Ninety-six — that’s the number of African elephants killed every day for their ivory. And the United States is the world’s second biggest market for the illegal ivory trade.
Want to help do something about it? Zoos, businesses, and individuals have joined with the Wildlife Conservation Society to make a difference through the 96 Elephants coalition. WCS has anti-poaching teams at important elephant habitats throughout Africa, and is working with governments and customs officials to help them stamp out the ivory trade—for example, training dogs to sniff out ivory at key transit points along smuggling routes.
You can join in the fight by going to the 96 Elephants website. The website offers a number of steps that individuals can take to help stop the ivory trade, and offers lots of ways to share information about the poaching crisis with your friends.
Last month I wrote about Conservation Through Public Health, a Ugandan non-profit organization that works to decrease the spread of disease between humans and endangered mountain gorillas. While much of its work focuses on preventing human disease outbreaks that could spread to gorillas, the organization also provides life-saving veterinary treatment when infectious diseases strike the mountain gorillas directly — staving off epidemics that could wipe out their population.
Some conservationists would like to go a step further by using vaccines to protect endangered apes. In his Not Exactly Rocket Science blog for National Geographic, science writer Ed Yong recently wrote about a group of University of Cambridge scientists working to develop a chimp vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus. Scientists are also working to develop vaccines to protect chimpanzees from human respiratory syncytial virus (an illness that is usually harmless in humans but can be deadly in chimps) and simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV, which causes a syndrome similar to AIDS in chimps).
But not everyone is in favor of this approach. The vaccines have to be tested on captive chimps first, which raises its own ethical issues. Yong outlines the arguments on both sides in his excellent blog post.
What do you think? How can we best protect the future of our ape cousins?
I’m excited to now offer land and aquatic safaris in Mozambique, just south of Tanzania on the East African coast. Mozambique has a rich history. For centuries it has been a significant trading post, especially for gold and, at one time, ivory. A long Portuguese rule ended in 1975, and after a few rough years it transformed into a stable democracy with a modern economy. Mozambique remains little explored by travelers; its spectacular natural treasures may be the world’s best-kept secret.
Among these treasures is Niassa National Reserve, one of the last vestiges of the wildness that characterized the African interior centuries ago. Niassa National Reserve is truly a wildlife paradise, providing refuge for more than 200 endangered Cape hunting dogs (African wild dogs), as well as other predators such as lions, leopards and spotted hyenas. The wildlife remains free and unfettered, with an estimated 12,000 elephants, 9,000 sable antelopes and several thousand Cape buffalos. Lichtenstein’s hartebeests, elands, zebras kudus, bushbucks, impalas, wildebeests, waterbucks, and reedbucks roam the plains against a backdrop of towering inselbergs (stone outcrops that form isolated hills). Three sub-species – the Niassa wildebeest, Boehm’s zebra and Johnston’s impala – are endemic to the Niassa area. Hippos can be seen in the river, and birders have listed more than 400 bird species.
While never densely populated, the region has been inhabited for thousands of years, and many of the communities living in the reserve rely on traditional skills such as iron smelting, fishing and honey gathering. Visiting these communities is a wonderful way to learn more about the country’s culture and unique ecosystem.
In a future blog post, I’ll tell you about the amazing opportunities for aquatic safaris and cultural tourism on Mozambique’s coast. Until then, feel free to contact me for help planning your next safari!
No one wants to lose precious safari time to jet lag. Luckily, simple steps can help – like going to bed earlier the week before you travel, drinking plenty of water, and avoiding too much alcohol and caffeine. Personally, I swear by earplugs, which help block out unfamiliar sounds. Sleep masks are also great, especially for resting on airplanes or in other well-lit places.
The easiest tip of all for those of us who go on safari? Spending afternoons outdoors when you get to your destination can help reset your body’s sleep clock! So feel good going out on afternoon game drives and walks, knowing that it’s a great time to see animals and also to help you get adjusted to a new schedule.