At WTM in November, Colin Bell, founder of Wilderness Safaris, proposed an innovative approach to addressing the problem of poaching wildlife such as rhino and elephant in Africa. Companies profiting from tourism to the continent would pay a 1% levy on profits towards the conservation of the species that are a major reason why tourists visit. It’s an elegantly simple proposal that highlights what can be done through co-ordinated collective effort – and it deserves to be adopted.
When it comes to the poaching of rhinoceros, perhaps the most urgent of all the many poaching issues, the problem is certainly not a lack of solutions. Some people advocate legalising the trade to flood the market and suppress prices. Some say we should poison the horns. Others suggest we should cut the horns off. And amongst those who suggest we cut them off, some say we should sell them, some we should stockpile them, and others destroy them in a public conflagration and gesture of defiance.
In other words, the challenge facing those committed to saving the rhinoceros is not coming up with solutions – it’s getting the people to agree on which ones to adopt. But how on earth would you get people with such polarised opinions and beliefs to work together, let alone agree? How do you get a rhino farmer in Limpopo to agree with a conservationist from New York; or a hunter from Botswana to sit down with a animal rights activist from London? All of them believe profoundly different things from one another, and all of them believe the other is equally profoundly wrong. Yet they are all united in their desire to save the rhinoceros from extinction.
There is one other approach, which if nothing else buys some time, and that is to move the animals out of harms way. Most of the poaching is taking place in South Africa, and in particular in the Kruger Park. A group called Rhinos Without Borders has begun to raise funds for and airlift a number of rhinos from South Africa to relative safety in Botswana.
Building change – by raising funds
Travellers Building Change is a young initiative to harness the reach of traveller bloggers to write about tourism related issues and raise funds for organisations and initiatives committed to addressing them. Last year, in just its second year, TBC raised $7,500 for abused elephants in Thailand.
This year it has set its sights higher. Through a partnership with Green Travel Media it is gathered together 100+ of the world’s most read travel bloggers to help it raise the $45,ooo that Rhinos Without Borders needs to pay for the translocation of #justonerhino. Each day between mid December and the end of February, a different blogger is writing about some aspect of the rhino poaching crisis and the fund raising campaign. Blogs are then tweeted and retweeted, and shared on the facebook group reaching to potentially millions of readers over the course of the project. Today is my day.
Will it work? after 2 weeks, $1810 has been donated, so there is still a long way to go. However, it’s early days, with the project really taking off in the new year once the distraction of Xmas is gone. But whether it meets its $45,000 target or not, I believe the collaborative model that Travellers Building Change is developing is one that has huge potential.
A host of ecotravel-oriented companies have come on board to offer over $30,000 of prizes that anyone who donates more than $20 stands to win. In so doing the likes of International Expeditions, Adventure Life, Cobblers Cove Hotel, Yemaya Island Hideaway & Spa, and Secret Retreats gain wide coverage, positive PR, and the SEO benefit of gaining large numbers of inbound links from lots of highly trafficked blogs. The full list of prizes can be viewed here.
But most significantly, 100+ travellers bloggers – with all the different opinions and experiences and egos involved – have agreed to write a blog each on a single urgent subject, and all with a shared objective. We haven’t all agreed to write the same thing, identify a similar approach or suggest the same solution. And already there have been disagreements between bloggers over the content of various posts on the causes and answers to the poaching crisis – followed by discussions and learning from one another.
Hopefully our assorted blogs will inspire enough people to donate, and so raise the funds to translocate #justonerhino. I have no idea what else 2015 will bring, but few achievements next year would mean more to me than that.