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What Is the Best Solution to Stop Chinese Tourists Consuming Wildlife Products?

ISAAC LAWRENCE / AFP

In 2018, China’s most influential E-commence leader Mayun visited South Africa and participated in a wildlife protection event, which he awarded 50 rangers to appreciate their effort in anti-poaching. People in china from all walks of life care more about wildlife protection conservation.

Nowadays, African countries become the popular destination of Chinese tourists, and getting close to wildlife is the biggest attraction. However, illegal wildlife trade inevitably grows with the number of tourists. Sometimes Chinese tourists will buy wildlife products (like animals fur) as a souvenir, and some people even come for it.

Among all the African countries, South Africa is the most well-developed country, and it has possessed various ways of tourism. Furthermore, Chinese visitors is one of South Africa’s major tourism markets, with 97 271 visitings the country in 2017. [1] How can different models of tourism-related to illegal wildlife trade can what can we do to stop it? 

Traditional Tourism: Animals as Tourism Resources

“You ask me what to do in Africa? To see the animals and to taste special foods, that is all” said by a chef in a Chinese restaurant called Taoyuan in Cape Town, the famous tourist city among South Africa. In the restaurant, there is a giant fish tank living several abalones, while in Chinese food culture, abalone is the symbol of high nutrition, and many Chinese consumers are crazy for that. One kg South Africa abalone can be sold up to 150 dollars

Abalone in a Chinese restaurant.

As the cook said, lots of Chinese visitors come to South Africa would see taking photos at different kinds of animals and tasting exotic foods as a chance to show off. These Chinese tourist groups had a similar routine: going to local Chinese restaurants, visiting scenic spots, taking pictures of animals, and shopping in souvenir stores.

However, with the lack of wildlife protection awareness, Chinese tourists may consume illegal wildlife products unconsciously. 

As is mentioned above, many Chinese tourists love to consume South Africa abalone, what they do not know is that according to cites (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora )list, South Africa abalone is already an endangered spice. According to Karen Zhang, a Hong Kong journalist focus on reporting illegal abalone trade, people always cannot realize that abalone also needs protection, especially for Chinese. In their mind, abalone is born to be food.

Abalone consumption may not be a very serious problem since all the abalone in Chinese restaurants is imported legally. It’s just a problem with lacking wildlife protection awareness. However, According to Yina, the head of the most famous Chinese tourism company in South Africa that a few years ago, traditional tourism groups in South Africa will take tourists to Chinese handicraft shops, and the sellers used to hide their wildlife products, for example, ivory and rhino horn, among the souvenirs in the stores. Some tourist will consume these kinds of wildlife products unintendedly since they have no idea it is illegal. They may get caught when they pass the customs, until then will they realize how serious it can be. 

Being able to travel to different countries means they have the consumption ability and meanwhile they do not have the conscious of wildlife production, it is natural that Chinese tourist group become the target of wildlife product. To stop consumption, it will work better if they can be taught during their journey.

With more and more people be aware of the illegalization of consuming wildlife products, the illegal wildlife trade among tourists is reduced successfully. Besides, modern tourism has been developed.

Modern Tourism: Animal as Protecting-Wildlife Education Material

With the development of the tourism industry, more and more tourists are not satisfied with spot sightseeing only anymore, so the travel agencies are looking for new ways of traveling.

kids-parents tourist groups are now in the trend. People prefer “learning during travel” in China. Many family groups prefer going to foreign countries to sightseeing and with a study theme. Also, when this kind of groups come to Africa, the theme is always related to animals.

Chinese tourists on a safari in South Africa.

Chen was the mother of an 11 years old girl who is still in primary school. Though they had already been to some Safari tours in Kenya, they are not satisfied with sightseeing only. So they signed up for an educational group and came to South Africa to learn more about animals. Their main activity is to go around in the nature reserve with the ranger and also have the chance to get closer with the animals too. “Compared with sightseeing, I love the educational tour better. It combined with education and tourism”. It is said by Chen. However, this kind of tourism group can be much more expensive than the traditional tourism group. The price can be doubled. Not everyone can afford that.

However, the effect can be seen apparently. With close interaction with wildlife and professional knowledge taught by the ranger, people know more about animals, and they are no longer willing to hurt these animals. Shao was in his 40s, and he used to travel to South Africa for hunting. After the education tourism to South Africa again with his son, he realized how important it could be to protect the wildlife.

A new solution? Flashing wildlife protection combined with tourism

The real situation is that most Chinese tourist will still choose traditional tourism group with a limited budget and desire to see more animals, though they also would love to learn more about animals. 

In 2017, some Chinese tourism agencies started to try to work together with some local wildlife protection organizations and designed some “one-day flashing wildlife protection activities” for the tourists. After some days of safari on the savanna, the agencies take the tourist groups to take parted in the designed activities like cutting wire nets people set for bushmeat. Usually these kinds of activities only take for half a day and are helping animals. On the one hand, Chinese tourists can grab some wildlife knowledge and be aware of wildlife protection. On the other hand, these activities are beneficial for the animals and the local community. So it is a win-win solution.

A Chinese tourist participates in a wildlife protection program in Kenya.

Joy, a Chinese tourist who took part in the flashing wildlife protection activity several years before when she visited Kenya, and it was awe-inspiring for her. “In the beginning, I know nothing about wildlife protection and even planned to buy some ivory as a souvenir for my friends. However, after taking care of the baby elephant for one day, I realized consuming ivory can be harmful to the elephants, and I never think about that.”   

In conclusion, among all the preferences, combine wildlife protection education and tourism is necessary for stopping illegal wildlife trade among Chinese tourists, and it can be in various ways.           

Xie Xinnuo is a student fellow at China House Kenya.                                                                                                                                                        


[1] Fortnow “OPINION: Chinese tourists are South Africa’s new golden ticket” 2018

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