We are proud to support a number of community projects in Africa, one of which is the East African Wildlife Society, a non-profit organisation dedicated to conserving threatened species and ecosystems through research, conservation action programs and education.
We’ve introduced new safari vehicles on many of our East Africa tours – roomy, great for wildlife viewing, windows that open and all mod cons – but all the upgrades in the world can’t guarantee sightings of some of the animals the Wildlife Society is working to help. Here are three below.
The black rhino
Consider this: a century ago the black rhino population was estimated to be greater than 200,000. Now, only several thousand remain, the species pushed to extinction by poaching (for their horn, which can fetch $20,000 on the black market) and habitat loss. Although in the past few years there have been signs of the population increasing, the numbers remains so low that the animal is categorised as critically endangered, the IUCN’s highest risk category.
Over three metres in length the best part of two metres tall, with a weight that more often than not exceeds 1,000kgs, the black rhino is one of the most extraordinary sights of the natural world – a prehistoric giant of thing, with its two distinctive horns giving this herbivore an unmistakeably fearsome appearance. Once, black rhinos once roamed throughout East Africa, including Kenya and Ethiopia. Nowadays the population is limited primarily to Tanzania. In Kenya, a great place to see this majestic creature is at the rhino sanctuary in Meru National Park – check out our Kenya Lodge Safari for details.
African wild dogs
Lean and frightening quick hunters, among mammals only the Tassie Devil has relatively a more powerful bite than the wild dog. And if you think lions are the ultimate predators, think again – a pack of wild dogs hunting is three times more likely to end in a kill than lions in pursuit of their prey. To watch them in pursuit, these social creatures with distinctive dappled coat of yellow, white and black, working in cooperation over a long chase, is to witness a streamlined, perfectly-drilled and near-unrelenting troop at work.
They are also some of the world’s great nomads, their wanderings taking packs thousands of kilometres over the course of their lives. However, sightings are increasingly rare – the population is estimated to be around 1% of the total a century ago. The species is now protected, but its main threat continues to be human. Populations in Tanzania remain relatively robust, with some protected areas in the country’s south.
Listed as a vulnerable species by the IUCN, these famously fast cats number a little about 10,000 –around a tenth of the population a century ago, with the Asiatic subspecies critically endangered. Here’s the problem – cheetahs are open plain and grasslands hunters, and when those plains disappear, so does much of the cats’ prey. Namibia now has the largest population of cheetah, but keep your fingers crossed and you can see these sleek, beautiful creatures on the great plains of East Africa as well (the Masai Mara might be your best bet).
A couple of cheetah facts: it can accelerate from 0 to 100kmh in around 3 seconds – roughly the same as a Ferrari Enzo. And if you’re wondering how to tell a cheetah from a leopard, as well as the sleeker frame, look for the black ‘tear-streak’ lines that run from the corners of the eyes to the mouth.
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