How tourists help wildlife conservation
South Africa is home to a wide range of wildlife, including elephants, cheetahs, leopards and rhinos, and for many visitors a trip to the country would not be complete without a game drive. But did you know that you could go on a game drive and help save the animals?
With the ongoing assault on the country's wildlife – 1 004 rhinos were poached in 2013 and in March 2014, 172 rhinos had already been killed – a number of conservation initiatives are on the go.
Funding for anti-poaching campaigns comes from the government, a range of NGOs and individuals.
But there are also privately owned game farms heavily involved in conservation, including breeding and rehabilitation programmes. These game farms typically fund the programmes from income generated by services they offer to tourists.
In many cases, tourists can enjoy a guided tour of a game farm's conservation programme.
The Pumba Private Game Reserve & Spa has a number of conservation initiatives, including breeding magnificent white lions, and rehabilitating and breeding leopards, one of the shyest of the wild cats.
Pumba is also actively involved in maintaining the Cariega River, keeping it clear of invasive alien plants with the assistance of Working for Water. The river is an important source of water for the surrounding villages and towns.
Shamwari Game Reserve has always been involved in conserving wildlife, and sees itself as a pioneer in the Eastern Cape eco-tourism resurgence. Shamwari established its own wildlife department in 1996.
Today the wildlife department has developed into a substantial and recognised unit that manages the unique ecosystems within Shamwari, which is rich in biodiversity.
It boasts two wildlife veterinarians, two ecologists, an environmentalist and a variety of qualified nature conservationists. The main focus is to ensure a sustainable environment for all the fauna and flora in the long term and the ecological integrity of the reserve's biodiversity, as well as the maintenance of a quality wildlife experience.
Shamwari, in conjunction with the Born Free Foundation based in the United Kingdom, provides long-term care for rescued wild African cats.
Aquila Private Game Reserve, outside Cape Town, has a Saving Private Rhino programme, an anti-poaching initiative established after three of its rhinos were attacked by poachers. Two of the animals died of the injuries they sustained.
The Aquila Rehabilitation and Conservation Centre, ARC, is situated on a separate piece of land directly opposite the main entrance of Aquila Private Game Reserve. Aquila has donated the stretch of land to ARC and has also invested more than R1-million in building a large outdoor sanctuary, comprising a number of one-hectare fenced camps in which 'canned lions' can live out the remainder of their lives. ARC is also home to rescued leopards and cheetahs.
When you come to South Africa, and a game drive is on your bucket list, remember that just by going on a game drive you can help save the beautiful wildlife.