The world can come admire Africa’s wildlife with their own eyes. Africa is well-known for its diverse wildlife. But, most people have only seen it on their high-definition televisions. With the creation of conservation tourism, people from all over are flocking to Africa to see the planet’s most stunning wildlife in its own natural habitat. As a result, Africa’s wildlife is driving business, safeguarding wildlife, and contributing to a brighter future for all of Africa. Many communities view wildlife as a threat to their livelihoods. Wildlife tends to wander beyond park boundaries and raid crops they would normally eat or sell. Many will hunt wildlife to protect their land. Still, others poach and participate in wildlife trafficking to earn an income. Making communities realize the benefits of conserving wildlife is one of our biggest challenges.
The African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) is helping tourists experience the beauty of Africa’s wildlife while supporting the economy and nature preservation efforts of local communities by developing successful ecotourism lodges throughout Africa. The AWF has a great deal of credibility within local communities, which helps us show them the economic benefits of attracting tourism and protecting wildlife. The AWF has created a successful process of developing and brokering eco-lodges between communities and experienced private operators. While both provide funding, the community owns the land and lodge, and the operator is responsible for running it. The operators then lease the land from the community and agree to pay a percentage of all revenue earned, creating incentives for communities to protect area wildlife.
The AWF is preserving a critical wildlife corridor with the creation of Manyara Ranch. Located in Northern Tanzania, Manyara Ranch rests in a critical central location between Tarangire and Lake Manyara National Parks that spans 44,000 acres. About a decade ago, the migration route that connects the two began disappearing. To stop these threats, the AWF established the Tanzania Land Conservation Trust (TLCT), a nonprofit working to acquire critical wildlife areas threatened by private developments. Manyara Ranch became the first property acquired by TLCT and, thanks to community presence on the TLCT board and local involvement in protecting the newly created conservancy, is a successful example of how communities can benefit from wildlife conservation outside of protected areas.
Furthermore, the AWF is creating a partnership for Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge in Rwanda. Featured on Condé Nast traveler's The Hot List 2008, this five-star lodge in the Virunga Mountains is adjacent to the breathtaking Volcanoes National Park. Based on gorilla tourism, Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge was made possible through a partnership facilitated by AWF, a private-sector operator, and communities represented by Sabyinyo Community Livelihoods Association (SACOLA). The lodge continues to generate revenue for communities while simultaneously protecting gorillas.
Suffice it to say that the AWF is also providing jobs and elephant conservation with Ngoma Lodge. Situated along the Chobe River on the edge of Chobe National Park, Ngoma Lodge is a five-star luxury resort in the Kazungula Heartland. It is the first of its kind in Botswana. AWF supported the partnership between the Chobe residents and Muchenje Safaris, an experienced safari operator. AWF also created a management plan to identify conservation and poverty-reduction opportunities. Chobe National Park is home to a large elephant population, and the community efforts associated with the lodge are helping reduce poaching while deriving economic gains to the populace.