As Covid-19 has swept the globe its effect on the travel industry has been devastating, but for the African safari sector it’s the difference between life and death.
Mark Bibby Jackson explains...

As Covid-19 has swept the globe its effect on the travel industry has been devastating, but for the African safari sector it’s the difference between life and death.
Mark Bibby Jackson explains...

This is a feature from Issue 6 of Charitable Traveller. Click to read more from this issue.

Though the global death toll from Covid-19 has broken the four million mark – a human loss that would have been inconceivable two years ago – the pandemic isn’t solely a human tragedy. The impact on African wildlife might even be greater.

“Some areas have lost 80% of their wildlife,” says Dereck Joubert CEO and co-founder of Great Plains, which runs luxury safaris in the continent as well as financing much-needed conservation work through its foundation.

The cause of this devastation is not the virus itself, but the human consequence. Joubert talks of the first wave of the pandemic when luxury wildlife safaris – and their much needed revenue – disappeared. This transformed into a second wave when trans-national poaching ran amok.

“The wilds of Africa were left unattended by tourists, and by rangers who had to stay at home,” he explains. And with the plains left deserted by man, the poachers had a free hand.

“At the very start of the pandemic, in 2020, I looked around at what could happen, how bad it might get and took some immediate actions,” Joubert says. “Knowing that tourism would collapse and that the impact on conservation would be devastating, I quickly deployed our own guides and drivers to monitoring work at Great Plains, but then saw that left and right of us everyone was in panic and cutting back on staff everywhere.”

Joubert’s solution was to establish Project Ranger, to fund rangers to patrol areas where Great Plains was not operating. According to Joubert, it costs roughly $500 a month to keep one ranger in the field.

“In just over a year we have managed to raise slightly over $1 million and distribute to nearly 200 rangers across nine countries,” he says. “So far it’s been very effective and we are very efficient in getting donations in and out within a week, so it is really an emergency fund.” 

Joubert is not alone. On June 23, UK conservation charity, How Many Elephants launched World Female Ranger Day to celebrate and support the magnificent efforts by female rangers to combat poaching in Africa. Whilst July 31 marked World Ranger Day, a project supported both by Great Plains and safari specialist Expert Africa, to highlight the work by female anti-poaching rangers across the continent.

While tourism to Africa still seems a distance off, it is only through supporting these initiatives that we can help avoid a further Covid-related tragedy and protect African wildlife.

About the Author

Mark Bibby Jackson is the founder of Travel Begins at 40, a website for people over 40 who want to travel responsibly and imaginatively.

This is a feature from Issue 6 of Charitable Traveller. Click to read more from this issue.