Of late, there have been many reports of how a global lockdown has given our planet a breather. Articles on how wildlife has ventured into tourist-free cities have precipitated responses that nature is flourishing, and heartened animal lovers as well as activists.
However, on the flip side, some animals still need our help – in particular, those at risk of being killed by illegal hunters. As travel restrictions remain in place, ecotourism (some of which backs non-profit conservation efforts) has taken a beating – which could have a ripple effect on such work in Africa.
Thankfully, conservation groups are still tirelessly working for the cause of endangered animal species – and Singita, which operates luxury lodges and camps in four countries across Africa, is an example of a business that is founded on environmentally conscious hospitality. While its conservation efforts are dependent on guests’ donations, they have continued – with other conservation teams and partners – to implement practices that safeguard these animals, while setting fund-raising targets along the way.
Some of their efforts include working to ensure a team of 130 poachers-turned game scouts are on the reserve in Western Serengeti to protect animals from poachers, and engaging in community-wide educational programmes.
Eastern Black Rhino Re-establishment Project
Singita Grumeti supports the custodianship of 142,000ha of the Western Serengeti ecosystem in Tanzania. With its local conservation partners, non-profit group Grumeti Fund, Singita is committed to introducing the critically endangered black rhinoceros back to Serengeti.
The species suffered dramatic declines in the 20th century, and between 1960 and 1995, the numbers dropped by a staggering 98 per cent. Although the species has made a comeback from the brink of extinction, the trafficking of its horns continues to threaten the species. Since 2018, 10 black rhinoceros have been relocated from South Africa, and are now living wild within the Singita Grumeti reserve.
Currently, the Grumeti Fund is looking to translocate five East African black rhinoceros – a subspecies of the black rhinoceros – to the Western Serengeti. The complex and costly operation involves meticulous planning and the support of vets, government agencies, NGOs, logistics personnel and volunteers, and require essential funding. This project is set to be a flagship conservation initiative in the region, which is why Singita has set a target of raising US$500,000 (S$708,000) for the cause.
Anti-poaching Canine Unit at Sabi Sand
Singita’s original property, located in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, is one of the most secure protected areas on the continent. In 2012, Singita decided to deploy a team of tracking dogs to enhance anti-poaching efforts, which would be critical in the fight against hunters. The Canine Unit consists of highly trained dogs that are able to pursue intruders, or sniff out rhino horns and ammunition.
The unit was formed as a result of a tiered approach to fighting illegal hunters. While reduced demand for their horns will make poaching redundant in the long run, effective law enforcement is needed to protect the species right now – which is why the Canine Unit is a valuable asset.
In addition, the mere presence of dog teams deters the hunters. According to Singita, the level and frequency of poaching incidents have been shown to drop dramatically once the criminal syndicates are aware that dogs have been deployed.
While global travel plans are now put on hold due to the pandemic, Singita offers a Canine Unit guest experience at Sabi Sand, which will help to defray the operational costs of running the unit.