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- Added Thursday, 08 March 2012 11:33
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On our wildlife tours you can witness for yourself some of the most endangered species on the planet. Read our list of 'animals on the edge' and learn how you can help to support the conservation of these amazing creatures!
At Explore we actively support the work of Friends of Conservation, Born Free and other wildlife charities in conserving some of the world’s most endangered species. On our wildlife tours you can witness for yourself some of the most endangered species on the planet, including mountain gorillas, Bengal tigers, cheetahs, orang-utans, lemurs and many more. Read more about some of them on the next few pages.
“With nearly a quarter of all mammal species and a third of amphibians threatened with extinction, there’s an urgent need to safeguard wildlife and the places in which they live.”
(WWF - World Wide Fund for Nature)
The mountain gorilla is critically endangered: there are only around 782 surviving in the wild and a handful in captivity, making them one of world’s most endangered species.
Due to a combination of poaching, regional conflict, destruction of its forest habitat, and capture for the illegal pet trade there has been a dramatic decline in mountain gorilla numbers, although efforts by government, conservation organisations and local people are now leading to a gradual increase in numbers. Revenues from gorilla tracking fees are playing a vital part in this conservation process, offering the mountain gorilla at least a chance of survival in the wild.
Tracking Mountain Gorillas
Seeing a mountain gorilla in its natural habitat is a thrilling and unforgettable experience. You can join us in either Uganda or Rwanda, where most of the world’s surviving population of mountain gorillas live.
Gorillas are shy, gentle and highly intelligent. They form strong social bonds within family groups, each of which is led by a dominant male, called a silverback because of the saddle of silver hair it develops on its back as it matures. All other members of the family group defer to the silverback.
Mountain Gorillas live in dense forest at altitudes above 1500 metres. The humidity and terrain can make tracking the groups quite challenging, especially in Uganda. You should be prepared for steep climbs through dense undergrowth.
We have been organising gorilla safaris for more than twenty years in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, and the more accessible Parc National de Volcano in Rwanda. In both Uganda and Rwanda the gorillas are tracked daily, so our guides find it reasonably easy to locate the family groups. The probability of seeing gorillas on both tours is very high: all Explore groups in recent years have successfully located and observed gorillas.
The Gorilla Organization
Explore has supported the Gorilla Organization for many years. It is a charity dedicated to saving gorillas from extinction. The organisation has adopted a community-based approach to conservation, setting up a variety of projects that enable local people and gorillas to live alongside each other.
For more information visit http://www.gorillas.org/
Of all the cat species the tiger is the largest and also one of the most threatened.
Altogether there are thought to be as few as 3,200 tigers left in the wild. Numbers have fallen by about 95% over the past 100 years and three subspecies – the Bali, Caspian and Javan tiger – are already extinct. The Bengal tiger is the most numerous subspecies but the population is only 2,500 individuals – and declining. Living mainly in India but also in Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan, the Bengal tiger is officially classified as ‘endangered’.
Threats to the Bengal Tiger
The biggest single threat is the poaching of tigers for skins and body parts used in traditional Asian medicines. Growing prosperity in Asian economies has led to an increasing demand for tiger-based medicines.
The second major challenge is habitat loss. Deforestation, agriculture and rapid infrastructure development is forcing tigers into small, scattered islands of remaining habitat. As a result of this tigers are increasingly coming into conflict with humans as they stray close to villages, resulting in both tigers and people being killed.
To witness the Bengal tiger in the wild is one of the great wildlife experiences. They are elusive and sometimes hard to track, but with patience and expert help from our guides you are likely to be rewarded with sightings.
Our tiger safaris focus on the three greatest game parks in India – Ranthambore, Bandhavgarh and Kanha – where the tiger populations are strongest and sightings most likely.
Through our tiger safaris we support the national parks and contribute to the crucial funding of conservation projects. We also support TOFT – Tour Operators for Tigers – a travel industry body which ensures best practice during our tiger tracking safaris.
TRAVEL OPERATORS FOR TIGERS (TOFT)
Explore are active members of the Travel Operators for Tigers campaign (TOFT). This travel industry body works with local organisations in India's wildlife reserves to ensure that tigers are protected. TOFT directs a significant proportion of its funding to Global Tiger Patrol to support specific conservation and anti-poaching measures.
What you can do: TOFT is a travel industry body but you can lend your support to its partner, Global Tiger Patrol www.globaltigerpatrol.org.By behaving responsibly and following our guidelines on tour, you will also be doing your bit to protect the tiger.
The world's fastest land animal, the cheetah is one of the most specialised members of the cat family and can reach speeds of 70mph. However this beautiful creature is losing its race for survival: once a common animal found on five continents, the cheetah is now an endangered species.
There are believed to be only just over 12,000 cheetahs left in the wild, spread through 25 African countries, of which Namibia’s population of 2,500 is the most important. Loss of habitat and poaching are the main reasons for the cheetah’s decline throughout Africa, and due to cheetah’s high cub mortality rates (up to 90% in the wild) once its population reaches a critical size it will become very difficult to recover.
Friends of Conservation
Explore actively supports Friends of Conservation, the UK fundraising arm of the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF). The CCF strive to conserve cheetahs and their habitat and have established in Namibia a highly successful conservation project - developing best practices in research, education, and land use to benefit all species. The CCF conservation project is based near Otjiwarongo, on Namibia’s magnificent Waterberg Plateau. We have the opportunity to visit on two Explore tours.
Orang-utans once lived throughout south-east Asia, but now they only survive on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra.
According to the WWF a century ago, there were around 230,000 orang-utans in the wild, but now only around 7,500 survive on Sumatra and 55,000 on Borneo. They are officially classified as ‘endangered’, meaning they face a very high risk of extinction in the wild.
First and foremost the orang-utan is threatened by the destruction of their rainforest habitat at a shocking rate. An estimated 80% of suitable orang-utan habitat has been lost to agriculture, logging and infrastructure development in the last 20 years alone. Still more worrying is the fact that only 2% of the remaining habitat is legally protected.
Orang-utans are also victims of widespread poaching: although they are a protected species they are often killed for their meat or captured and sold into the pet trade.
Orang-utans in the Wild
We visit the Sepilok Orang-utan Rehabilitation Centre in Sabah, the first official orang-utan rehabilitation project for rescued orphaned baby orang-utans. The orphans are trained to survive again in the wild and are released as soon as they are ready. The reserve is home to around 60 to 80 orang-utans living free in their natural rainforest habitat.
In Sumatra we also visit the Bohorok Orang-utan Centre, where orphaned animals have been released back into their natural environment.
Explore actively supports the Born Free Foundation, who have a joint project with International Animal Rescue (IAR) to care for, rehabilitate and ultimately release rescued orang-utans back into protected areas of forest in Borneo.
Endemic to the extraordinary ‘lost continent’ of Madagascar, lemurs range in size from the tiny 30 gram pygmy mouse lemur to the 10 kilogram indri, with its beautiful black and white fur and haunting calls. The name lemur means ‘spirit of the night’, possibly because some species are nocturnal and rely on good eyesight and well developed senses of hearing and smell.
Several subspecies of lemur are ranked either endangered or critically endangered. Some are threatened with extinction due to habitat loss and hunting. Although local traditions in Madagascar generally help protect lemurs and their forests, illegal logging, widespread poverty and political instability undermine conservation efforts.
Lemur Tracking with Explore
We visit a string of reserves and national parks, searching on day-time and night-time safaris for several lemur subspecies. We hope to see the rare and endangered golden bamboo lemur in Ranomafana National Park, a subspecies with only 1,000 surviving individuals due to loss of its bamboo forest habitat.
The revenues from visitors to the national parks and reserves of Madagascar play an important part in the efforts to secure the future for these wonderful animals.
Explore actively supports the Born Free Foundation, who have a joint project with The Madagascan Institute for the Conservation of Tropical Environments (ICTE) to promote scientific research, training, and conservation of Madagascan wildlife including lemurs.