Treading Lightly
Conservation Safaris in Namibia

© Cape Cross seal colony
Namibia, with its striking and colourful landscape filled with magnificent wildlife and unusual yet contrasting natural beauty is a cornerstone of environmental conservation and community enrichment.

Located in the south-west of Africa, and bordered between South Africa, Botswana, Angola and Zambia, Namibia's landscape is made up of expansive woodland savannahs, huge rolling deserts and rugged coastline.

Home to major tourist attractions such as the Etosha National Park], the Fish River Canyon and the magnificent rippling red sand dunes of the Namib Desert; Namibia is a popular tourist destination.

Eco-conscious travellers will be please to know that Namibia places a strong emphasis on the protection and conservation of its natural resources and wildlife. Over 40% of Namibia's massive 825 418km2 (318 696 square miles) is protected under conservation management. National parks, nature reserves, game reserves and community forests stretch across large portions of the land, protecting it and all the wildlife that lives in it.Being the first country in Africa to incorporate the concept of environment conservation and the protection of its environment into its constitution, Namibia works hard to reinforce and provide resources and legal rights to its communities to ensure that both man and animal can live together in harmony.
The main concept behind Namibia's ambitious conservation management program is the need for people to live alongside and in harmony with the animals on the land, allowing the people to manage their own natural resources, a concept that has resulted in the country to now boasting the largest free-roaming populations of both Cheetah and Black Rhino in the world. A huge success story, Namibia's elephant population has more than doubled in the last 20 years.

The conservancies have also partnered with tourist lodges and safari companies to build luxury destinations where visitors can come and view the African wildlife and learn about the culture and way of life of the locals.

The government and a number of the national parks and nature reserves have also hired the local people to act as anti-poaching units or as game rangers, providing them and their families with an income and protecting the wildlife further.

There are no fences between the people, the livestock and wildlife and this can be dangerous. Communities that were once subsistence cattle farmers now allow Zebra, Impala, Steenbok and other antelope to graze on their lands.

But many locals have lost their livestock to predators such as Cheetah or Leopard and others have had massive damaged caused to their houses and buildings by Elephants rampaging through the village.

As the populations of grazing animals increased so too did the numbers of predators and this lead to a number of communities becoming disillusioned by the conservation programs.

To prevent any undue tension forming between the farmers and the wildlife, conservation workers now travel around the different rural communities helping to fix any damage that has been done or offering to pay for the repairs to any buildings that have been destroyed. While they cannot always pay the full market value of an eaten goat, the community appreciates the gesture and today no one tries to poach or kill the animals.
An experience completely out of the ordinary, today visitors can choose to embark on a conservation safari where you participation will not only provide income for the local communities and a source of money to help the people whose livestock has been taken or houses have been damaged, but it will also provide employment opportunities for the local people and will undoubtedly leave you with a renewed sense of purpose in life and a greater understanding of the African savannah.

Spend time tracking an animal along a dry riverbed, or watching and marking down a variety of different bird species you see around you. An afternoon may even be spent chatting to a local Himba or Herero tribal leader, were you can gain insight into the highs and lows of living so close and intimately with the Hyaena and other animals that co-exist here with the people.

by Katie Edge

South and East African Safaris
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