Every day, men and women across Africa quietly do their part to protect wildlife and promote conservation. A new video series from WildAid highlights some of their stories and explores how the responsible wildlife tourism industry creates jobs, both directly and indirectly.
“Listen to these people talk about their connection with wildlife and you will begin to understand why investing in national parks and wildlife conservation are so important,” said WildAid Chief Program Officer John Baker. “When managed properly, tourism can have powerful benefits for communities, wildlife, and national economies.”
The video series “Heroes in the Spotlight” follows five inspirational Ugandans. Viewers will meet Michael, a Uganda Wildlife Authority park ranger; Stephan, a safari lodge manager who comes from a community where poaching is common; Marriam, a primary school teacher who made wildlife education a priority; Winnie, a wildlife crime prosecutor who takes pride in protecting her nation’s wildlife; and Okech, a safari tour operator who grew up with little means but wanted to make a big difference for his country’s wildlife and local community. WildAid will expand this series to Tanzania later in 2019.
“These animals provide income for our country,” Michael says in the video. “They bring in tourists. They provide jobs like mine…. I am doing this for my family, for all families, both human and animal.”
Michael’s story, as well as the other subject of the videos, helped to inform the narrative arc in a long-running radio drama series called Rockpoint 256. As part of an overall mission to raise awareness about the economic and cultural benefits of wildlife tourism and conservation, WildAid collaborated on a series of episodes in the popular Ugandan radio drama, using some of these real stories as inspiration.
Heroes in the Spotlight celebrates Africa’s wildlife heroes, tells their stories on why they care about wildlife in their own words and urges viewers to report wildlife crime using the hashtag #PoachingStealsFromUsAll. All but one of the videos were created with an iPhone and free video editing software, setting a powerful example of how these stories can be told at an affordable cost.
Marriam, the headteacher at Paraa Primary School, was saddened to learn her students were involved in poaching incidents: “So we thought it’s right to sensitize the children, who would, in turn, sensitize their parents about how tourists and the park support their education. Little by little the rate of poaching amongst the children and communities is now being reduced.”
Winnie, a wildlife prosecutor in Uganda, takes pride in telling her daughter she made a difference for her nation’s wildlife.
“I want to tell [my daughter] when she is older that I was part of the solution,” Winnie says. “I was one of the good guys, who fought to keep our wildlife alive for her generation. ”
Under its “Poaching Steals From Us All” campaign, WildAid works with government agencies and celebrities to encourage tourism at wildlife parks in Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Gabon. The campaign seeks to build public support for wildlife conservation and a matter of pride and aspiration for everyone in Africa.
By 2030, consumer spending on tourism, hospitality, and recreation in Africa is projected to reach about $261.77 billion, $137.87 billion more than in 2015, according to a recent report by the Brookings Institute. Tourism in Uganda, most of which is generated from the wildlife sector, supports more than 1,173,000 jobs throughout the country and earns more than US$1.3 billion in foreign exchange.