Biodiversity is the basis of life on Earth and enhances ecosystem functioning and resilience to change through maintaining genetic, species and ecosystem diversity. People are dependent on naturally functioning ecosystems for their survival in ways not always apparent or obvious. Biodiversity boosts ecosystem productivity; the richer the biodiversity on the planet, the greater the opportunity for medical discoveries, diversifying economic development and enabling adaptive responses to global challenges such as climate change. Most cultures have, in some way or form, their origin in biological diversity and biodiversity decline is thus a concern for many reasons, not least our own survival as a species.
We operate in seven different biomes across the African continent.
Our biodiversity coverage extends over an area of 2.3 million hectares.
A total of 61 research projects were supported over the past year, which entailed collaboration with over 48 different institutions and stakeholders.
No fewer than 34 species that occur in our operational areas fall into the three most threatened categories of the IUCN Red List. Of these, three are reptiles or amphibians, 11 are mammals and 20 are birds.
Five of these species are classed as Critically Endangered, nine as Endangered and 20 as Vulnerable. Four of the five species regarded as Critically Endangered are monitored in certain Wilderness concessions. Our commitment extends to monitoring or direct conservation action for three of the nine Endangered species recorded in our areas and nine species listed as Vulnerable.
During the past financial year we have contributed P9.8 million towards biodiversity conservation.
During the past five years we have contributed a total of P46.6 million of which P19.7 million has been directed towards rhino conservation in Botswana, Namibia and Malawi.
Bisate’s reforestation project employs five community members who planted 9 300 trees during the past financial year, bringing the total trees planted to date up to 15 033 trees since the inception of the reforestation project. Through our habitat restoration project we are optimistic that as many as 12 bird species endemic to the Albertine Rift will move back into the area along with at least nine mammal species.
Additional Background Info
The Wilderness Group operates in areas of exceptional wilderness or biodiversity quality that enjoy varying degrees of formal protection (including national parks, community conservancies and private land). We believe that, in almost all cases, our presence has enhanced the conservation status of these areas and individual species within them.
We do not believe that there are any situations where our operations have, in a direct sense, impacted negatively on biodiversity. Rather, the opposite is the case in that the nature of our business is such that a positive impact on biodiversity (in the sense of more secure ecosystems and wildlife populations) is both an intended outcome and a by-product of our day-to-day operations. The latter rely on intact ecosystems in order to satisfy guest expectations around game viewing and other experiences.
A large part of the raison d’être of the Wilderness Group is the use of our responsible ecotourism model to maximise the conservation (and thus tourism) value of the areas in which we operate; without the wilderness there is no Wilderness.
Broadly, we view our role in biodiversity conservation as:
• Ensuring the sustainable conservation of wilderness areas and their biodiversity through the creation of viable ecotourism businesses, either within formally protected areas or on community- or privately-owned land without formal (i.e. state or legislated) protection;
• Ensuring that, in appropriate circumstances, ecotourism remains the preferred economic alternative to less sustainable industries such as mining, agriculture, hydroelectric schemes and others that irrevocably damage biodiversity, wilderness and ecosystem processes;
• Creating a profitable, ethical and responsible business, based on conservation, that others imitate and implement in regions where we are not active; and
• Measuring and understanding our biodiversity coverage and its management and, where relevant, enhancing indigenous species richness through reintroductions.
Our current ecotourism model supports the conservation of a total of 2.3 million hectares (5.8 million acres). Of this, 1.4% is privately owned while 46.2% is communal land and the remaining 52.4% leased state land within national parks, game reserves and other formally protected areas. Wilderness supports the conservation of these land units in one or more of the following ways:
• By contributing de facto protection through presence and monitoring;
• By contributing lease or traversing fees which aid the viability of the existing use/s of the area and prevent changes in land-use; and
• Through active conservation activities such as anti-poaching, vegetation rehabilitation, reintroduction of indigenous species or research.
Written by Kai Collins, Group Conservation Manager, Wilderness Safaris