Co-founder and CEO of charity Tusk has told CNBC that the shutdown of the tourism industry in Africa due to the Covid-19 pandemic has caused an economic crisis that is affecting conservation in the region.
Charles Mayhew, who is based in the UK, co-founded the charity in 1990 with the aim of "increasing the impact of advanced conservation initiatives across Africa". It was launched in response to the poaching crisis in the 1980s that killed up to 100,000 elephants annually, and Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, was named royal patron of the charity in 2005.
Tourism and safaris play a vital role in funding local workers, communities and conservation projects, often paying for rangers to protect both species and land in Africa. However, the sector has been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic, which brought international travel to a standstill.
Mayhew, who used to be an insurance broker in the City of London, told CNBC that the impact of the coronavirus was "absolutely enormous".
"The reality on the ground in Africa is that the economic impact and crisis that have resulted from the pandemic have been really significant, especially since tourism and the travel industries have absolutely shut down and fallen off a cliff when we all went in lockdown, "he said.
Madikwe Game Reserve, Safari, African Elephant, South Africa.
Godong | Universal Images Group | Getty Images
He stressed that while Africa did not have as many coronavirus infections as elsewhere in the world, the economic impact was "enormous" and resulted in many people losing their jobs.
"What this has meant in terms of conservation is that bushmeat poaching has increased significantly for people just trying to put food on the table," he said.
According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), the sector in Africa employs around 24.6 million people and contributes $ 169 billion to the economy, which is 7.1% of the continent's gross domestic product.
Mayhew, who received an MBE from Queen Elizabeth II for services to Africa in 2005, spoke about the charity's Tusk Conservation Awards in the latest installment in CNBC's On Assignment series.
Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the eighth annual awards in partnership with global asset manager Ninety-One were held practically on Thursday.
Prior to the awards, the Duke of Cambridge reiterated Mayhews' concern about the pandemic that had "decimated the tourism industry in Africa as a whole".
"I have great concerns about what's going to happen around the corner if we can't get tourism back in Africa and we can't finance and continue these wonderful projects and these brilliant communities. Then there are some dark times ahead." "Said Prince William.
"But with people like Tusk and others doing a fantastic job in Africa, I have no doubt that the right support and people are where they need to be.
Mayhew said the Duke of Cambridge's involvement changed the charity.
"It raised the profile of the charity, which made a huge difference in our ability to raise funds and be recognized as a credible organization in the donor community. So that was immensely valuable," he said.
"When he meets the conservationists … and the communities we work with, it really increases their morale and belief in what they are doing because it just puts that fantastic spotlight on the work that they do."
Since its inception in 2013, the Tusk Conservation Awards have set themselves the goal of "celebrating Africa-based conservation officers and gamekeepers" and their work with local communities and wildlife.
At this year's event, three winners received awards and a financial grant from the charity.
The Prince William Award for Conservation in Africa recognized the lifetime achievement of Hipólito Lima in Sao Tome and Principe, who devoted his life to protecting sea turtles in a region where they were traditionally hunted for meat and eggs.
The 2020 Tusk Wildlife Ranger Award was given to Amos Gwema, Principal Intelligence Officer of the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, for changing the way intelligence work helps protect wildlife in Zimbabwe.
And John Kamanga, Executive Director of the South Rift Association of Land Owners, received the Tusk Award for Conservation in Africa for his work on the coexistence of local communities and wildlife in the South Rift region of Kenya.
Mayhew said that in addition to continuing to focus on ending the illegal wildlife trade, the biggest challenges in protecting Africa have been human-animal conflict and habitat loss, as the continent's population is projected to rise from 1.2 billion to 2 by 2050 , 4 billion will rise.