As we come to the end of what has been a bumper rainy season for most of our concessions in southern Africa, we are pained by the fact that so few people have had the privilege of sharing this season of abundance with us. I know it’s a small consolation, but you can follow this link to see a few photo albums to give you a taste of what it has been like out there over the last couple of months.
From a travel perspective, the impressive speed and scale of vaccine roll-outs, in the US and UK in particular, are reviving our hopes of welcoming guests to our camps in the coming high season – and with the excellent rains behind us, the bush should be looking more spectacular than ever.
In terms of our Impact focus, we are still supporting our Conservation Heroes through the ongoing distribution of food hampers to needy families in our communities. It’s hard to believe that we’ve been running this support for a year already, but the numbers show just how important these efforts have been.
On a more exciting note, I’m proud to tell you a bit about our latest project in Rwanda, centered around the expansion and reforestation of Gishwati-Mukura National Park in the west of the country. Home to an isolated group of about 35 chimpanzees, Gishwati Forest has lost 98% of its area since the 1970s, resulting in severe environmental degradation, including landslides, erosion, loss of biodiversity, flooding and silted rivers, causing a loss of livelihood in local and downstream communities.
In 2019, Wilderness Safaris purchased 10 hectares of land on the border of the national park, which, in time, will be donated to the park. With our partners Forest of Hope Association and the Rwanda Development Board, we founded a nursery that has already propagated 10 000 saplings. All the trees in the nursery are found naturally in Gishwati Forest and, with some 9 679 already planted, will quickly contribute to the restoration of habitat for the birds and wildlife, including the eastern chimpanzee and Endangered golden monkey.
Working with local trackers, we have also initiated a monitoring and habituation program for the resident chimpanzee population. Not only will this help us to understand and protect these animals, but, in time, we aim to develop a chimpanzee-based tourism offering in Gishwati. Through our proven conservation tourism model, we believe that this precious forest and its wildlife can be protected and expanded, and deliver tangible benefits to the people of the region.
If you’d like to join us in this exciting initiative through helping acquire more land for the park, or assisting the reforestation efforts, please feel free to get in touch with us for more information.
By Dr Neil Midlane, Wilderness Safaris Group Impact Manager