Nature is not meant to be put in order. Nature is order. Therefore, our only course of action for a survivable future is to work in unison with nature. – Wilderness Camp Manager

Every year, World Nature Conservation Day is celebrated on 28 July to create awareness among people about the importance and significance of natural resources.

In 1983, two young guides with one old overland vehicle decided to strike out on their own and offer authentic safaris in Botswana’s unexplored wildlife areas. Never in their wildest dreams could they have imagined what they had started. Today, thanks to their vision of creating life-changing journeys to help conserve, protect, and restore Africa’s wilderness and wildlife legacy, Wilderness offers guests from around the world unforgettable journeys across more than 2.3 million hectares of pristine natural wilderness. And in fulfilment of that vision, just by staying with Wilderness, guests directly contribute to the company’s impact initiatives across the continent.

Here are just some of the recent projects undertaken by Wilderness over the past few months, supporting conservation and communities through sustainable tourism.

Helping save an African Icon in Hwange National Park

With giraffe populations in decline throughout Africa, Wilderness is supporting the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF) in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park (HNP). This crucial field research will help understand the causes of the decline of these majestic creatures – and provide answers to remedy it.

Wilderness provided the GCF with access to its private concession, renowned for its mammal diversity, within HNP. In his initial survey in April 2022, Wilderness Zambezi Ecologist, Innocent Mabika recorded 2 671 individual giraffe observations over two weeks of data collection. His research found that giraffe populations have declined by more than 20% in HNP during the past decade.

 “Although giraffe are an iconic species, they are under-researched. This study of their activity patterns, food sources and forage areas will give us meaningful insights into the cause of their declining populations”, noted Innocent, who has deep knowledge of the flora and fauna of the area.

 “Wilderness is proud to assist the GCF with this mutually beneficial research. Further fieldwork trips included a GPS tagging operation on select individuals in June to gather more valuable data on the movements and habitat use of the giraffes of HNP”, added Innocent.

Following in the footsteps of giants 

·       As part of its ongoing strategy to alleviate human-wildlife conflict, Wilderness recently donated five satellite collars to Ecoexist to help collect data and map elephant movements and corridors in northern Botswana.

·       “We have been working with Ecoexist since 2019, and are proud to be able to support their project so that they can continue to reduce conflict and foster coexistence between elephants and humans. In areas of heightened competition for water, food, and space, they seek to find and facilitate solutions that work for both species”, noted Kim Nixon, Okavango Wilderness Safaris MD.

·       In the short term, Ecoexist empowers farmers with practical, affordable, and effective tools to deter crop-raiding and reduce conflict with elephants. In the long-term, they collaborate with local, national, and international groups to create an enabling environment for a range of policies and programmes that tackle the root causes of human-elephant conflict.

·       “On behalf of Ecoexist, I would like to thank the Department of Wildlife & National Parks for granting permission for this research, and the Elephant Crisis Fund, Save the Elephants, Okavango Wilderness Safaris and the Wild Bird Trust for funding this specific research project”, said Anna Songhurst, Ecoexist Trust Director.

·       In addition to threats from poachers, elephants face obstacles to their free movement in the shape of fences, roads and changes to land use that impede their passage. By studying their movements, key micro-corridors can be identified that allow essential elephant movement, which, if further restricted, may lead to heightened conflict. This focused research will therefore provide some evidence and a compelling argument to consider their protection.

·       “We are very excited to start collecting additional movement data from this project to inform effective management and reduce human-elephant conflict around the Okavango Delta”, Anna concluded.

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