Rhinos Now A Bigger Tourist Draw

Rhinos in Kruger

Rhinos in Kruger

The economic importance of rhinos to South Africa’s tourist industry has been underlined in new research which has found the threatened animals have become a bigger tourist draw in Kruger National Park, with more people prepared to pay to see them.

The viewing value of Kruger’s rhinos now constitutes about R112 million (£6.4 million) per year, according to the findings of researchers from the country’s North West University, led by Professor Melville Saayman. The Big Five (lion, elephant, leopard, rhino, buffalo) in total were worth around R500 million (£28.5 million), out of Kruger’s R2 billion (£114 million) tourism revenue.

‘If we look at the monetary value, one sees that the amount has increased from R39.5 million in 2011 to R112 million in 2013,’ Prof Saayman told Project African Rhino. ‘Our comparison over the past three years revealed that 26.6 per cent of visitors to Kruger National Park in 2011 were willing to pay to see the rhino. This has increased to 36.9 per cent in 2013. As the poaching continues more people are concerned about the future of this animal. And I believe that this amount, as well as people willing to pay, will continue to increase over the next couple of years.’

Some 606 rhinos were poached in Kruger in 2013, compared to 252 in 2011, while nationally the number increased from 448 to 1004. By mid April of this year 185 rhinos had been poached in Kruger.

As well as investigating the non-consumptive, tourist value of the rhino, Prof Saayman’s team are also looking at the consumptive value of the animals and hope to have results on this by July.

‘We started this project in 2011 in South African national parks that have rhinos, although our bigger focus was on Kruger National Park because we also would like to include the Big Five in our final research objectives and because Kruger has the largest population of rhinos. Compared to the other four species of the Big Five the rhino was the only species that showed an increase,’ Prof Saayman explained.

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