Hundreds, if not thousands, of conservation and community programmes across Africa have suffered a dramatic drop in funding due to the lockdown, resulting in an unprecedented threat to Africa’s wildlife and the livelihoods of people in remote wilderness areas. Here’s a small selection of big and small projects that show how your support can keep their work going through this difficult time.
uarding Africa’s wild spaces, saving animals from poachers and deadly snares, and working to improve the lot of local communities in everything from education and healthcare to business finance and gender equality — these are just a few of the many ways in which tourism companies and NGOs across the continent are working to build a better Africa.
And with the funding they would usually receive from tourism having disappeared overnight — many millions of dollars — they are showing great resilience in keeping the work going, and ingenuity in finding alternative ways to raise much-needed funds.
To celebrate their work, we’ve put together a round-up of a small selection of the amazing organisations protecting Africa’s unique landscape and communities in some of our readers’ favourite safari destinations. There are of course many, many, others — most lodge companies or tour operators support projects at a local or regional level, so do check out your favourite partners to see what they are doing and how you might be able to help.
Working in 15 countries across Africa, AWF has been leading African conservation efforts since its foundation in 1961. Heavily involved in all aspects of wildlife protection, AWF plays a particularly important role in encouraging joined-up strategic thinking across the conservation spectrum, such as the creation of “conservation corridors” linking Amboseli, Chyulu Hills and Tsavo National Parks in Kenya, and the addition of precious new land to secure the future of Rwanda’s mountain gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park. Donate here.
Managing 13.3 million hectares in 17 parks across 11 countries, in partnership with their local authorities, one cannot overhype the impact African Parks has had in preserving the continent’s great open spaces. Landmark projects have ranged from the long-term rehabilitation of Akagera National Park in Rwanda and the revival of Malawi’s national park network, through to the recent creation of an early-warning anti-poaching system in Chad’s Zakouma National Park. Check out this video for a snapshot of their work. 2020 marks the twentieth anniversary of their incredible work. Contribute here to support their 60,000 staff and help secure the future of some of the world’s most precious environments.
Adopt an Acre in the Mara
An innovative response to the current crisis, Gamewatchers Safaris/Porini Camps have launched “Adopt-an-Acre”, aimed at protecting the existence of key wildlife conservancies in Kenya. Gamewatchers currently lease 42,500 acres of land in Amboseli and the Maasai Mara at a cost of almost US$1.5 million a year, money which goes directly to local Maasai communities as rents and wages. With the collapse of tourism income, the very future of the conservancies, and the livelihoods of many Maasai families, are now under threat.
Offering an ingenious solution to this critical situation, the scheme invites donors to “adopt”, for just $35/acre, one or more of the thousands of acres spread across Selenkay, Ol Kinyei, Naboisho and Olare Motorogi reserves. Not only that, but anyone adopting 30 acres or more will receive a credit for the exact amount donated which can then be used towards payment for a stay at any Porini Camp in 2021/22 – a brilliant idea, if you think of it as a downpayment on a future safari, with crucial conservation benefits thrown in for free. Learn more here.
The pioneering Lewa Conservancy in northern Kenya isn’t just a haven for rare African wildlife — including a significant proportion of Kenya’s Eastern black rhinoceros population and the world’s biggest group of Grevy’s zebras — but it also plays a key role in helping nurture and develop local communities. The conservancy’s programmes include key anti-poaching work, vital education, health and sustainable agriculture projects, as well as microfinance assistance helping women start their own businesses. Lifeline for Lewa aims to raise crucial funds to support these projects, with every donation helping to protect over 10 million acres of pristine wilderness, as well as supporting innumerable families in the region.
For many years the annual Lewa Marathon, in partnership with Tusk, has been a great drawcard for runners from around the world, in the process raising consideration funds for community and conservation initiatives. This year’s event has been cancelled due to the pandemic, but Tusk and Lewa have taken the event virtual, challenging people around the world to run (or walk) either 5km, 10km, 21km or 42km around their garden, streets, park or treadmill (in one go or cumulatively, in your own time) in support of the cause. There is no entry fee, although they do ask for a voluntary donation to Tusk. Sign up here.
The team at Ol Pejeta have been really creative in their tireless efforts to raise funds, initiating a variety of adoption schemes, challenges and virtual classrooms. One that will resonate with parents or grandparents is their “Art of Survival” competition, in which young artists aged 5-18 from anywhere in the world are being invited to submit artwork on the themes of extinction or the role of humans in living more sustainably on our planet. The closing date is 31 July, with the small $10 entry fee helping to raise money for wildlife and the environment. Prizes include five- and three-night stays at Ol Pejeta for the winners and their families, while runners-up get the chance to meet the conservancy’s staff and famous northern white rhinos through Ol Pejeta’s virtual classroom.
Victoria Falls poaching and pandemic research
Working at the frontline of pandemic research, the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust’s Veterinary Disease and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory is doing crucial research into efforts to understand and stop the spread of zoonotic diseases like Covid-19 and combat the illegal wildlife trade. The only scientific centre in the region working on these issues, donations will help the lab carry on working at full capacity.
Supporting the efforts of the lab, the Victoria Falls Anti-Poaching Unit works to protect local wildlife and habitat from poacher pressure (both subsistence and commercial), as well as rescuing and rehabilitating injured animals, running education programmes and, crucially, training and finding jobs for ex-poachers to give them a sustainable income without harming wildlife. Donate here.
In the wake of the death of Cecil the lion, lodges operating in Hwange National Park established the Conservation & Wildlife Fund Trust, contributing a share of their tourism receipt to fund its operations. Initially focused on combating wildlife crime (working with strategic partners ranging from rural councils through to the local police and railways services), the project has now expanded into a wide range of areas, from community tourism to livestock managements. Donate here. For example, US$40 will buy a much-needed pair of patrol boots for the project’s hard-working rangers.
Several of the lodges in Hwange also run their own community projects, such as the African Bush Camps Foundation, The Hide’s Community Trust, Hideaways’ Grow Africa Foundation, Amalinda Collection’s Mother Africa Trust, Wilderness Safaris’ Children in the Wilderness and Imvelo’s community initiatives.
Zambia Carnivore Programme
Bordering seven other countries and sharing four transfrontier conservation areas, Zambia is Africa’s ‘Crossroads for Connectivity’. Protecting the country’s apex predators and other creatures through a mix of conservation action and research, the Zambia Carnivore Programme plays an essential role in safeguarding Zambia’s wild spaces, assisting with landmark achievements like the reintroduction of lions into Liuwa Plain National Park. Other key activities include work combating the trade in big cat parts and bushmeat, alongside a life-saving anti-snaring programme, exemplified by the story of Wild Dog 635, who after being rescued from a snare as a pup in 2014 returned in 2019 as the alpha male of his own new 16-dog pack.
A little of your money can go a long way in Zambia. If you want to help make a real difference check out Conservation Lower Zambezi’s new crowd-funding campaign. Just US$50 will buy enough mealie-meal (a local staple) to feed 10 people for a month, while $200 will retain an essential member of staff (each of whom supports an average of five other people) and $500 will protect an elephant in the Lower Zambezi National Park during the current crisis.
Conservation South Luangwa runs a crucial range of programmes including wildlife rescue and de-snaring, anti-poaching and dog detection, and mitigating the effects of human-wildlife conflict. A $25 donation pays for supplies enabling farmers to protect their crop from elephants for a month, $100 pays for a detection dog patrol, $250 for a 10-day anti-poaching patrol with six scouts, while $500 can save a snared elephant. Contribute here.
A great example of tourism-funded grassroots community support, Project Luangwa is supported by local operators including Robin Pope Safaris, Flatdogs Camp, Kafunta Safaris and Shenton Safaris. Education is at the heart of the project’s work, helping to increase the number of children attending school, improving educational facilities and sponsoring gifted children so that they can fulfil their potential, as well as providing vocational training and helping small businesses set themselves up. Other community initiatives include a local café and craft centre, while during the tourism shutdown they’ve been busy providing hygiene packs and sponsoring hand-washing stands for people without running water.
Similar community projects, including education, healthcare and water provision programmes, are run by other individual lodge groups, such as The Bushcamp Company.
Serengeti De-Snaring Program
Almost 30,000 snares removed from the Serengeti and 286 live animals freed from snares since 2017 – these are the figures behind the Serengeti De-Snaring Program run by the Frankfurt Zoological Society with support by Alex Walker’s Serian and other operators. Targeting abundant species such as wildebeest for their bushmeat, snares also serve as inadvertent but deadly traps for many other animals including predators and elephants. Serian continue to work during lockdown, redeploying staff from shut-down camps to threatened areas to keep wildlife safe until travel resumes.
Natural Selection Foundation
Getting the kids to school might seem a challenge for many, but consider the problems faced by residents of the northern Okavango Delta, whose school run may take them directly through perilous wildlife corridors used by the region’s burgeoning elephant population. Enter the Elephant Express Bus, provided by the Natural Selection Foundation in partnership with the Okavango Community Trust to provide safe transport for local schoolchildren, as well as access to local clinics. Natural Selection’s other ongoing projects include their Feed-a-Child Program and the COVID-19 Village Support Program, delivering food parcels to remote villages in Botswana and Namibia. As ever, a little money can make a big difference; US$75 feeds a family of six for a month; $300 feeds an entire classroom of children for a month, while $1400 pays for one Elephant Express bus for a month.
SOUTH AFRICA AND BOTSWANA
Rhinos without Borders
A collaboration between leading safari operators andBeyond and Great Plains Conservation, Rhinos without Borders has accomplished the mammoth feat of translocating 87 rhinos from high-risk poaching areas in South Africa to Botswana’s pristine wilderness areas. The success of the project and birth of subsequent calves has now raised total numbers in Botswana to 130, but this fledgling source population still needs constant monitoring and protection to ensure its safety and long-term success.
Great Plains Conservation is also inviting donations to help sponsor a ranger to ensure anti-poaching activities run by partners on the ground can continue. Contributions to their Project Ranger initiative will help fund salaries, training and operations of wildlife monitors, rangers and anti-poaching personnel.
Across the country, most wildlife reserves (private and public) are running programmes to help protect their wildlife and support their communities. For example, Kariega Game Reserve does considerable work to protect their rhino population, including an innovative baby rhino naming exercise. Several operations have ordinarily relied on volunteers to boost the numbers of their teams monitoring, researching and protecting their endangered animals, offering visitors a rare opportunity to learn about conservation work firsthand. One such scheme is Wildlife ACT, run by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, which now needs a higher level of donations to fund its work protecting species such as wild dogs. Learn more here.