Friday, November 28, 2014

Enjoying life through travel, media hysteria, Ebola and other madness…



Usually this blog has been about light themes of having fun in the bush.
Today is going to be different, sharing some disturbing reflections on the Western way to go about life, and its impact on Africa.

I will start by giving away my age and felt identity. I am half a century old, as old as the Country I elected to be my Nation, Kenya. So “what” am I? A white Maasai, after having spent 40% (the last 20 years) of my life in Maasai land? An adopted Kenyan? Not sure. I feel I do not fit anywhere, I am simply a human being determined to live life in a positive way. Positive towards the place I live in, the people I work with, the magnificent Nature that surrounds me. Being a Kenyan with Western roots allows me to see things from an uncommon perspective.

Luca, Chyulu Hills, 1975

Luca and Lucrezia, 2014

I was born in the middle of the Cold War. Kenya became independent two months prior my birth. It was the only Western friendly Country in Sub-Saharan Africa, being surrounded by the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, by unstable and Soviet friendly Somalia and Ethiopia, by the totally Soviet/Cuban/Chinese aligned Tanzania of Julius Nyerere, the father of African Socialism.

Kenya was loved by the West, who needed it for its fighting in the Cold War. Western money poured in, without the accountability and transparency the West is now so proud and vocal about…

Growing up in the 70’s I remember people being shot over the Berlin wall, the Red Brigades in Italy killing our Prime Minister and kidnapping a NATO general, the Irish and the Brits killing each other over what, in my Catholic school,  was depicted as a religious confrontation. Kids were getting kidnapped in the part of Italy I was living in. Getting into an airplane was fairly easy, as it was easy to hijack it. The Munich Olympic bloodshed is vividly in my mind, even if I was only 8.

Yet, I do not recall the media being hysteric about the tragedies I was growing up with. Tourism was still happening in London, regardless of the IRA, and in Italy regardless of the Red Brigade and kidnappers... People were going into airplanes, regardless of the hijacking…
There were wars in Africa, more than today. There were more diseases as well. There were certainly less hygienic conditions, choices of food and accommodation, services, as they are now provided by the tourism industry and by the modern infrastructures of Eastern and Southern Africa.
Yet tourism, back then, was booming.

I guess our parents were going about life in a different way than we do. Sure there was no “breaking news” every hour, there was no Chicken Noodles Network (CNN…), etc.
I think our parents were informed less frequently, yet they were better informed. And I guess some journalists were a different breed then… writing responsibly.
Is it that now that the Cubans are no longer in Tanzania the West is less interested in being friendly with Kenya? I am convinced so.
Now that Uganda is no longer ruled by a dictator collecting the heads of his antagonists, the West is perhaps much less interested in Kenya and, consequently, writes more aggressively about it?

Tourism in the Country I have elected as my home is vital. Vital for millions of people and literally millions of animals (wildlife). Safari destinations are being badly hit by the latest hysteria of the West, Ebola. The Ebola outbreak is closer, in distance, to Madrid, Paris, Milan, Zurich, London, Frankfurt… than it is to Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa…
More importantly Ebola is much closer to Europe logistically: Europe is connected, with flights, to those Countries where Ebola is. East and Southern African Countries are not. Once a traveler lands in Europe, he/she is free to go all the way from the Mediterranean to the Arctic Circle, with no boundaries, no checks.
From a mere logical point of view, if you are planning to spend Christmas in Paris, you should possibly worry about Ebola, but not if you are planning to visit the migration in the Serengeti.
This is if you use your brain and not rely on the idiotic sensationalism of some Western media.
And Ebola is actually going to be contracted through an exchange of body fluids. Imagine if 20 years ago some journalist would have written about how dangerous it was to dine in a San Francisco restaurant because of AIDS. Same chances to get AIDS through that dining as to get Ebola while on safari in East Africa in 2014.

Yet tourists are gone.

And with them are gone those tourism revenues which employ hundreds of thousands of people in the African safari industry. That tourism revenue helps these hundreds of thousands of people putting food in the stomach of the hundreds of thousands of their spouses, and millions of their children.
Do you get the picture?
Well, take another step: those tourists mean income for the National Parks and for the conservancies which are vital to protect one of the most iconic, precious and diverse flora and fauna on the planet.
Not just the elephants and the rhinos, the lions and the leopards, the cheetah and the zebra, but all Africa’s splendid animals, from the aardvark to the zorilla, literally.
Those animals we have in fables, which were still thriving when I was born 50 years ago and which can be soon gone if we carry on acting with hysteria.

Poached lion
Acting hysterically and depriving Eastern and Southern African Countries of vital tourism income will mean that one not so far off day, we will have to tell our kids: “once upon a time there was an animal in Africa called the elephant, called the rhino, called the lion…”

What is poaching? Do you think it is just systematic and remunerative killing of elephants for ivory and rhinos for their horns? No, poaching is not just that.
Poaching is any illegal killing of wildlife, including the killing of a gazelle by a waiter who lost his job and needs to feed himself and his 3, 4, 5 or whatever number of kids. No tourism means getting hundreds of thousands of people without a salary, and, consequently, with an empty stomach. If these jobless people live near wildlife, wildlife will be turned into food. Obviously.
Not visiting Africa means causing poaching. Absolutely and directly, with no dramatizations.
No tourism income, no money to protect wildlife, more poaching.
Poached elephant

Yes, Africa needs tourism and traditionally these tourists have been Westerners.
Do you know Iranian tourism is booming? Tripled in two years, up to 4 million now, more or less the same amount of tourists that East Africa (Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda) get all together in a year.
And guess what, there aren’t many Westerners visiting Iran.
May be soon the super sensitive Westerners visitors to Africa will be replaced by other tourists, but that day is not yet around the corner.
Tourism brings money to conservation, and Conservation with no money becomes simply a conversation...
You can become a most effective conservationist by simply decide to come to Africa on safari.
Luca and elephant, Chyulu Hills
 
So Africa still needs the West, but are we sure it’s not the West which needs Africa more?
If the West neglects Africa, I bet that in our life time we will be saying to our sons and daughters:
 “there were once lions and elephants and rhinos in Africa”...

I do not want to have to say that, do you?

Luca Belpietro, founder Campi ya Kanzi and Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust
Luca and family, Chyulu Hills, 2014

3 comments:

  1. Don't forget the war from within: http://worldnewsdailyreport.com/african-billionaire-slaughters-20-elephants-during-200-million-birthday-bash/

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    Replies
    1. Thank you Luca for a beautifully written and heart-felt blog post. Elizabeth, the killing of Elephants is horrible and deserves attention, however, I think the news article that you included is fictitious.
      It is from "a news and political satire web publication, which may or may not use real names, often in semi-real or mostly fictitious ways. All news articles contained within worldnewsdailyreport.com are fiction, and presumably fake news. Any resemblance to the truth is purely coincidental, except for all references to politicians and/or celebrities, in which case they are based on real people, but still based almost entirely in fiction."
      http://worldnewsdailyreport.com/disclaimer/

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