As the world watches and waits, it’s an ideal time to explore the planet and to ultimately plan a safari holiday to one of the best conservation destinations in South Africa – Sanbona Wildlife Reserve in the Little Karoo. With its low-density tourist numbers and extensive landscapes perfect for continued social distancing, it’s easy to see why it’s considered by many as the best game reserve in the Western Cape.
And as the realization of how one small town’s actions resulted in a global lockdown, travelers, now more informed than ever, will begin to scrutinize how countries are treating their environments, their communities and their fragile ecosystems. So while we rest, restore and consider how we are going to rebuild a better world, let us not forget how climate change, pollution, over harvesting, deforestation and habitat loss are playing a huge role in the alarming loss of biodiversity. And how the illegal wildlife trade is one of the leading causes to species-specific loss and possible extinction. Illegal Wildlife Trade refers to ‘the unlawful and unsustainable harvest of and trade in live animals and plants or the parts or products derived from them in the form of skins, leather goods, souvenirs, food, traditional medicine or as pets’.
It is difficult to accurately determine the number of species illegally harvested and traded, but it is estimated that every 5 minutes a pangolin is poached for its scales, every 30 minutes an elephant is killed for its tusks and every 8 hours a rhino is poached for its horn. Species such as tigers are declining at alarming rates, with only 4 000 left in the world, whereas 100 million sharks are killed each year due to shark fin trade and accidental bycatch due to fishing. If this trend continues 8 775 species may be extinct within our lifetime.
Fortunately, there are brave men and women across the world who strive to protect the incredible variety of plant and animal life from this illegal trade, and who’s actions ultimately protect the communities who are reliant on these fragile ecosystems. Besides the lives of rangers lost each year in the services of protecting wildlife, the illegal trade also poses a serious health risk to people and animals alike – like the SARS outbreak in 2002/2003 which spread from bats through civets to humans and now the Novel Coronavirus outbreak that is thought to have come from bats through pangolins to humans [proof of which is still under investigation.]
But what can we do?
Be mindful of the bigger picture. While on that dream vacation, don’t be afraid to ask the origin of your holiday souvenirs. Ask what they’re made of and purchase only certified products. Refuse to purchase ivory products or items that ultimately decimate forests. Eat sustainable seafood in restaurants and be vigilant. Don’t be afraid to report illegal wildlife activities through organisations like Wildleaks, where you are able to anonymously report all wildlife crimes around the world.
Locally, choose not-for-profit wildlife reserves like Sanbona who have welcomed the challenge to correct the imbalance between soil and plants, herbivore densities and predator populations within 58000 hectares of land, and where your contribution in the form of tourism is returned back into conserving the diverse landscape and the surrounding communities.
To learn more about the illegal trade and how you can make a difference click here or join the WWF [World Wide Fund] to find ways of pledging your support. To see what Sanbona stands for and the various conservation initiatives we’re involved in, take a look at our Conservation page on our website.
While Sanbona is temporarily closed in line with the Government-enforced nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19, our Reservations office remains available to answer any enquiries and assist with future bookings: [T] +27 (0)21 010 0028 or [E] [email protected]