Like a brushfire in the African savannah, the Coronavirus has been spreading rapidly through the world since the first confirmed case in December of 2019. It has affected billions of people worldwide – lockdowns quarantines, and mass shutdowns of businesses has impacted almost every area of human activity. This includes the wildlife safari travel industry, which has had to adapt quickly to fast-changing conditions in the countries where it operates.
The website SafariBookings.com conducted a survey among 361 safari tour operators in early March and found that more than 86% of operators were experiencing a significant decline in bookings due to fears of the Coronavirus pandemic. The shocking results of the survey were that almost a quarter of operators had already experienced a rapid 75% decrease in bookings. This has been devastating for the travel industry and the numerous wildlife reserves that rely on its revenue.
However, the wildlife safari travel industry has become very committed to the cause of animal conservation and environmental protection in recent years, and a drastic reduction in its revenues will likely affect the programs that it supports.
Despite the situation, the industry is adapting in various ways. One large tour operator, Wilderness Safaris, has instituted a multi-pronged program that includes assisting guests who are currently on safari but want to get back to their country of origin; applying a credit for future travel to anyone who has to cut their trip short; rescheduling all trips for April and May 2020, and offering options for rescheduling trips booked from June 1, 2020, onward.
This type of forward-thinking, flexible response is a hallmark of Wilderness Safaris. The company has been one of the leaders in the sustainable wildlife resort industry for a number of years now, and it has started many programs to aid environmental and conservation efforts in Africa.
Video Credit: Wilderness Safaris
The ethos of Wilderness Safaris can be summed up by its 4Cs mission of sustainability in four areas: Commerce, Community, Culture and Conservation. The company takes pride in its sustainable business model that combines a strong commitment to environmental principles with good business practices that foster job growth, training, skill development, and career guidance for people in the areas where its resorts are located.
For years now Wilderness Safaris has created programs that help the environment. Examples are the War on Plastic and the War on Waste programs. The War on Plastic involves eliminating bottled water from all Wilderness Safari’s camps, in favour of reusable bottles that are filled with filtered water. The War on Waste involves planning meals that use local ingredients, not overstocking food, and converting leftover food into preserves, reductions, and dehydrated snacks.
Those are just two of the many environmentally conscious programs Wilderness Safaris has created. In the areas of community and conservation, the company has several pioneering programs that have done much good for local populations.
Here’s a look at three of the philanthropic ways Wilderness Safaris is giving back to the community:
Children In The Wilderness
Children in the Wilderness (CITW) is a non-profit organization that has a goal of facilitating sustainable conservation through education and leadership development in Africa. The program is inspiring local children to care for their natural heritage and to become custodians of it in the future. Wilderness Safaris promotes programs like CITW to its guests, and they are inspired to help out — as an example, one guest donated 46 uniforms to a Primary School near Victoria Falls.
Wilderness Safaris participates in many community partnerships at the local level. One inspiring example is a partnership with the Torra Conservancy in Damaraland, Namibia. In 1996 Wilderness Safaris entered into a partnership with the conservancy and opened Damaraland Camp, the first joint-venture partnership between a community and the private sector in Namibia.
The Camp has been a shining success story and has proven that when ecotourism and local communities join forces there is a tangible benefit for the community, a change in attitudes, and an increase in wildlife numbers. Another benefit is that the success of Damarland Camp was instrumental in the creation of the first self-sustaining community conservancy in Namibia, a model that has been replicated elsewhere in Africa.
Adult Empowerment Projects
Children in the Wilderness has done a fantastic job for young learners, but it has also created programs that benefit adults through life skills and business training. It makes perfect sense, actually. No matter how good a children’s educational program is, it won’t succeed if the children’s parents can’t afford the school fees. Realizing that something had to be done for the parents, CITW created community businesses. Over time these businesses have thrived, and they generate income for the community and allow parents to give their children the opportunity to get an education.
The businesses include a woman’s basket-weaving group, a men’s project that makes bricks and beads from recycled glass from Wilderness Safari camps, and a women’s papermaking enterprise near Victoria Falls that produces items such as bookmarks, notebooks, origami boxes, and elegant stationery. All of these business enterprises are environmentally friendly and have the advantage of recycling waste (glass, etc.) that would otherwise end up in a landfill.
These are just a few of the many projects Wilderness Safaris supports, and they all fit into the 4 Cs statement of purpose that the company has tried to follow in recent years. Unfortunately, the Coronavirus pandemic will have an effect on these admirable programs, and that effect will ripple through the communities where the company has its resorts.
No one knows how long the pandemic will last or how severe it will be, but whenever it does end there will have to be a rededication to the principles of sustainability, good environmental practices, and conservation in Africa and the world. With its history of support for these worthy causes, Wilderness Safaris is sure to be at the forefront of the effort.