Environment Category Finalist
At the end of the last millennium there were no wild rhino left in Botswana. Starting in 2000, however, Wilderness Safaris, working with the Botswana government, began to reintroduce both Highly Threatened white rhino and Critically Endangered black rhino back into the Okavango Delta. Once in their new habitat, these majestic animals were protected by state-of-the-art electronic tracking devices, Wilderness Safaris Rhino Monitors and the Botswana Department of Wildlife and National Parks Anti-Poaching Unit, policing the country's zero-tolerance approach to poaching.
The latest phase of the project saw numerous translocations of black rhino taking place during 2014 and 2015, resulting in the largest ever international black rhino translocation to date. It was a remarkable operation - the rhino were airlifted in Botswana Defence Force Hercules aircraft to a remote gravel airstrip deep inside the Okavango. Today, fifteen years and several translocations later, viable breeding populations of both black and white rhinoceros have been re-established in the region. At a time when poaching is ravaging rhino populations in neighbouring countries such as South Africa, the success of this project in widening the geographic distribution of the species is of great significance for the survival of the rhino in the long term.
It also works as a catalyst for driving Wilderness Safaris’ approach to doing business responsibly – one that they define as the 4Cs: Conservation, Community, Culture and Commerce. The presence of rhinos provides an incentive to tourists, whose visits bring much needed employment and investment into the region. Their financial input is further supported by a number of corporate and other sponsors, including many of its own guests.
Meanwhile, the company works closely with the communities who provide 85% of the staff at its camps. Its Children in the Wilderness programme, run in over seven countries, seeks to change attitudes towards wildlife amongst surrounding villages through initiatives such as the Eco-Clubs that it runs at local schools, and three-day camps it hosts at Wilderness Safaris and partner camps. Throughout, the aim is to inspire young environmental leaders to protect their natural heritage, and so become custodians of these mighty creatures in the future.