How Booking a Stay inside a Private Reserve Can Help Africa and its Endangered Wildlife
Poaching is not just a crime of greed and profit. In some cases, it’s a story of survival. In some communities, poverty is so prevalent that some people find they have no opportunities to earn income. Whether it’s lack of education (and thus unemployment), or the temptation to cash in on the intense foreign demand for illegally harvested wildlife parts, it’s not a short fall into a life of poaching. Safari camps and lodges employ members of nearby communities, ensuring the community benefits from the camp’s presence and that they are vested in the health of the wildlife and their ecosystem. Peter Andrew, a former poacher turned chef, Eksoni Ndlovu, a gifted tracker from a rural community who is now respected the world over for his wildlife skills, and TK, a talented chef working her way up the ranks of the talented culinary team at Singita’s South Africa camps, are just a few examples of job creation initiated by safari travel.
When you are on safari, there are a tremendous number of people working hard to ensure you have an incredibly memorable experience. Some are obvious, like the expert guide you spend your days with. As he helps to track wildlife through the bush for you to see, there is an army behind all of the other things that go into your visit. From chefs working to delight your taste buds, askari (guards) to walk you safely to your tent at night, maintenance crews ensuring that everything works seamlessly and more, the unseen cast of characters is equally important to your safari experience, just as your presence is key to the success of the camp and the continued opportunities for its staff.
The Grumeti Horticultural and Marketing Co-op Society in Tanzania supplies Singita’s Travel + Leisure ‘World’s Best’ award-winning camp and lodge kitchens with a constant flow of freshly harvested, locally grown vegetables, herbs and fruits. By creating and supporting the co-op, Singita ensures that the local community benefits from the presence of their tourism operation, creating a relationship of mutual support.
The co-op is just one positive example of community connection. Other programs include helping to build and fund schools – both for children, as well as for adult trade programs (including guide, anti-poaching ranger and chef training), scholarships for children, improved access to fresh water and providing environmental education.
Protecting Key Species
African wildlife is facing myriad challenges. Elephants and rhinos are especially visible in the media, as they are being killed in large numbers across the continent. One way to help protect these species is to visit Africa. For every person visiting Africa to see its incredible wildlife, money is put into preserving that wildlife and its habitat.
South Africa is home to the world’s single largest population of rhino. It is not only the best place on earth to see a rhino in the wild, it is also at the epicenter of the current poaching epidemic. Enormous resources are being invested to protect this critical habitat for the species, as well as to protect the animals themselves. A stay at one of Singita’s camps helps to contribute to the protection of rhino through the payment of concession fees. The fees substantially help to cover the cost of protection not only in their private concession, but across the whole of Kruger National Park, helping to ensure that rhino will be around for future generations to witness.
Visiting private reserves in Africa allow for an exclusive experience for safari travelers while providing similar and sometimes better wildlife viewing than one might find in a national park. Imagine being the only vehicle viewing a herd of elephants crossing the plains – you have the whole sighting to yourself! It’s not only possible, but common in a private reserve. In a national park, that is rarely the case. Private reserves also conserve land that might otherwise be used in a less eco-friendly manner.
One great private reserve success story is the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve in Zimbabwe. The reserve was created in 1994 to protect the wilderness area adjacent to Gonarezhou National Park. Singita Pamushana Lodge is the ecotourism arm of the reserve, and its role is to help foster the sustainability of the wildlife and ecosystem. Travelers that want to help conservation causes in Africa need only to book a stay at the lodge to make a difference. Then, while they take game drives or walking safaris, select a special wine from the cellar or enjoy a spa treatment, their dollars are going to work behind the scenes to benefit conservation and community outreach and development programs.
Reintroduction of Species
Private reserves have the backing and funding to attempt re-establishment of species that have become locally extinct. Examples include reintroductions of black rhino and African wild dog to the Grumeti Reserve in Tanzania. Heavily poached historically, and under pressure again today, there are less than 800 East African black rhino left in the wild. The Singita Grumeti Fund is working with Tanzanian authorities on a reintroduction program to boost numbers of this species in the Serengeti.
African wild dogs are classified as endangered across their range. Tanzania’s population of these rare animals is no exception, and the Singita Grumeti Fund has been instrumental in the release of over 100 of these animals into the Serengeti in recent years, where they have quickly reoccupied their particular hunting niche in the system.
Safari-goers visiting private reserves are directly helping to fund these species reintroductions, as well as to ensure that the appropriate research and care goes into each release. Their visits also help to fund ongoing monitoring for health and protection. Guests also have the pleasure of seeing the animals as they should – thriving in their own habitat.