Singaporeans should take a stand in responsible travelling

GENEVIEVE SARAH LOH Today Online 14 Aug 15;

SINGAPORE — The recent controversial killing of Cecil the Lion, who was a popular tourist attraction at Hwange national park in Zimbabwe, has brought the perennial question of responsible tourism to the forefront, reigniting the ethics surrounding trophy hunting and the poaching of wild animals in Africa.

Rhinos, for example, may become extinct within the next two decades.

“The African rhino is under serious threat from poachers who have intensified their search of rhino for their horns since 2007, driven by growing market demand in Asia,” said Dr Joseph Okori, head of WWF’s (World Wildlife Fund) African Rhino Programme.

More than 1,000 rhinos are slaughtered each year, said Dereck Joubert, a wildlife film-maker, conservationist and National Geographic explorer-in-residence, mostly so their horns can be hacked off and sold in China and Vietnam on the black market. In Asian traditional medicine, the highly prized rhino horn is believed to be the treatment for a variety of illnesses.

“There are an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 black rhinos and 20,000 southern white rhinos left in Africa, with another one killed by poachers every seven-and-a-half hours,” said Joubert in a National Geographic article.

This startling rate of rhino poaching and inevitable extinction is the main reason Quotient TravelPlanner, a customised travel agency in Singapore, has chosen to support Rhinos Without Borders, a non-profit campaign initiated by Joubert’s Great Plains Conservation and safari company andBeyond, to move 100 rhinos from the highest poaching zones in South Africa to the lowest poaching zone in Botswana. The homegrown company aims to raise US$50,000 (S$70,000, the cost of moving one rhino between the two countries) by the end of next year to help with the expensive translocation. It has also pledged to commit a portion of the proceeds from all its safari holidays to Rhinos Without Borders during the campaign period.

Quotient TravelPlanner co-founder and director Lim Hui-Juan said responsible travel has always been a fundamental value held by the homegrown company, which offers vacations that combine authentic native experiences and luxury without sacrificing culture or environment. With its latest corporate social responsibility initiative centring on wildlife conservation, the eight-year-old travel agency hopes to spread the ethos of conscious tourism.

Although the wildlife crisis may seem very far from our local shores, Lim said Asia cannot claim not to be a part of that problem. “A number of species face extinction because of demand in Asia. Many animals’ body parts are valued by Asians and deemed status symbols or to have medicinal properties,” she said. “To solve the problem, we need to go to the root. For wildlife to stay alive, we need to take the issue back to Asia.”

She continued: “With our initiative #RhinosCanFly, we hope to not only raise funds for a worthy cause, but also motivate travellers and the public at large to think and act differently when it comes to wildlife.”

Part of their 18-month-long #RhinosCanFly initiative includes a private fundraising event in conjunction with this year’s edition of National Geographic Live In Singapore event, where proceeds from wildlife-themed merchandise, fine-print photography from acclaimed National Geographic photographers such as Steve Winter and travel offers will all go towards the cause.

There is also Give A Wild A Go, an ongoing six-week-long online contest that will end on Sunday, where participants not only learn more about wildlife conservation, but also stand a chance to win a trip for two to South Africa. Quotient TravelPlanner will be donating S$1 to Rhinos Without Borders for every participant signed up.

To take part in the contest, visit