These days, some national park visitors spot more wildlife with their phones than with their binoculars. Thanks to a new breed of animal-spotting app, tourists who come across a lion or a leopard can crowdsource their sightings, sharing their locations with fellow parkgoers and drawing huge crowds to particular spots.
But according to South African National Parks, or SANParks, visitors might have to sharpen their other senses once again. Following an increase in road rage, speeding, and animal deaths, SANParks is considering a ban on these wildlife apps, the organization said in a statement.
Sightings,” which allows users to “ting,” or map, spots of interest, have become “a major cause for concern” for SANParks, the organization said in a statement last week. Though these apps may lead to more comprehensive trips, they also “tend to induce an unhealthy sense of eagerness for visitors to break the rules,” says Hapiloe Sello, executive marketing manager for SANParks.
Those guests committed to more traditional viewing modes are also feeling, well, cheetahed. “Most guests appreciate the leisurely drive through the parks and the potential reward of a good sighting as a key element of the visitor experience,” says Sello. “The usage of these mobile applications is in direct contradiction to the ethos of responsible tourism espoused by SANParks.”
Nadav Ossendryver, the creator of Latest Sightings, told the BBC he’d be happy to work with SANParks to make his app safer. For now, though, humans headed to Kruger might want to charge up their eyes instead of their phones.
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The Department of Tourism in partnership with SANParks and the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA) celebrated the International Tourist Guides Day celebrations from 18 to 19 February 2016 in Skukuza, Kruger National Park- Mpumalanga.
The two-day event included activities and programmes ranging from presentations, motivational talks, excursions and workshops. The theme for this year’s celebrations is “Building a Successful and Sustainable Tourist Guiding Sector” with the aim to capacitate tourist guides on sustainable tourism trends within the adventure, nature and cultural sub-sectors of guiding. The theme also emphasise the opportunities for integration across these sub-sectors which could contribute to a more self-sustainable guiding sector.
The Deputy Director General, Ms Morongoe Ramphele on behalf of the Deputy Minister of Tourism, said that as we celebrate International Tourist Guides Day, we need to continue being the biggest proponents of our brand in order to move South Africa forward. That in turn will of course bring more tourists to our country and boost our economy.
“We would also like to commend the significant growth that Tourist Guiding has shown in the past few years. “It is worth noting that the number of registered tourist guides increased over the years from 8 657 in 2009/10 to 11 367 by the end of 2013/14 financial year which represents a 31% increase”.
“The steady improvement in terms of transformation in the tourist guiding profession is notable given that the proportion of registered tourist guides from previously disadvantaged backgrounds increased from 2 502 in the 2009/2010 financial year to 3 875 guides by the end of the 2014/15 financial year. This represents an increase of 55% during the said period” said Ramphele.
Ramphele noted that it is essential that efforts are made by government and other tourism partners to enhance the levels and quality of tourist guiding that are offered across the country, not only will this ensure integrity of the tourism sector but it will also result in higher levels of tourist satisfaction whilst ensuring the sustainability.
In terms of the legislative programme of the department, draft Regulations has been developed and will be published for public comments during February 2016. Planned consultations will be held in each province to solicit as much inputs from the guiding sector as possible. Tourist guides were encouraged to participate in these consultation process.
“Tourist Guides form a pivotal part of the value chain and the Department of Tourism is committed to fulfilling its mandate by extending further opportunities to increase market access and employment opportunities”, Ramphele concluded.
Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom says Robben Island, one of the world’s top tourist attraction spots, will soon generate its power from solar panels.
The island, which once held the likes of former President Nelson Mandela and struggle stalwarts Walter Sisulu and Ahmed Kathrada, amongst others, will be a pilot
site for the department’s plan to roll out solar power to botanical gardens, South African National Parks and World Heritage sites during the current term of office.
Delivering his department’s Budget Vote Speech on Thursday, Minister Hanekom said the installation of solar power at the island will take place during the current financial year.
“The exciting part of the retrofitting programme is that it contributes towards our countrywide effort to reduce the electricity demand and to start shifting towards efficient energy use and renewable energy use.
“We will be introducing this component of the incentive programme on a pilot basis this year and it will involve the introduction of renewable energy at mainly our botanical gardens, at SA National Parks and at some of our world heritage sites.
“It will also include some of our community-based projects, particularly those that don’t have immediate access to the grid,” he said.
The retrofitting programme is part of the R180 million Tourism Incentive Programme, aimed at advancing the sector’s transformation, growing enterprises and developing tourism attractions.
As part of the retrofitting programme, the department will assess the needs of these establishments and then install photovoltaic panels (PV).
The Minister said the panels will be South African intellectual property-owned technology and the bulk of the components will be South African components.
“One of the pilot sites will be Robben Island and this will be done this year.
“Robben Island as we speak depends entirely on diesel generated electricity. We will shift them completely from diesel generated electricity to solar generated electricity,” he said.
The Minister also said while R180 million will be spent on the Tourism Incentive Programme’s pilot phase, an additional R368 million has been budgeted for the following years.
He said during the 2015/16 financial year, the programme would support tourism enterprises to access new markets by subsidising some of the costs of attending travel shows, as well as costs associated with being graded by the Tourism Grading Council.
Arrivals on the rise, tourism contributes to growth
The Minister said tourism has contributed 9.4% to the country’s gross domestic product over the past year.
He said the sector’s value chain now supported one in every ten jobs in the country.
“Growth in international tourist arrivals was recorded at 6.6% between 2013 and 2014.
“The 9.5 million visitors welcomed into South Africa last year contributed to creating a better life for all South Africans.
“The Department of Tourism will leverage the 2015/16 budget of R1.8 billion to create job opportunities and implement programmes that will take the sector forward in an inclusive and sustainable manner,” he said.
The Minister said his department had set an ambitious target of attracting 12 million international tourists arrivals by 2017/18 and increasing domestic holidaymakers from 2.8 million in 2014 to 4.1 million by 2020.
“With this level of growth, the department was on track to achieve the National Development Plan’s target of creating 225 000 jobs within the sector by 2020.
“About 54% of the budget will be allocated to South African Tourism for international and domestic marketing.
“An amount of R100 million has been ring-fenced for domestic marketing this year,” he said
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The war on rhino poaching cannot be won without the participation of communities, Chief Executive of the South African National Parks (SANParks) Fundisile Mketeni said on Tuesday.
“While carrying out our work at national, regional and international level to address the scourge of rhino poaching and the illegal wildlife trade, work is also being done at community level by institutions such as SANParks to raise awareness of the plight of the rhino,” Mketeni said at a ceremony marking the World Wildlife Day in the Kruger National Parks (KNP), one of Africa’s biggest game reserves in northeastern South Africa.
The theme for this year’s World Wildlife Day is “Wildlife Crime is serious: let’s get serious about wildlife crime”.
The aim is to highlight the positive role that local communities can play in helping to curb illegal wildlife trade.
As the eyes and ears of the government, the communities must join forces in combating poaching by blowing the whistle on this heinous crime, Mketeni said.
South Africa has adopted a four pillar strategy towards addressing the rhino poaching scourge. A key pillar highlighted in the national strategy focusses on one of the critical game- changing interventions-namely creating opportunities for communities to make alternative economic choices.
South Africa bears the brunt of rhino poaching, losing 1,215 rhinos last year.
South Africa is the custodian of the world’s rhinos. In the country, the loss of rhinos could be equated to a loss of revenue for many communities resulting in a decline in living conditions, a loss of jobs through a decline in tourism and hunting through the country’s sustainable utilisation policy, and a sad loss to a part of the country’s natural and cultural heritage, Mketeni said.
South Africa is home to approximately 21,000 white and black rhinos, of which most are found in the KNP. This represents 93 percent of the world’s total rhino population, according to Mketeni. “The South African population is one of the last viable rhino populations in the world, which makes it vulnerable. South Africa is, therefore, the last remaining hope for the world, in terms of rhino conservation,” he said.
Rhino poaching, worth billions of dollars, deprives local communities of income that could be used to create jobs and improve livelihood in the long term instead of benefiting a small group of criminals in the short-term, Mketeni said.
Even internationally, through the sustainable development goals, there are calls to combat poaching and illegal wildlife trade by increasing capacity of the local communities so as to create sustainable livelihood opportunities for future generations, he said.
In going forward, South Africa is embarking on a number of new initiatives around the KNP with a focus on projects that support the game-changing pillar of South Africa’s integrated rhino strategy, according to Mketeni.
This includes, for example, addressing basic human needs such as water provision to poor neighboring communities to be funded through rhino-related programmes, to economic opportunities associated with various benefits derived from live rhinos through community-managed rhino conservation initiatives.
In the short term, the SANParks seeks to focus on communities bordering the southern KNP Intensive Rhino Protection Zone (IPZ) with the broader vision expanding around the extent of the park’s border.
The focus has been on the community and the youth-not only the role they can play, or are playing, in combating rhino poaching, but in assisting to protect the country’s natural heritage and their economic future, Mketeni said.
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