Enjoying life through travel, media hysteria, Ebola and other madness…

Usually this blog has been about light themes of having fun in the
Today is going to be different, sharing some disturbing reflections on
the Western way to go about life, and its impact on Africa.
I will start by giving away my age and felt identity. I am half a
century old, as old as the Country I elected to be my Nation, Kenya. So “what”
am I? A white Maasai, after having spent 40% (the last 20 years) of my life in
Maasai land? An adopted Kenyan? Not sure. I feel I do not fit anywhere, I am
simply a human being determined to live life in a positive way. Positive towards
the place I live in, the people I work with, the magnificent Nature that surrounds
me. Being a Kenyan with Western roots allows me to see things from an uncommon
Luca, Chyulu Hills, 1975


Luca and Lucrezia, 2014
I was born in the middle of the Cold War. Kenya became independent two months
prior my birth. It was the only Western friendly Country in Sub-Saharan Africa,
being surrounded by the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, by unstable and Soviet friendly
Somalia and Ethiopia, by the totally Soviet/Cuban/Chinese aligned Tanzania of
Julius Nyerere, the father of African Socialism.
Kenya was loved by the West, who needed it for its fighting in the Cold
War. Western money poured in, without the accountability and transparency the
West is now so proud and vocal about…
Growing up in the 70’s I remember people being shot over the Berlin
wall, the Red Brigades in Italy killing our Prime Minister and kidnapping a
NATO general, the Irish and the Brits killing each other over what, in my Catholic
school,  was depicted as a religious
confrontation. Kids were getting kidnapped in the part of Italy I was living
in. Getting into an airplane was fairly easy, as it was easy to hijack it. The
Munich Olympic bloodshed is vividly in my mind, even if I was only 8.
Yet, I do not recall the media being hysteric about the tragedies I was
growing up with. Tourism was still happening in London, regardless of the IRA, and
in Italy regardless of the Red Brigade and kidnappers… People were going into
airplanes, regardless of the hijacking…
There were wars in Africa, more than today. There were more diseases as
well. There were certainly less hygienic conditions, choices of food and
accommodation, services, as they are now provided by the tourism industry and
by the modern infrastructures of Eastern and Southern Africa.
Yet tourism, back then, was booming.
I guess our parents were going about life in a different way than we
do. Sure there was no “breaking news” every hour, there was no Chicken Noodles
Network (CNN…), etc.
I think our parents were informed less frequently, yet they were better
informed. And I guess some journalists were a different breed then… writing
Is it that now that the Cubans are no longer in Tanzania the West is
less interested in being friendly with Kenya? I am convinced so.
Now that Uganda is no longer ruled by a dictator collecting the heads of
his antagonists, the West is perhaps much less interested in Kenya and,
consequently, writes more aggressively about it?
Tourism in the Country I have elected as my home is vital. Vital for
millions of people and literally millions of animals (wildlife). Safari
destinations are being badly hit by the latest hysteria of the West, Ebola. The
Ebola outbreak is closer, in distance, to Madrid, Paris, Milan, Zurich, London,
Frankfurt… than it is to Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, South
More importantly Ebola is much closer to Europe logistically: Europe is
connected, with flights, to those Countries where Ebola is. East and Southern
African Countries are not. Once a traveler lands in Europe, he/she is free to go
all the way from the Mediterranean to the Arctic Circle, with no boundaries, no
From a mere logical point of view, if you are planning to spend
Christmas in Paris, you should possibly worry about Ebola, but not if you are planning
to visit the migration in the Serengeti.
This is if you use your brain and not rely on the idiotic
sensationalism of some Western media.
And Ebola is actually going to be contracted through an exchange of
body fluids. Imagine if 20 years ago some journalist would have written about
how dangerous it was to dine in a San Francisco restaurant because of AIDS. Same
chances to get AIDS through that dining as to get Ebola while on safari in East
Africa in 2014.
Yet tourists are gone.
And with them are gone those tourism revenues which employ hundreds of
thousands of people in the African safari industry. That tourism revenue helps
these hundreds of thousands of people putting food in the stomach of the
hundreds of thousands of their spouses, and millions of their children.
Do you get the picture?
Well, take another step: those tourists mean income for the National
Parks and for the conservancies which are vital to protect one of the most
iconic, precious and diverse flora and fauna on the planet.
Not just the elephants and the rhinos, the lions and the leopards, the
cheetah and the zebra, but all Africa’s splendid animals, from the aardvark to
the zorilla, literally.
Those animals we have in fables, which were still thriving when I was
born 50 years ago and which can be soon gone if we carry on acting with
Poached lion
Acting hysterically and depriving Eastern and Southern African
Countries of vital tourism income will mean that one not so far off day, we
will have to tell our kids: “once upon a time there was an animal in Africa
called the elephant, called the rhino, called the lion…”
What is poaching? Do you think it is just systematic and remunerative
killing of elephants for ivory and rhinos for their horns? No, poaching is not
just that.
Poaching is any illegal killing of wildlife, including the killing of a
gazelle by a waiter who lost his job and needs to feed himself and his 3, 4, 5
or whatever number of kids. No tourism means getting hundreds of thousands of
people without a salary, and, consequently, with an empty stomach. If these
jobless people live near wildlife, wildlife will be turned into food.
Not visiting Africa means causing poaching. Absolutely and directly,
with no dramatizations.
No tourism income, no money to protect wildlife, more poaching.
Poached elephant
Yes, Africa needs tourism and traditionally these tourists have been
Do you know Iranian tourism is booming? Tripled in two years, up to 4
million now, more or less the same amount of tourists that East Africa (Uganda,
Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda) get all together in a year.
And guess what, there aren’t many Westerners visiting Iran.
May be soon the super sensitive Westerners visitors to Africa will be
replaced by other tourists, but that day is not yet around the corner.
Tourism brings money to conservation, and Conservation with no money becomes simply a conversation
You can become a most effective conservationist by simply decide to come to Africa on safari.
Luca and elephant, Chyulu Hills
So Africa still needs the West, but are we sure it’s not the West which
needs Africa more?
If the West neglects Africa, I bet that in our life time we will be saying
to our sons and daughters:
 “there were once lions and
elephants and rhinos in Africa”…
I do not want to have to say that, do you?
Luca Belpietro, founder Campi ya Kanzi and Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust
Luca and family, Chyulu Hills, 2014