Entries in Conservation (4)


Best Books to Prepare for Your African Safari

African Safari Preparation BooksYour African safari is quickly approaching.  You’ve spent weeks planning your packing list, comparing camera gear online, and mapping out tracking techniques to maximize your chances of encounterig all the amazing wildlife you want to see.  How else can you prepare for what is bound to be one of the most exciting adventures of your life? How about the old fashioned way – by getting off Google, and reading a book!

There are so many classic travelogues and remarkable stories that have been written about Africa, it’s hard to narrow them all down.  But following is a list of our favorites, including everything from hilarious first-person safari tales, to thoughtful explorations of the human impact on Africa’s delicate ecosystems and wildlife communities.  The best travelers are those who take the time to learn, and who journey with an open mind: it is our belief that these books will help get you started on your path to adventure and awareness.

  • Cry of the Kalahari by Mark James Owens and Cordelia Dykes Owens: Delve into the passions and professional escapades of two young, idealistic zoologists, whose world revolves around their love for Africa’s wildlife—and for each other!  Their personal account of intimacy amidst adventure spans seven years living and working in the Kalahari Desert in the 1970s, documenting and protecting Africa’s greatest species, often while facing down natural dangers like drought, storms and bush fires.  This classic best seller offers unique insights into the sophisticated social hierarchies of animals and humans, and is a must read for romantics and animal lovers alike.
  • The Last Rhinos by Lawrence Anthony and Graham Spence: This e-book chronicles the journey of one man—through war, political instability and other remarkably difficult circumstances—to help save one of the world’s greatest species from extinction.  When poachers started targeting the northern white rhino for their commercially coveted horns, Anthony saw no choice but to venture deep into the jungles of the war torn Congo to deal with the situation head on. With little help from the government, Anthony develops an even deeper respect and appreciation for the value of all life—animal, human and beyond. 
  • Whatever You Do, Don’t Run by Peter Allsion: Cautionary travel tales with a comedic twist, this highly entertaining collection of essays comes from an uber-experienced Botswana safari guide who has seen and done it all.  Thirteen years of tracking big game in the bush, surviving face-to-face encounters with pythons and learning the intricacies of “monkey language” straight from the source has led to this compilation of anecdotes that are both hilarious and informative, as well as a wildly enjoyable read.  
  • Across the Ravaged Land by Nick Brandt: Brandt’s third installment of photographs takes us through the dark world of dwindling animal populations in East Africa, and offers a realistic window into the current precarious state of much Africa’s wildlife.  His incredibly raw images are both touching and tragic, exposing the predatory side of human progress, and the damage our behaviors have wrought on some of the world's greatest species.  His work will add a dose of perspective to your African safari and—it is hoped—a greater depth of appreciation for the especially delicate lives of the creatures you will encounter. 
  • Around Africa On My Bicycle by Riaan Manser: It took Manser a little more than two years to ride his bike around the entire continent of Africa, starting and ending in Cape Town.  Wanting to highlight the awesome beauty and diversity of his beloved birth land, Manser rode across 34 countries through tremendous highs and lows—from navigating extreme conditions in the Sahara, to facing arrest and resorting to eating a rat.  His story is far more than a simple travelogue: not just the tale of a man adventuring through Africa, but also the story of Africa itself, its glorious natural history, and the remarkable people who have shaped it.
  • Soul of a Lion: Biography of Marieta van der Merwe, by Barbara Bennett: This biographical e-book tells the story of the Harnas Wildlife Foundation in Namibia, and its inspiring founder, Mariete van der Merwe.  Raised in a wealthy ranching family, van der Merwe converted a portion of her family's land to care for animals that are disabled or had been mistreated in captivity.  Her charges include a one-eyed lioness, a baboon with epilepsy, and a lion mistakenly injected with the AIDs virus, and her story is filled with grit, humor and an undeniable call to action.  You will be moved by the love and dedication she brings to her mission, and amazed by the remarkable resilience of the animals under her care.





Interview with Jena Gardner, Co-Founder of Bodhi Tree Foundation, on Safeguarding a Future for Africa's Elephants 


Jena Gardner - Bodhi Tree Foundation

The world’s elephants are under siege: It is estimated that four elephants an hour are lost across Africa, and over 90% of the elephant population has been decimated in the last 50 years alone.  Elephants are hunted primarily for their ivory, feeding an illicit global demand for ivory products that has deadly repercussions.  Epic Road sat down with Jena Gardner, Co-founder of the Bodhi Tree Foundation, to learn more about its new S.A.F.E. Campaigncreated to heighten awareness among travel providers and their clients about this alarming issue, and the important work the Foundation is doing to protect these beautiful creatures from extinction.  

1. What is The Bodhi Tree Foundation and what is its vision for the future of travel and the travel industry?

I co-founded The Bodhi Tree Foundation in 2009 with the idea of harnessing the significant resources of the travel industry and using them to protect places and support cultures in under-served areas around the world. We – as an industry and as individuals – have an important role to play in ensuring that future generations can experience the natural and cultural wonders of our planet, many which are under threat like never before. Since we created the foundation, I am pleased to say we have provided grants to 18 worthy grassroots projects all over the world.

As for the future, there is no shortage of important projects that need funding to continue their incredible work.  I would like to see The Bodhi Tree Foundation evolve to become a philanthropic platform where grass roots organizations  and travel suppliers can converge and showcase their philanthropic efforts to travelers and industry insiders.  Travelers are increasingly seeking authentic and enriching journeys, while travel consultants are looking to become more informed about responsible options.  At the same time, conservation-focused suppliers and charities are looking for ways to reach these audiences.  The Bodhi Tree Foundation can fill this void, and connect all of these groups. 

2. The Bodhi Tree Foundation’s main focus currently is the S.A.F.E. Campaign. What is the goal of this initiative and why is it so critically important now?

S.A.F.E. stands for Safeguarding A Future for Africa’s Elephants.  Its spark stems from a conversation I had in summer 2013 with my friends at Singita (one of our JG Black Book clients in Africa), in which I was first made aware of the dire situation facing Africa’s elephants: Elephants are being massacred across all of Africa right now because the desire for ivory, especially from Asia, is insatiable.  Over 90% of the elephant population has been decimated in the last 50 years, and 35,000 were killed in 2012 alone—that’s one elephant every fifteen minutes!  At this rate experts are predicting that elephants will be extinct by 2025, which is absolutely alarming. 

It’s unfathomable that my children may grow up and live in world where wild elephants don’t exist.   If we don’t do something now, elephants will be gone—vanished from the planet—and once that happens the population cannot be replenished.  

I work in the travel industry, have a number of clients in Africa and have been there numerous times myself, yet until that conversation I had no idea the severity of the poaching crisis.  So many of us serve as a reference point for travelers and we still don’t fully understand how the poaching crisis impacts us all.  The primary reason people travel to Africa is to go on safari and see wildlife: take the animals away, and you also take away much of the motivation to travel to Africa.  Many African countries also rely on tourism for their primary income, so a fall off would be devastating for their economies, and their people.  I believe our industry has a responsibility to help avert this, to educate ourselves and our clients on what is happening, and to also make a united commitment as an industry to protect Africa’s remaining elephants: now that would be a powerful thing!

3. The S.A.F.E. Campaign is a fundraising vehicle for beneficiary organizations on the ground in Africa that are already working to save Africa's elephants.  Which organizations are you partnering with and why have you chosen them?

After careful review, the Bodhi Tree Foundation Board chose four organizations based on the work they were doing in research, elephant protection and tackling the demand for ivory.  Each organization does incredible work, but vary significantly in focus.

African Wildlife Foundation funds and operates wildlife conservation initiatives, particularly zoning in areas where elephants are exceptionally vulnerable and in need of protection.

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust works diligently in anti-poaching and is renowned for its orphaned baby elephant rescue and rehabilitation program in Kenya.

Save The Elephants conducts critical research and elephant protection initiatives and is seen as one of the foremost experts on this area.

WildAid focuses on public service messages and educational initiatives targeted solely on reducing demand for ivory in Asia.

Of course, there are so many other organizations doing incredible work for elephants.  We made a deliberate choice to support only a few partners at first, but as we further enhance our website we will be including other organizations so travelers can learn more and connect to them as well. 

4. How will the funds raised be allocated among the various beneficiaries? Can a donor choose how to allocate the funds?

It is important for us to enable donors to have flexibility and ease.  If they don’t have a direct preference, we will allocate the funds evenly among our four beneficiary organizations.  If they want to donate to a specific organization(s), they can do so through our website or by calling our main office. JG Black Book absorbs most administrative and marketing expenses, and we also rely on the generosity of corporate partners who donate their services, so we can keep our overhead costs low.

5. JG Black Book provides expert sales, marketing, public relations and distribution services to the world’s most exclusive travel experiences.  What role does JG Black Book play in the work of The Bodhi Tree Foundation and the S.A.F.E. campaign? 

JG Black Book is a for-profit travel marketing, communications and public relations firm, and The Bodhi Tree Foundation is able to harness our assets and long-term relationships to help move our efforts forward.  Being global citizens and stewards of the world’s most precious natural and cultural resources is a cornerstone of our company, and everyone on our team sees travel as a vehicle for making the world a better place now and in the future.  Many of the vendors we work with are equally passionate about the efforts of Foundation, and through donating their time and expertise they have been instrumental in launching the S.A.F.E. Campaign. We are truly thankful for their generosity and commitment.

6. The S.A.F.E. initiative was launched in December of 2013 and you have been fortunate in already gaining some of the biggest and best names in travel as donors, partners, and sponsors. To what do you attribute this success?

Many of our partners were already familiar with The Bodhi Tree Foundation when we approached them about the S.A.F.E. campaign, so the reception was very encouraging.  All of our partner organizations have one thing in common: a commitment to sustainable tourism and to giving back.

We also know there is strength in numbers, and the more who join in S.A.F.E.’s efforts, the more strength we will have to make a difference.  We encourage any organization or traveler with ties to African tourism—or who simply cares passionately about the continent and its wildlife—to get involved.

7. How can those who have not yet joined the S.A.F.E Campaign get involved?

There are so many ways! The most immediate is to make a direct donation via our website, the entirety of which will go to support our partner organizations in the field.  You can also follow us on Facebook or Twitter--and please retweet and share our updates! If you're a travel provider you can write a blog post about the campaign on your company website,  or incorporate our messaging into itineraries, or designate a small percentage of your bookings for contributions to the campaign.  And for travellers who are planning a trip to Africa, I would encourage them to make sure to book with a responsible conservation-focused travel company. Anyone who has the opportunity to go on safari, or visit an elephant conservation project, and see these majestic animals in their habitat will understand: elephants share our planet and have a right to live peacefully on it. You will come back transformed, I promise. And then you can start to help S.A.F.E. transform the future for African elephants, and for us all.

Epic Road is a proud partner of the S.A.F.E. Campaign, creating signature travel experiences for travelers to Africa that include once in a lifetime elephant interactions and conservation experiences.  Contact Epic Road today to learn more about how we can arrange your visit to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, where you can engage directly with the sweet, orphaned elephants the Trust is working tirelessly to save.  Or we can facilitate your private stay at Ithumba Camp where older orphaned elephants are reintroduced into the wild, and you will spend your days surrounded by these gentle giants, protected and thriving in their natural habitat. 


Beyond and Great Plains Conservation Join Forces to Save the African Rhino

Beyond The Great Plains Rhino MicrochippingRhino poaching is at an all-time high, and rhinos in South Africa have been particularly hard hit:  an estimated 1004 rhinos lost to poaching in 2013 alone—that’s one every nine hours, and an increase of more than two-thirds since 2012.  Overall more than 90% of the world’s rhino population has been lost in the last 50 years and, considering that the remains of many lost rhinos are never discovered, the correct figure is likely much higher.  This is what filmmaker and Chairman of Great Plains Foundation Dereck Joubert calls the “Battle for Africa,” and two of Africa’s leading conservation companies have now joined forces to fight the war.

Great Plains Conservation, which uses tourism to support land preservation and ecological initiatives in Africa, is working with &Beyond, one of the world’s leading luxury experiential travel brands, to translocate rhinos from South Africa to the safe haven of Botswana.  Botswana is considered a beacon for animal protection, and has an excellent national security system in place to track poachers and protect endangered species.  Six rhinos were already translocated from South Africa last year, and on the heels of that success conservation teams from both organizations will capture and safely transport 100 more this year for release into Botswana’s remote wilderness.  Each rhino will be tagged and microchipped, and a dedicated anti-poaching team will then work in partnership with government agencies to monitor the animals, and then track their horn should they ever fall prey to poachers.

Joss Kent, &Beyond CEO, acknowledges that, apart from the right partner, a project of this size also requires a large pool of resources—an estimated $US 8million for the translocation alone.  And Joubert is quick to point out that this is far from “branded conservation.”  In order to succeed, rhino protection needs to be a global effort, and something everyone can get behind at a number of different levels.   Both Great Plains and &Beyond will oversee specific fundraising and support initiatives in which all stakeholders—travel partners, tour operators and guests—can participate in the fight to help save this iconic species, and ensure that Africa’s Big Five survive for future generations to enjoy.  Epic Road is doing its part by arranging signature experiences around rhino conservation for our clients, that allow them the amazing opportunity to join a top-notch anti-poaching team as they tag and microchip rhinos in the wild.  

The battle to save the rhino from extinction won’t be won tomorrow.  However, with joint initiatives such as this, neither will it be lost tomorrow.   And when what’s at stake is an animal’s very survival? Then there is little choice but to pull out all the stops to win the war.



Conkoutai's Wonderful Wildlife 


Conkoutai, a national park in The Republic of Congo’s has partnered with the environmental charity The Size of Whales to protect two million hectares of rainforest. The project includes protection for wildlife living in the tropical forest, the savannah, and the marine reserve. These photos give you a glimpse into the diversity and grandeur of the project.