Rare wildlife to celebrate this World Endangered Species Day



Lauren Dold


Endangered species

Just as the wellbeing of our guests is paramount, so is the wellbeing of our wildlife. And what better time to celebrate our ongoing efforts to conserve and protect endangered and vulnerable wildlife than on World Endangered Species Day.


This year we look back over the 50 years since the crucial Endangered Species Act was passed.This landmark legislation formalised an international commitment to the conservation of wildlife and the wild places they call home.

Passed in the United States in 1973, the Endangered Species Act protects wildlife internationally by banning the import of endangered wildlife into the US, and requires protection of critical habitats. In the five decades since the act was passed, 99% of the species protected by the list have avoided extinction.


The wild tracts of land we help conserve are home to a number of Vulnerable, Threatened, Endangered and Critically Endangered species (as defined by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species). As part of our ongoing long-term goal to increase the world’s wilderness, we help provide critical habitat for threatened and endangered species, from the cantankerous black rhinoceros to the boisterous wild dog to the gentle gorilla. We can’t afford to lose them.





Black Rhino


Seeing black rhino in their natural wild state has become a rare opportunity. While both white and black rhinos are threatened by rampant poaching for their horns, black rhino numbers have dwindled so severely that, at around 3,142 mature individuals in total, they’re sadly classified by the IUCN as Critically Endangered.


At Wilderness Desert Rhino Camp we are not only proud to offer guests the exceptional opportunity to track this endangered species on foot, but also provide a base for Save the Rhino Trust’s tracking and monitoring teams. This is a group of guardians dedicated to protecting imperilled black rhinos. Wilderness Desert Rhino camp’s core purpose is to protect this iconic species; every guest, every visit, actively contributes to their conservation.


Namibia is home to the largest free-ranging populations of black rhino on the continent, but these elusive animals can also be spotted in Rwanda’s Akagera National Park, where they’ve been successfully reintroduced.


See them at: Wilderness Desert Rhino Camp, Wilderness Magashi





African wild dog


An abundance of prey. Large tracts of untouched wilderness. Space to run. The ideal habitat for wild dogs is becoming increasingly rare. Wild dog populations fluctuate, as they’re sensitive to human encroachment and disease. One bout of illness can eradicate an entire pack, and with the number of adult individuals reaching only 1,409, according to the IUCN, across the continent, we can’t afford to lose them.


Sometimes called the painted wolf, the wild dog is the most persecuted predator on the continent, and the second-most endangered carnivore in Africa. A century ago, around 500,000 of these high-energy canines ran, played, and hunted across most of Africa. The packs we have left, we protect fiercely.


While sightings are rare, our daily conservation efforts in Botswana’s Linyanti Wildlife Reserve, at Wilderness Vumbura Plains in the Okavango Delta and Zimbabwe’s Hwange and Mana Pools help create ideal breeding grounds for many packs, making it possible to see them at several of our camps. Ongoing citizen science projects encourage guests to report their sightings where every single piece of information helps us understand and conserve these remarkable predators.


See wild dogs at these Wilderness camps: Vumbura Plains, Linkwasha, DumaTau, Mombo, Tubu Tree



Mountain gorilla


Mountain gorillas have survived decades of poaching, war, habitat destruction and disease; threats so severe it was thought the species could have become extinct towards the end of the twentieth century.


The slow recovery of mountain gorillas in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National park is testament to the country’s commitment to protecting these precious animals and their habitat. Numbering around 600 in 2010, there are now over 1,000 mountain gorillas across the Virunga Massif.  It’s a start, but there’s more work to be done.


Carefully monitored gorilla tourism has grown to become an mutually beneficial business, and communities on the periphery of gorilla habitats have grown to see them as a vital asset.


Their rarity makes encountering them all the more special. For one precious hour a day, guests at Wilderness Bisate and Sabyinyo get the chance to spend time in the presence of these extraordinary creatures, their mannerisms and habits so similar to our own. Gorilla permit fees go straight into conservation funds, and every guest who takes this sacred trek to see them, directly contributes to their wellbeing.


See gorillas at Wilderness Bisate and Wilderness Sabyinyo

Little Vumbura Botswana Wildlife Elephant





Gentle. Majestic. Endangered. Though they may seem abundant on a visit to Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia, where herds by the hundred browse, swim and breed, elephant populations across the continent have decreased dramatically in the last few decades. African savannah elephant numbers have fallen by at least 60% in the last 50 years, while the population of African forest elephants has decreased by more than 86% over the last 30 years, leading to them being listed as an endangered species. Elephants require vast space, and fences and human encroachment threatens their ancient migratory instincts.


As part of our ongoing conservation commitments, Wilderness has been working with Ecoexist since 2019, funding the collaring of elephants, which provides valuable information about their movement habits. The more we know about how and why they move, the more we can mitigate human-wildlife conflict with the communities who share space with elephants.


See elephants at all Wilderness camps in Botswana, Zambia, Rwanda and Zimbabwe, including Mokete, DumaTau, Toka Leya and Magashi



Little Vumbura Botswana Wildlife Lion





It’s hard to imagine that predators that rank at the top of the food chain could be listed as a vulnerable species in need of protection. As apex predators, lions are regarded as umbrella species; when lions thrive, the entire ecosystem around them thrives. But in the past 30 years, Africa’s lion population has halved. Habitat loss, the illegal wildlife trade, poaching and human-lion conflict has escalated, putting increasing pressure on the population. In the 1950s, over 400,000 lions roamed Africa’s plains; today that number sits somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000.


In an effort to stabilise lion numbers, Wilderness as partnered with the Lion Recovery Fund, whose aim is to double wild lion numbers by 2050. Wilderness also pledges ongoing support to the Desert Lion Conservation Project, which works in the northern Namib Desert, and the Lionscape Coalition, an innovative group of commercial conservation tourism companies working to secure a future for Africa’s lions and their habitats.


See lions in Rwanda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia, including at these Wilderness camps: Magashi, Shumba, Linkwasha, Vumbura Plains and Hoanib Skeleton Coast  

A safari that makes a difference

Every journey, every activity, every cent, every effort, counts. Every time a Wilderness guest pays for a permit to see gorillas, or spends time counting every energetic wild dog in a playful pack, or sets foot in the desert to track a black rhino, the species’ chances of survival improve. Just by taking a journey with Wilderness, your life, and the lives of the wildlife we work hard to safeguard, is changed.

Wilderness Little Makalolo Zimbabwe Wildlife Lion

Let’s plan your next journey


When we say we’re there every step of the way, we mean it, literally. From planning the perfect circuit, to private inter-camp transfers on Wilderness Air, and easing you through Customs. We’re with you on the ground, at your side, 24-7, from start to finish. Ready to take the road less travelled? Contact our Travel Designers to plan an unforgettable journey.