In 2018, the world lost Sudan, the last male northern white rhino, and in 2019 much of the news about wildlife in Africa continued to be disheartening. Still we found signs of progress amid the gloom, enough to suggest that there is a positive way forward. Some of the uplifting stories below wouldn’t have been possible without the support of travelers. In fact, by spending our money to visit these magnificent creatures, we have helped show that they not only have intrinsic value but they hold economic value for the countries in which they reside.
The Hideaway Report has long supported the work of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. The Nairobi based nonprofit operates an orphanage where baby elephants that have been separated from their mothers can be rehabilitated and reintroduced into the wild. The orphaned calves require long-term, almost around-the-clock care from dedicated keepers. After eight to 12 years, the animals can be released into managed wild herds in Tsavo East National Park, Kenya. The trust has rescued 247 elephants to date, and this year, three of the orphans returned to show off their new babies to their former keepers. Read the full heartwarming story on the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust blog.
East-central Africa, which has only recently recovered from decades of tumult, continues to gain accolades as a world-class safari destination. Our editor’s unforgettable gorilla trek in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park in 2018 highlighted the country as one of the world’s top wildlife destinations. Wilderness Safaris, the owners of Bisate Lodge, where he stayed, has since opened Magashi Camp in nearby Akagera National Park. Visitors can now easily add a luxury big-five safari to their Rwanda itinerary.
Chad’s Zakouma National Park, which was on our “Where to Go in 2019,” list also recently made Time magazine’s world’s-greatest-places list. Camp Nomade, a remote tented camp in the park, has quickly risen to the top of wish lists for all cutting-edge travelers to Africa. It is a shining example of conservation in a once-forgotten landscape.
Malawai never receives much credit as a safari destination compared to its larger neighbors Zambia and Tanzania. However, that is beginning to change. With the help of new management from the public-private consortium African Parks, the country is starting to restock the areas that have been depleted by poaching. In the past 15 years, Majete Wildlife Reserve, one of the country’s most unique riparian ecosystems, was transformed into a legitimate big-five reserve. As part of the rewilding and after a successful relocation to Liwonde National Park in Malawi, cheetah were translocated from South Africa to Majete. As the smallest of the big cats, imperiled by conflicts with lion and hyena, as well as by loss of appropriate habitat, they face challenges to their numbers across Africa. But the hope is that an established population in Malawi can help stave off their demise. These developments, along with the crystal-clear waters of nearby Lake Malawi, make the country an exciting safari destination to watch in 2020.
Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique was a wildlife destination on par with the Serengeti until the outbreak of the Mozambican Civil War in 1977. The park unfortunately became a stronghold of the insurgent RENAMO faction, and the once-thriving wildlife populations were poached to fund its purchase of guns and ammunition. The story of how American philanthropist Gregory Carr helped to initiate the park’s restoration after the end of the conflict is an inspirational example of nature’s resilience when people come together to protect it.
Soon the park will have a new luxury lodge to match the grandeur of its landscapes. The Royal Portfolio, owner of Hideaway Report-favorite Royal Malewane, has announced the construction of Royal Gorongosa, the company’s first project outside of South Africa. The camp will consist of eight exclusive luxury tents that honor the golden age of the park.
According to a study in the journal Nature Communications, over the past decade the number of elephants poached in Africa was more than cut in half, from over 40,000 animals in 2011 to around 15,000 in 2018. Still, this number represents 4% of the total elephant population and is not sustainable for the long-term survival of the species. Continued investment in technology and tourism, as well as a substantial reduction in demand for ivory from markets in Asia, is the only hope we have to save the species.
Viewers of the visceral and compelling documentary “Virunga,” which follows rangers who protect mountain gorilla habitat in the Democratic Republic of Congo, will be heartened to know there is good news from the region. The looming civil war and exploitation by international oil companies has been kept at bay, and the gorilla population in the area has jumped to around 300 with 10 babies being born this year. This has caused the downlisting of the mountain gorilla from critically endangered to endangered. Money brought by tourists to Virunga National Park has been essential in providing resources for the conservation of the animal, and despite the kidnapping of a tourist in 2018, they continue to come, not least because the DRC is a much more affordable option for would-be gorilla trekkers than its neighbor Rwanda. As of December 2019, the global population of the mountain gorilla stands at 1,063.