Tourism in the Sahel is suffering a record number of deaths, with the majority of the world’s rhinos killed by poachers.
But even if tourists are to take advantage of the region, there is a huge risk that they could end up in danger from locals and foreign poachers, according to a new report by a global conservation NGO.
The findings, published on Wednesday, come amid a surge in the number of rhinos being poached in Africa, with over 2,000 rhinos already killed in 2015, the highest number since 1993.
Some of the most lucrative spots are in the remote region of North and South Kordofan, which is home to some of the largest rhino populations in the world, with an estimated 1,000 individuals still living there.
The number of recorded deaths has surged from less than 2,300 in 2013 to more than 2.5 million in 2016.
But the number killed in 2017 has exceeded 2 million, making it the deadliest year on record.
“While the rhino numbers have fallen in recent years, the number dying from poaching remains at an unprecedented level,” the report by Save the Rhino Africa, a UN-funded conservation organisation, says.
It also warns that tourism and other forms of economic activity could be at risk.
“Tourism is an important driver of tourism in the region and a key part of economic development, especially for local people, and so there is the potential for people to end up on the wrong side of the law,” Save the Rhinos Africa head and co-founder, Sarah Boudreau, told the BBC.
She added that the report found that there were more than 1,600 recorded cases of people being killed for being on the tourist route.
“I think it’s important to recognise that in the current environment, tourism is not a panacea,” she said.
“It can be a source of conflict.
There is an opportunity for governments to address this.”
The report also found that the most recent deaths were mainly due to poaching and illegal drug use.
“The majority of rhino fatalities have been associated with illegal drug trafficking,” the researchers found.
“There has been a shift from traditional poachers who use firearms and traditional means to the use of sophisticated weapons and high-tech technologies.”
The researchers also found there was a significant increase in the frequency of attacks by poached animals, which have been linked to poaching.
“Over half of all rhino attacks have been by poacher and illegal drugs,” the study said.
This is partly due to increased demand for poached meat, which has increased in recent decades.
But it is also partly due the increasing poaching of rhinoceros, which had been a relatively rare occurrence in the past.
“As a result, the current poaching threat has significantly increased and we have seen a huge increase in rhino killings,” Boudette told the programme.
“We have seen an increase in poachers and the risk of conflict, and we’re seeing a spike in attacks on tourists and people who travel through the region.”
She said that despite the threat, there was still hope.
“This is a moment for people in the north and the south to take a step back and look at what we can do together,” she added.
“To work together as a community to do what is right and protect these animals and stop the poaching.”