Wilderness Safaris helps protect a significant tract of Africa. Through ecotourism this has resulted in being present in eight biomes and five centres of endemism across more than 2.5 million hectares of prime African wilderness land. Furthermore we help protect 33 different IUCN red list species, all of which are increasing in our areas.
Africa is alone amongst the continents in the persistent existence of a megafauna that lives side by side with humans. With some 1 111 mammal species and an array of large charismatic mammals simply not found anywhere else on earth the continent is unique.
It is also a continent battling rampant population growth, development and extraction of natural resources. If biodiversity cannot demonstrate commercial or social value it is all too often relegated to the irrelevant or unimportant. Ecotourism can and has changed that! The crux is that the basis for ecotourism is the biodiversity in a given area.
Within Africa, it is not enough to operate in the savannah only. Serious ecotourism companies need to migrate the model into less well-known and even more threatened ecosystems (such as sensitive montane grasslands and lowland forest) and prove the merit of conserving these spaces and species. It’s not just about big, iconic species or offering guests world-class accommodation. The focus should be on the centres of endemism which contain groups of species with restricted distributions, making them high conservation priorities. Ecotourism companies working collectively in this regard will also greatly help counteract habitat fragmentation which is another serious threat. This must include the establishment of wildlife corridors to connect forest fragments to similar ecosystems.
Care must be taken to ensure that the existing biodiversity is maintained and enhanced over time for ecotourism to be sustainable. Ecotourism, as nature-based tourism, contributes both towards socioeconomic and environmental benefits. The rise in ecotourism can thus be largely attributed to the rise in companies and people caring about sustainability.
Written by Martin Benadie, Wilderness Safaris Blog Contributor