TOSCO ("Tourism Supporting Conservation") emerged out of the realisation that the tourism industry has a responsibility to safeguard the natural resources it depends on, to ensure that Namibia's wilderness remains as enjoyable in the future as it is now. Tourism is amongst the fastest growing industries worldwide and traveling to natural areas can be harmful. Instead, TOSCO believes that tourism can be used as a tool for sustainable development. With funds from memberships of tour operators, TOSCO runs a variety of programs, focusing on sponsoring research, supporting people living with wildlife, raising public awareness and cleaner travel. To ensure programs run successfully, TOSCO works with a variety of partners in the field, including Desert Elephant Conservation, Save the Rhino Trust and Desert Lion Conservation, and strategic partners including NACSO, WWF and IRDNC. Vice versa, partners can approach TOSCO when they need tourism expertise.
The COVID-19 pandemic brings conservation worldwide under severe threat. In Namibia, conservation efforts rely on the CBNRM approach, which empowers rural disadvantaged communities that live with wildlife on a daily basis. Forced by drought, elephants and lions are attracted to settlements in search of water and livestock respectively, causing human-wildlife conflicts in areas where humans and animals co-exist. With the support of tourism, this threat can be turned into an opportunity, whereby communities receive significant benefits from wildlife. For example through employment in lodges or as anti-poaching rangers, revenue sharing from tourism activities and trophy hunting. Over the years, this has resulted in conservancies becoming the custodians of wildlife, a crucial relationship that determines the success of conservation. With the tourism industry being in a crisis, communities and conservancies become amongst the hardest hit, which is a serious threat to the conservation of wildlife species including rhino, elephant and lion. TOSCO usually supports conservation initiatives through collecting membership fees from tour operators, but in the light of today's crisis we need to adjust and welcome donations from the wider public to ensure that our communities and wildlife are safeguarded throughout this crisis. In the end, although our immediate priority is to protect people from the coronavirus and prevent its spread, our long-term response must be to tackle habitat and biodiversity loss.
As the executive director of the UN Environment Programme, Andersen, stated: "We are intimately interconnected with nature, whether we like it or not. If we don’t take care of nature, we can’t take care of ourselves. And as we hurtle towards a population of 10 billion people on this planet, we need to go into this future armed with nature as our strongest ally.”