If you've been following our blogs & social media posts, you'll know that we're Barking Wild about all creatures great & small. Today is Wildlife Day & we're celebrating all the wonderful conservation initiatives that are going on in Africa.
According to the IUCN list, more than 28 000 animal & plant species are highly endangered & at risk of extinction. More species than most people are even exist are on the brink of being wiped out. This is a travesty & it is crucial that we begin to invest in the preservation of species, not only so that our grand kids will be able to enjoy wildlife, but also for the survival of our planet. There are many conservation efforts out there, today we're looking at three which are making a positive impact & altering the fate of endangered species.
a race against time
Close followers will have seen some of the above shots of the legendary cheetah mom in &Beyond Phinda that we captured late last year. This was not only an exceptional experience but also testament to the hard work that the Endangered Wildlife trust as well as &Beyond Phinda has put into the cheetah metapopulation project. This project is crucial to the survival of good gene pools which are hampered, specifically for cheetahs, by fenced off reserves.
EWT’s Cheetah Metapopulation Coordinator, Vincent van der Merwe explains, “All of our wildlife reserves in South Africa are fenced & whilst this does prevent human-inflicted mortality, it does also inhibit natural gene flow. Human-mediated gene flow is therefore necessary to maintain robust genetic health among the cheetah populations.”
In 2017, EWT expanded its borders beyond South Africa for the first time. Together with African Parks, they safely translocated four cheetah to Malawi & successfully reversed a 40 year local extinction in Liwonde National Park. Among this new cheetah population was an adult male that originated from Phinda. He mated with a female & fathered a litter of healthy cubs & this now-thriving Malawian population continues to grow.
In terms of cheetah cub survival rate, only an estimated 5% of cubs actually make it to independence. However, Phinda has significantly improved these odds, with an impressive 46% of Phinda cubs making it to adulthood. This is a conservation victory largely due to the meticulous management of cheetah in relation to the other predators on the reserve.
It's estimated that Africa's four pangolin species have been around for over 40 million years. They have adapted to survive a changing environment but cannot survive being the most trafficked species in the world. Asia's four pangolin species, along with Africa's four are listed as critically endangered. Favoured for their keratin scales - like rhino horn - as well as their meat, these animals are captured, frozen & shipped off for huge profits. They are also under threat from electric fencing on reserves & farms which is estimated to be electrocuting & killing roughly 1500 pangolins a day in Southern Africa.
Recognizing the plight of these animals, Pangolin Photographic Safaris has started a non-profit organisation - Pangolin Africa. Their three-pronged approach of Publicity, Participation & Protection aims at working with partners in the tourism, conservation & corporate fields to increase education & awareness around Africa's pangolins. They contribute towards research & implement protection & rehabilitation projects on the ground. Every booking made with Pangolin Photographic Safaris results in a financial contribution to Pangolin Africa & we are matching that contribution when you book their safaris with us.
& then there were two
Few people are aware that there are two species of white rhino - the southern white which is found in our corner of the continent & the northern white. You may have seen articles recently about the last two surviving Northern white rhinos in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. Following the tragic death in 2018 of the last remaining male, Sudan, only two females survive & this coupled with both females' inability to carry through a pregnancy due to health complications would ordinarily have sealed the fate of their species.
However, scientists have been working on an artificial reproduction technique that may save this species from extinction. This, along with the permanent armed guards that look after these two ladies, may result in a modern day miracle & create a path to more success stories in saving endangered species.
While we are bombarded daily with news about animals under threat, whether it be at the hand of humans or due to climate change, it's important to realise that there are dedicated people doing great work to preserve our wildlife heritage every day. We can still turn this around but they need our support. Volunteer your time to a legitimate program; educate yourself so that you can pass knowledge onto your friends & family; participate in only sustainable tourism practices; share the #itsjusttoenails tag on your social media - let's make it a thing! Small gestures made by the collective can change the future of our planet.
Chantelle is passionate about conservation & ensuring that Barking Wild only supports sustainable practices & businesses - those who give back to our planet & communities. She consistently educates & talks about the plight of our wildlife, even if it drives her friends nuts.