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Why Wildlife Matters on World Lion and World Elephant Day

AAC President Visits Conservation Sites in Botswana and Zimbabwe

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World Lion Day and World Elephant Day

August has two special days that are close to my heart. World Lion Day is observed on August 10th of each year, and World Elephant Day is observed on August 12th.

The African Elephant is considered vulnerable with a population of less than 500,000 living in 37 countries, according to the African Wildlife Fund. But hunger for ivory is still strong and every year, an estimated 8% of African elephants are poached! World Elephant Day was launched in 2012 to bring attention to the urgent plight of Asian and African elephants who face severe threats such as poaching, habitat destruction, overpopulation and more.

African lions are faring even worse. While lions once ranged across the continent, the lion has disappeared from over 80% of its possible range. In 1975 there was an estimated population of 250,000 lions in Africa, yet today the continent-wide population is estimated to be just 25,000 – 30,000 individuals, an 80% decline – maybe more. World Lion Day is dedicated to increasing awareness of this trend and providing ideas for helping.

“In 1975 there was an estimated population of 250,000 lions in Africa, yet today the continent-wide population is estimated to be just 25,000 – 30,000 individuals, an 80% decline – maybe more.”

So what can you do?

World Lion Day has a list of great organizations you can donate to.

World Elephant Day slants toward Asian elephant protection but does have a good list of ideas for how to help here. Or contribute to one of the great African conservation organization like Save the Elephants, Elephant Aware, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust or African Wildlife Fund.

Even better, go see them for yourself like I recently did in Zimbabwe and Botswana — it will certainly increase your appreciation for these majestic creatures and the park and conservation fees you’ll pay will help preserve and protect them.

On my recent trip to Zimbabwe and Botswana I was in two parks – Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe and Chobe National Park in Botswana – which have the largest elephant populations in the world…some estimate up to 45,000 in each park. And, lions are certainly in abundance with an estimated 500 in Hwange, although not completely protected if they wander outside the parks.

Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

Never heard of Hwange?

Well, you must have heard of Cecil the lion, the park’s most famous former resident, shot last year by a U.S. dentist. I visited the site of his shooting in May and it was moving to see the place where it happened and hear more about the incident. While Cecil’s death was tragic and controversial, don’t let that detract from all Hwange has to offer, which includes huge swaths of wild land (it’s roughly the size of Belgium), elephants, zebra, wildebeest, cheetah, giraffe, wild dog, lions and much more. And best of all, walking in the park with a licensed and armed guide is allowed, so you can enjoy walking safaris, even approaching elephants! Additionally, at several camps, the elephants have also taken to drinking out of the swimming pool, which can be quite exciting if you are in having a swim when they are thirsty.

Just a few hours’ drive from Victoria Falls, Hwange has a selection of great camps to stay in while visiting. On my last trip, I chose to visit Somalisa, Linkwasha and Camp Hwange, among others. For a special experience, Imvelo Safari Lodges offers a unique road/rail transfer for guests staying at its Bomani Camp or Camelthorn Lodge. We recommend taking the Elephant Express, a fun 2-hour train ride from Dete to the Ngamo Plains where Bomani/Camelthorn are located. It’s scenic and fun, with drinks and snacks served while you whisk down the train tracks. Imvelo also offers a “pump run” – a day trip from camp to one of the more remote water holes to take diesel to fuel the pumps which produce the water that local wildlife needs to survive.

Chobe National Park, Botswana

One of the largest and most famous reserves in Botswana, Chobe deservedly has quite a reputation. It boasts an abundance of animals, most notably elephants and lions and large herds of buffalo and other game, beautiful scenery along the park’s namesake river, and lots of great game viewing.

On my recent visit, we saw many herds of elephants, including large groups coming to the river to drink. Lions like to lounge by the river, waiting for an easy meal to wander within striking distance.

One of the best-located and famous places to stay in Chobe is Chobe Game Lodge, where Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton honeymooned many years ago. They probably wouldn’t recognize it today as it’s all been redone and expanded. Today, the lodge is most famous for its lawn-trimming warthogs, its fantastic riverfront decking and its all-women guiding staff. Other camps and lodges to consider include Chobwe Chilwero and Chobe Under Canvas.

The one downside to the northern Chobe area are seasonal crowds. You will likely see a lot of other people in Chobe and game sightings can feel like a competition, with vehicles jockeying for position whenever a popular animal like a lion appears. We can help you avoid the crowds by recommending a more remote lodge like Muchenje, located on the western side of the park, or one in the even more remote Savute area. You’ll still have a chance to view all of the great wildlife, while avoiding seeing too many of the two-legged animals in the park!

Categories: Best Africa Accommodations, Best African Accommodations, Botswana, honeymoon safaris, photographic safaris, Romantic safaris, trip report, wildlife, Zimbabwe
Kent Redding
Kent Redding, President of AAC, has been named to Travel + Leisure's A-List an annual editors’ choice of the best travel advisers, for the past two years. Kent has 18 years of experience as an expert on Africa travel and adventure. During his tenure living in East Africa, he guided trips through the continent’s premier parks and studied with knowledgeable naturalists. He has summited Tanzania’s Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Meru, kayaked in Lake Malawi, dune-bashed in Namibia’s Skeleton Coast, and rafted down the Zambezi River below Victoria Falls. He has explored Botswana’s Okavango Delta, trekked through some of Egypt’s vast deserts, mountain biked through African mountains and bush land, and tracked gorillas and chimpanzees in multiple countries. Leveraging his safari guiding and planning experience, today he enjoys helping our clients discover these impressive places. Kent is a Kenya Tourist Board Kenya Authorized Travel Specialist and a South Africa Tourism FUNDI . Additionally, Kent serves on the Board of Directors of AfricAid, a non-profit providing educational opportunities for Tanzanian girls, and served on the board of APTA, Rocky Mountain Region. In 2006 and 2007, he was named by Conde Nast Traveler as one of the top travel professionals in the United States.
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