One Rhodesian industry that has been seriously hit by the continuing guerrilla war is tourism.?
One Rhodesian industry that has been seriously hit by the continuing guerrilla war is tourism. Wankie National Game Park, one of the greatest big game reserves in the world, now has only a trickle of visitors annually.
SYNOPSIS: Wankie Game Park celebrates its 50th anniversary this year as a wildlife sanctuary - with less visitors than ever before. The tourists who once thronged to Wankie to see its spectacular wildlife are now among the very rarest species to be seen in the park. The war keeps them away.
But as the tourists numbers diminish with each new report of war, there is one benefit - for the animals. The poachers are also staying away and many of the reserve's rarer species of animals have been increasing in numbers.
There are more than 70 species of game in the reserve's 5,600 square miles including 14,000 elephants and the best black and white rhino in Africa. Now they wander virtually unobserved. Tourists are afraid to come, though since the security forces discovered Patriotic Front guerrillas were using the park as a route from bases in Botswana and Zambia and ambushed them, the guerrilla presence has been low. In 10 months, the guerrillas have killed only one man here, a ranger.
These elephants were once one of the park's premier attractions and thousands of tourists each year came to see them and take photographs. They are still keeping the park's rangers busy though. Early this summer four hundred of the estimated 12,000 that live in Wankie were shot in a cull designed to keep the population stable. The operation is considered regrettable, but necessary. The park has a limited capacity for elephants.
The Wankie Safari Lodge hotel opened in 1972 at a cost of nearly two and a half million Rhodesian dollars (1.8 million pounds sterling). Almost all the tourists who come now are Rhodesians or South Africans. It needs to be 80 per cent full to break even, but seldom fills even half its beds. Reports of attacks on tourist buses deter more people all the time. Now the half laden bus from the park airport travels to the hotel with a police machine gun escort and there is a dusk to dawn curfew.
Inside the rooms are reminders that the reality of war may disrupt a holiday at any time - notices warning what to do in the event of guerrilla attack.