From helping boost mountain gorilla numbers in Rwanda to fostering better relations between locals and wildlife in Mozambique, eco@africa has visited a host of great ecotourism projects in Africa. Here are our top five.
1. Boosting mountain gorilla numbers in Rwanda
In Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, small groups of tourists can see the country's mountain gorillas – among the world's most endangered species – in their natural habitat. Elsewhere, such as in the Congo region, gorillas either get caught in the crossfire between rival militias or are killed by poachers, who boost their income by selling gorilla meat. But gorillas fare much better in Rwanda thanks in part to Volcanoes National Park's gorilla tourism project, which generates enough income so that local residents know they earn more by keeping the gorillas alive.
2. Green safaris in Botswana
Some 70,000 jobs in Botswana depend on the tourists who visit the country's wildlife reserves. Chobe National Park – a haven for giraffes and other endangered species – aims to cater to tourists while also protecting the planet and promoting conservation. There, tourists stay at an eco lodge and take safari trips in silent, emission-free electric cars. While giraffe numbers are falling in other parts of Africa, in Chobe National Park they're still numerous, suggesting the combination of ecotourism and conservation is paying off in helping the species survive.
3. Uganda's safe haven for chimpanzees
Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Uganda provides a safe haven for orphaned chimpanzees while also offering ecotourism and conservation education. Chimpanzees are emotionally-complex creatures, and losing their families can result in behavioral problems. The chimpanzees there are too traumatized to ever be able to reintegrate again into a chimp community in the wild, so the team at the sanctuary spend a lot of time helping the creatures deal with their trauma.
4. Trying to protect Mozambique's Banhine Natural Reserve
Mozambique's Banhine National Park is a huge grassland park whose wetland areas are a paradise for countless birds. The park has been a protected area for more than 40 years, and there are stiff penalties for poachers, but illegal killing of animals remains a problem, as well as illegal charcoal production, which destroys the natural habitat. Many residents don't understand the need for strict conservation laws, so the national park has been trying to foster better relations with local residents. One way is to help local people see ecotourism as an opportunity to earn money.
5. Growing a national park through holidaymakers
In Rwanda's Nyungwe forest, wildlife is under threat from hunters and habitat loss. Biologist Michel Masozera spent two decades turning the forest into a national park to protect it from mining. Covering an area of around 1,000 square kilometers and home to more than a thousand different species, it is the largest protected mountain rainforest in Africa. Masozera is hoping that encouraging ecotourism can make a difference. He set up the first canopy walk in Africa to help grow the park through ecotourism.