For the inaugural We Are Africa, conservation was at the top of the agenda with ‘The Conservation Lab’ taking place on 4 May at One&Only Cape Town to kick off the inaugural show. This private event saw the coming together of over 50 conservation specialists to tackle the issues that impact the African wildlife.

All attendees were selected through a submission call last October from We Are Africa on the topic of “What should we as an industry be doing together to boost conservation efforts”. A 500 words submission was a prerequisite to participate in The Conservation Lab in order to ensure relevant content and high levels of buy-in and active participation.

Headed up by Graham Boynton with four panellists including: Collin Bell, Jackson Ole Looseyia, Dereck Joubert and Blessing Munyenyiwa, the aim of The Conservation Lab was to establish the best way for the international travel industry to become more collectively engaged in the conservation of Africa’s fauna and flora.



  1. A Conservation Lab Advisory Board should be formed to create a conservation body with political and economic leverage
    The board would include among its members significant players from conservation, publishing and tourism industries and its work would encompass a large number of tasks from engaging with individual governments on national and international conservation issues through to raising international awareness of the growing threats to identified ecosystems and their wildlife and many more.
  2. The cost of conservation is on the rise and vastly higher than expected
    A recent McKinsey/Credit Suisse paper stated $400 billion were needed continent-wide. Population explosion and a steady increase in poaching for bushmeat, illegal trade or to develop agriculture are the burning issues that are likely to drive the cost of conservation through the roof.
  3. The involvement of communities is a crucial matter for a successful conservation initiative
    The Botswana model is one of the few in African conservation to have succeeded. It is believed that a considerable part of that success is linked to the communities being major players in and beneficiaries of the wildlife tourism. Another key factor is the lack of pressure from growing populations as experienced in Kenya, for instance looking to acquire more land for agricultural purposes or hunt bush meat for food.
  4. Whether the outright ban of any trade in rhino horn and ivory is an effective measure
    There is a little evidence to demonstrate that the legalisation would benefit the wild animal population and neither is there almost any proof to sustain that the illegality of poaching functions as a deterrent for the criminals.
  5. The Advisory Board must evaluate as a matter of urgency the establishment of a Natural Capital Conservation Fund and viability of a 1% levy on all travel and tourism to Africa
    For The Conservation Lab initiative to become a sustainable Pan African conservation organisation some considerable funding is required and although reservations were expressed measures such as the 1% levy seem essential.

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This debate meant to unify the fragmented discourses of the industry to defend Africa’s wildlife against what Derek Joubert called the “tsunami of poaching” and design collectively a plan of action to save the continent’s environment. The real success of The Conservation Lab will be measured by the early formation of an Advisory Board and critical conservation decisions that follow its formation.

Reporting For Duty

John Segar

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