, the Political Instability Index of the Economist Intelligence Unit ranks member countries as mainly high risk with the exception of Ethiopia which is considered to be of moderate risk. Although the index is a mere perception of insecurity, the team that drafted the Master Plan say that the region has in actual fact been afflicted by various conflicts over natural resources while the proliferation of small arms and light weapons has also turned the region into one with the highest stockpiles of arms globally. “Owing to the prevailing situa- tion of instability in Somalia and the rise of piracy in the Indian Ocean, the once thriving cruise tourism has almost totally collapsed,” said Dr Manyara In as much as safety is con- cerned, Igad is doing equally badly. For instance, the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index that takes into account four parameters — business costs of terrorism; reliability of police services; business costs of crime and violence; and road traffic accidents — to rank countries, places Ethiopia at position 102; Uganda at 117 and Kenya among the bottom countries globally at position 139. man population in sub-Saharan Africa will double by 2050,” said Daniel Ashe, the director of Fish and Wildlife. “Unless things improve, lions will face extinction. It’s up to us and not just the people of Africa to ensure that lions will continue to roam.” The agency will seek public comment for 90 days. Several groups, including the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the Humane Society of the United States and Defenders of Wildlife, petitioned the government in 2012 to list the African lion as endangered, a category that offers slightly more protection than the threatened designation. Tigers, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars and pumas are all listed as endangered. There were about 75,000 Afri- can lions in 1980, according to the best estimates, said the IUCN. Now there are between 32,000 and 33,000, most concentrated in 10 areas in Eastern and Southern Africa. After a two-year analysis, Fish and Wildlife stopped short of designating lions as endangered, saying they are not at immediate risk of extinction. Mr Ashe said the agency proposed the threatened designation because lions are likely to “disappear in the foreseeable future” if they are not protected. Hunting an animal listed as endangered in Africa is legal if the host nation permits it, but the remains of the animal cannot be imported into the US for as trophy. Hunting and trophies are allowed in the US for threatened animals, but hunters must apply for permits and the government can refuse a permit if it believes the plight of the species has worsened.
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