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Going on safari can actually be a good thing for wildlife

If you're planning a safari getaway, try to find one that helps with conservation

In a perfect world, there would be no need for conservation; wildlife, habitats and human beings would co-exist in perfect harmony and Mother Nature would ensure that the status quo was maintained. However, we all know that our world is far from perfect! With critical issues like terrorism and global warming to contend with, there is precious little time to even contemplate the fate of wildlife.

Many plants, animals and bird species are threatened or even critically endangered, mainly due to loss of habitat that has resulted from the human population explosion. Although a great many national parks and game reserves have been established throughout Africa (and most other continents), the vast majority of them are government funded and simply do not produce the necessary revenue to support the many conservation projects that are essential to the continued existence of our precious wildlife heritage. If there is to be any hope at all that future generations will be able to enjoy the privilege of seeing these majestic animals in their natural habitat, conservation simply has to be funded somehow; this is where your safari dollar comes in!

What is conservation? Basically, the term refers to the protection and careful management of natural resources for the benefit of both people and wildlife. Conservation and wildlife go hand-in-hand in Africa, and conservation is largely funded by tourism income. The bulk of conservation initiatives in Africa are funded by private concessions and conservancies, which are privately owned wildlife sanctuaries, usually found dotted along the borders of many of Africa's national parks. These conservancies boast many extras that you will not find in the National Parks; they offer walking safaris, night drives, bush dinners and many other wonderful luxury touches that provide visitors with the best possible safari experience. In return, a portion of the cost of your safari will go toward the funding they need to enable them to persevere with their many projects.

You're probably aware that rhinos have been almost poached to the brink of extinction in Africa, often by large and extremely well-armed gangs of ruthless criminals. Safeguarding the remaining few thousand animals is hugely expensive. Lewa Conservancy in the foothills of Mount Kenya has had great success in their conservation efforts with rhinos and other endangered species, due largely to safari income which provides over 20 percent of the running costs of the Conservancy. In turn, Lewa supports 19 schools, 10 water projects and four clinics, to name just a few of the benefits derived from this tourist income. Similarly, but less publicized, is the fact that lions are also under severe threat. In Kenya, for instance, there are thought to be fewer than 2,000 lions remaining (there were over 32,000 just 20 years ago!), and their future is under constant threat from encroaching pastoralists.

Once again safari income funds several projects focused on community education and involving the local people in conservation; among them are Living with Lions, the Mara Lion Project and Lion Guardians. These are just the tip of the iceberg; elephants, cheetahs, wolves, wild dogs, mountain gorillas, sea turtles and an endless list of bird species are also endangered. One of the best ways of ensuring that your safari will contribute to conservation in Africa is to choose a dedicated Conservation Safari, where you can experience the adventure of a lifetime, secure in the knowledge that you will be making a real difference.

There are several companies offering conservation safaris. Africa Point, for instance, has just launched three brilliant conservation safari itineraries in conjunction with the African Conservation Foundation; you will visit conservancies that are doing pioneer work in protecting wildlife and learn how 10 percent of the revenue of your safari will directly contribute to the projects you see while on your safari. Read more here. Some other international agencies offering conservation safaris include Tracks Safaris and Unchartered Outposts.

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