World Wildlife Conservation Day on December 4th raises awareness of uncomfortable truths that we should all be aware of. This is a day when we can all contribute to the protection of wildlife and the habitats they live in, raise awareness of issues and donate to help to fight wildlife crime.
World Wildlife Conservation Day is the result of a joint effort between the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the US State Department to conserve wildlife, end wildlife trafficking and illegal poaching, and raise awareness of the conservation needs of endangered species.
This is a day to learn about the exploitation of wildlife and the pressures to its survival. We should also note the drastic numbers of endangered animals and recognise the conservationists and organisations around the world who are trying to preserve their environments and fulfil the support that they require.
The support needed increases year on year, because as the world population increases, so does the damage we do to nature; through industrialisation, deforestation, food production, continued exploitation of wildlife for reasons such as traditional medicines, and as the population increases so does the threat to nature. We have pushed rhinos, elephants, tigers, pangolins and so many other endangered species to the brink of extinction through all these uncontrolled activities.
Knowing and learning about all of this horror, it is easy to become despondent. But there ARE things that, as travel philanthropists, we can all do to help, and together we can effect significant change. We can all lend our support to charitable projects that make a real difference to conservation and the environment, and even better, you can support them more substantially in person as a part of your luxury safari or holiday to Africa, Asia or Latin America.
Part of The Explorations Company’s core values have always been that whenever you travel, take the opportunity to give back. In this way you can donate to, partake in and witness the fantastic work that is being done to make a real and significant difference, whilst having the most extraordinary experiences and the knowledge that you personally, have had a direct and positive influence. Here are just a few ideas of ways that you can travel philanthropically, greatly enhancing not only the areas that you travel to, but also your own lives!
I believe these are the most impactful experiences you could ever take part in! Assist in a hands-on conservation activity alongside conservationists, rangers, and veterinarians. When you do this, you know you’re directly helping an animal’s survival. This could include collaring a lion, giraffe, elephant or wild dog, or ear-notching a rhino and chipping the horn, for the purposes of protecting them and/or research for conservation.
These experiences are not widely available and of course you can only participate when the need has been identified for this purpose. Depending on where you are travelling to, and for a relevant donation, you may be able to personally assist in the collaring or chipping of a lion, elephant, rhino, wild dog or giraffe.
This means that in the future, these animals can be tracked by a team of rangers so they can protect them from human-wildlife conflict, study their movements to help to build wildlife corridors, and protect them from poachers.
On the day you meet your expert trackers, a team of veterinary professionals and rangers are fully briefed and given a specific job before setting out. The animal is tracked and then sedated, sometimes from the air by helicopter in the case of rhino horn chipping or elephant collaring.
Once the animal is safely asleep, you perform your task alongside the rest of the team, such as taking measurements and helping to check the medical health of the animal, taking bloods, attaching the tracking collar or helping to drill the horn and insert the tracking chip. It is such a privilege to be up close to a majestic creature, which is so at risk, and to know you are helping.
Once the procedure is complete and you have retreated to a safe distance the animal is given the antidote to the sedative and you will watch it head off again into the bush, feeling aghast and completely humbled by this life-changing experience.
Chimpanzees are listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List. Between 170,000 and 300,000 chimpanzees are left in the equatorial forests of Africa, about 5,000 of which can be found primarily in Uganda’s Kibale National Park, as well as the Budongo and Kalinzu forests and Kyambura Gorge.
One of the amazing conservation projects that I have had the pleasure of visiting and getting involved with is the Chimpanzee Trust and Sanctuary at Ngamba Island in Uganda. I highly recommend this to anybody travelling to Uganda, to visit and support in person is a truly rewarding experience.
The Trust cares for captive chimpanzees who have been rescued from the pet trade or when their mothers have been hunted for bushmeat. This is a most traumatic experience for these babies and great care is taken to provide a safe and loving environment for them, eventually introducing them into a family group if at all possible.
The Trust also creates awareness in local communities that live alongside the chimps’ habitats, showing that caring about the chips and looking after them means that tourists will visit and trek to see them. This creates more jobs in nearby lodges and revenue for the local populations.
As part of your safari to Uganda, you can visit Ngamba Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Lake Victoria and learn about the chimps. You can also get involved and become a Keeper for a day and learn what goes on behind the scenes. I have done this myself and spent a morning cleaning the overnight cells where the chimps prefer to come and rest. Each chimp has his/ her own hammock – woe betide who tries to pinch your hammock, they will be evicted quickly!
I then helped to prepare breakfast for the chimps, a maize porridge, and chopped and separated a huge amount of vegetables and fruit for distribution to the chimps. This supplements what they find in the forest sanctuary as they graze throughout the day as they would ‘in the wild’. Your stay not only contributes to feeding the chimps but also adds another experience to your safari and is an additional highlight to your mountain gorilla trekking primate safari too.
African Parks was founded in 2000 in response to the dramatic decline of protected areas across Africa, due to ineffective management and lack of funding. African Parks takes on the complete responsibility for the long-term management of National Parks and protected areas and applies their holistic management method to rehabilitate each park, ensuring that they are ecologically, socially and financially sustainable long into the future.
They also engage the local communities, ensuring that the park is run for the benefit of local people who can share in and benefit from their revenue, as well as become empowered by training and employment as rangers and hospitality staff. In this way, communities become the guardians of their own wild environments in which they live.
Currently they have 19 Parks under their management and I have visited and experienced some Parks both before and after they were rehabilitated. I was overwhelmed to see the terrific difference and the progress made, in some cases literally transforming barren Parks to havens.
As a visitor during your safari to Africa, you can have privileged behind the scenes glimpses into their challenges and also their achievements. These include translocating rhino to Liwonde National Park, Malawi and lion to Akagera, Rwanda – where both populations are doing very well.
The translocated lion into Akagera have gone from 6 individuals to 20! 199 buffalo have been moved to the stunning Bangweulu Wetlands and six new calves were spotted by the end of last year, and the endangered Kordofan giraffe in Garamba National Park have increased to 58, up from 22 in 2012.
There is also the possibility of supporting the regeneration of Chad’s Zakouma National Park by staying in the wonderful Camp Nomade, one of the most exclusive wildlife experiences in Africa. Only open for a few short months of the year, the luxury camp is now only available to significant donors, but you have an experience here not possible elsewhere! With breath-taking wildlife and dedicated expert guides who give you the flexibility to search for what interests you, this is a safari available only to a lucky few each year.
The Big Life Foundation protects around 1.6 million acres across the Amboseli-Tsavo-Kilimanjaro ecosystem which spans Kenya and Tanzania and works with the Maasai communities as well as the wildlife that shares the land. Whilst on your safari in this area, you could meet some of the Big Life rangers who work alongside the Maasai. You will learn how they work with local communities through several schemes.
One such scheme that helps to protect wildlife is the Predator Compensation Fund (PCF) which pays Maasai livestock owners a portion of the value of their livestock lost to predators, on the condition that no predators are killed in retaliation. They also train and kit rangers whose job is to reduce human-wildlife conflict, overgrazing, and illegal logging activity which destroys habitats and forces wildlife into villages.
This land is beautiful and not only can you do game drives and walking and visiting the communities, you can also learn about its peoples, the land they live on and the difficulties that they have, but it is also see the progress made and support given. I would highly recommend that you consider donating to Big Life as a part of your safari!
Big Life Foundation’s most recent achievements include deploying 249 rangers, arresting 126 poaching suspects and recovering 717 kilograms of ivory, 153 snares and four kilograms of pangolin scales. They deployed specific rhino protection officers and have prevented over 200 crop raids and 12 lion retaliatory hunts. They also supported 260 students on long-term education scholarships and reached even more students through a Conservation curriculum.
If you are visiting the beautiful Kenya coast, I would encourage you to support Local Ocean Conservation, who work to improve sea turtle survival and the health of the oceans. Again, you can visit and learn about the work they have been doing for over 20 years near Watamu.
The LOC develops and implements sustainable marine resource management models, utilizing sea turtles as a flagship species for local ocean health. LOC focuses on sea turtles because they are considered an indicator of healthy oceans. They encourage sustainable use of resources by local communities.
Hands-on involvement is so rewarding and you could help to release a rescued turtle from the rehabilitation centre, or help plant mangrove seedlings whilst learning first-hand about turtle conservation. As well as helping conserve and sustain the local beach nesting sites and mangroves, LOC run a Bycatch Release Program which has rescued over 1,525 turtles.
On World Wildlife Conservation Day we can all do something about wildlife trafficking and poaching, habitat destruction and human-wildlife conflict. By creating awareness and donating, making ethical choices and including philanthropic elements in our travel to support local wildlife organisations, we can start to turn the tide. As David Attenborough said, “Are we happy that our grandchildren may never see an elephant, except in a picture book?”
If you would like to discuss how you can personally make a difference, do please feel free to contact me. Or you can browse our philanthropy handbook to learn more about our hand-picked selection of charitable partners.
Images by kind courtesy of:
Big Life Foundation, Maureen Kirk, Chimpanzee Trust and Sanctuary, Local Ocean Conservation, Ivana Tackiova, Suzi Eszterhas, Jeremy Goss, Lempiris, Africa Born, Time + Tide King Lewanika Lodge Liuwa Plains, Jeffrey and McKeith.