December 2017 – Wilderness Safaris Botswana recently sponsored and took part in the Walk for Rhinos campaign – a unique 19-day walk through rural villages of Botswana to raise awareness about the importance of rhino conservation. Starting on 6 November in Shakawe in the Okavango panhandle, the walk continued through villages along the river and the Delta before ending in Maun on the 24th, covering a total distance of 470 km.
“In addition to donating 10 000 Pula to this exciting campaign, about 40 Wilderness Safaris staff members participated in the walk at various locations along the way, not only helping to raise awareness about rhino conservation but joining in the fun and engaging with our community partners”, said Kim Nixon, Wilderness Safaris Botswana MD.
According to Kai Collins, Wilderness Safaris Conservation Manager, who walked a 32-kilometre stretch through the villages in the northern Okavango through thick sand and in extreme heat, “It was an amazing opportunity to participate in this wonderful initiative. We traversed some of the most remote parts of the Okavango Delta, encountering quite a few herds of buffalo and elephant in the thick scrub mopane, but luckily they were all polite enough to let us pass unhindered. Whilst we were all extremely tired at the end of the day, with many walkers simply wearing flip-flops and others carrying heavy backpacks with food and water, everyone took turns to share the load and it was inspiring to see such a dedicated team effort to raise awareness for such an important cause – one that has always been a priority for Wilderness Safaris”.
Implemented by Kane Motswana (an ex-Wilderness manager and professional guide who now runs his own company called The Safari Embassy), the main aim of the campaign was to contribute to the protection of rhino by empowering communities to act against rhino poaching and other illegal activities that threaten to bring rhinos to extinction by 2030. This was done by educating the communities about the immense value of rhino and wildlife in general, as well as the importance of safeguarding Botswana’s spectacular biodiversity.
Wilderness Safaris’ ongoing Botswana Rhino Reintroduction Project and other conservation partnerships have contributed enormously in mitigating the rhino poaching threat in Botswana; however, the risk continues to exist across the continent, and calls for more work to be done in local communities. “It was an honour for Wilderness Safaris to be one of the main presenters at all the kgotlas/meetings held in the various communities. It gave us a great platform to communicate with the elders of each community, highlighting the significance of sustainable ecotourism, its importance to conservation and the indirect benefits that derive from this model such as employment creation and better service facilities”, said Lesh Moiteela, Wilderness Safaris Cultural Ambassador and Community Relationship Manager.
Wilderness Safaris also donated 112 hours to the initiative by assisting with a freight run to Vumbura Plains from Maun, as well as providing fuel for the campaign. “As a leading authentic and sustainable ecotourism operator, continuous collaboration with local communities is of paramount importance to our success”, he added.
“Wilderness Safaris was built on a passion for wildlife conservation. Today, almost 35 years later, we remain as committed to our 4Cs sustainability ethos as ever before, ensuring that Commerce, Community, Culture and Conservation are all equally important to the business. We are proud to have been at the forefront of the Walk for Rhinos initiative and will continue to work closely with our local community partners to ensure the sustainability of our conservation efforts”, concluded Kim Nixon.