Tanzania will struggle to increase tourist numbers this year as the poaching of big game and anxiety about planned elections put off visitors.

An increase in the killing of elephants for their tusks has reduced the population by half in the past five years, Tourism Minister Lazaro Nyalandu said in June.

“When poaching started, it caused serious concern in some of our major markets on the future of wildlife in Tanzania,” Devota Mdachi, acting managing director of Tanzania Tourist Board, said in an interview in the commercial capital, Dar es Salaam on Tuesday.

“If poaching is not stopped it will definitely put an end to visitors coming to Tanzania. Lives are at stake,” Mdachi said.

Tourism competes with mining as the East African country’s top foreign-exchange earner. The U.S. and U.K. account for most holidaymakers. Arrivals increased by 4 percent to 1.14 million visitors in 2014, according to the board’s statistics.

Mdachi said a target to increase arrivals to an annual 2 million within the next three years was overly ambitious. She declined to give a new forecast.

Presidential and parliamentary elections to be held in October could also discourage travelers from touring.

“Tourists tend to shy away during this time,” she said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Joseph Burite in Dar es Salaam at jburite@bloomberg.net To contact the editors responsible for this story: Paul Richardson at pmrichardson@bloomberg.net Helen Nyambura-Mwaura, Sarah McGregor

This article was written by Joseph Burite from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Photo Credit: Tanzania tourism officials worry that tourists won't visit the country if elephant poaching persists. Pictured is an adult elephant and a baby elephant in Lake Manyara National Park in Tanzania. Alan / Flickr.com