How to Save Endangered Animals

By Abi King | Responsible Travel

Apr 19

How to save endangered species - Rhinos in Kenya via @insidetravellab

A Question of Space

It’s amazing how much you think about space when do you don’t have any any more. When you’re cramped on a train. Pressed tight in a crowd.

Or peculiarly, when faced with such a wide expanse of natural space, of incredible beauty, that you cannot venture into unarmed.

Elephant crossing land in Kenya

I felt this way in the shark-infested sea, swollen and volatile beneath the hull of a flimsy boat in The Seychelles.

And now, right now, as I’m typing this out in Kenya I’m overlooking such a magnificent expanse of land, with plucky acacia scratching at the red earth…and yet it’s not safe to step out alone.

Endangered lion cubs in Kenya

Look cute. Grow to be deadly.

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This is lion country. And leopard. Rhinos, elephants and herds of angry buffalo.

I can’t see any right now of course, or else I would not be typing. But I know that they’re out there. And it’s only a matter of space that keeps them from reaching me (plus an armed and responsible team of rangers, my fluttering heart likes to say.)

But even these great creatures have problems of space.

Despite the hills and the mountains that lead from Sasaab to the lush green gardens at the foothills of the Aberdare mountains, space is a problem here in East Africa.

Space for a growing population. And space for the animals that every school child loves to name name.

Endangered animals rhinos in front of Mount Kenya via @insidetravellab

Rhinos in front of Mount Kenya

 

Poaching, sadly, is another issue – and one that we’ll return to on another day (except for saying the obvious, folk. Don’t buy animal parts that come from endangered species.)

Rhinos I knew were in trouble. Tigers too. But elephants? And lions? Troubled, perhaps. Wayward even. But on the way to extinction by 2025?

Like the great space before me, it’s hard to take in.

Endangered mother and baby rhino in Kenya via @insidetravellab

And like the sharks that troubled me in The Seychelles, the survival of these species matters more than just having cool things to look at. As shark conservationist Mike Rutzen explained, the survival of the animals at the top of the food chain reflects the health of the ecosystem beneath it.

In other words, we’re all in trouble without our sharp-toothed friends.

So, I’ve been asking experts across the world what we can do to help.

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How can we save endangered animals?

To donate, I’ve been told. To educate and, in turn, become educated.

And time and time again I hear the same message: go on safari with reputable companies. Ones that treat the environment well, treat people well and treat the animals well.

In other words, make it clear to anyone who takes just the flitter of a passing interest that these animals are worth more alive than dead.

And that they, like everyone else…need space.

Endangered lion in Kenya via @insidetravellab

Who I’m travelling with

I’m in Kenya with The Safari Collection, a company that manages four beautiful luxury safari camps across the country as well as creating bespoke itineraries throughout East Africa.

How to save endangered animals

The message to make animals more valuable alive than dead remains the same, whether talking to safari tour operators, ecologists, locals or the WWF.

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About the Author

Abigail King is an award-winning writer and author who swapped a successful career as a hospital doctor for a life on the road. With over 60 countries under her belt, she's worked for Lonely Planet, the BBC, National Geographic Traveller and more. She is passionate about sustainable tourism and was invited to speak on the subject at the EU-China High Level summit at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.Here she writes about food, travel and history and she invites you to pull up a chair and relax. Let's travel more and think more. Welcome!

  • I hope to one day read an article where rhinos and poaching aren’t in the same sentence. It’s just so sad to think that we can be so cruel to such beautiful creatures.

    • Abi King says:

      The frustrating thing is that we aren’t even trying to balance two difficult things (say, if a rhino horn actually DID save human lives.) They’re being killed for such shallow reasons – and often in very brutal ways.

  • It’s very sad to think that when these creatures are gone, they are gone forever.
    Way too many people don’t think about this. We need to turn things around and educate people on these subjects. Hopefully things can change and these animals will be around forever.

  • De'Jav says:

    Protecting animals I think comes down to educating the locals and the other challenge is those that are paying outrageous money. The influence of money is a sad thing. Hopefully it will change otherwise we will not have some of these precious animals.

    • Abi King says:

      I can understand the influence of money – especially if your living conditions are making even basic survival difficult. So the way to tackle it, I think, is to make sure that there’s more money available through conserving animals than killing them. Let’s aim to stop the poaching trade and increase responsible, sustainable tourism. Fast.

  • Patricia says:

    Agree totally with your last comment Abi (beautiful article by the way) education is the way forward, and not to forget that here in the UK people still kill animals for sport and many of our animals and birds are on the danger list re extinction. Many of our small birds are trapped on their migration routes in countries like Malta and Crete and eaten as delicacies in expensive restaurants.

    • Abi King says:

      I didn’t know that about the small birds, actually. Something else to investigate…Thank you for the heads up.

  • Ayngelina says:

    Really great tips, I haven’t been to Africa yet but I’ll keep these in mind.

  • Laura says:

    I certainly have a new appreciation for the plight after going on safari last year. Having seen these animals in the wild makes the impact of poaching that much more real.

    • Abi King says:

      I felt in mixed minds about it. Going on safari within a game reserve pretty much guarantees you’ll see SOMETHING (which is great when you have limited time.) But it does also camouflage how rare these creatures are…I remember spending DAYS driving around looking for tigers in India. That, for me, really hammered home how endangered they were. But either way, glad you have a new appreciation for it!

  • What an experience. Thank you so much for helping to spread the message that education is key to helping these endangered animals.

  • Nice post! We too have had our minds blown at all the various ways humans have decided to exploit animals: elephant rides and shows in Southeast Asia as well as circuses in North America, gorilla poaching in parts of Africa, turtles being starved for cosmetic creams in China and of course the list goes on.
    We were also always surprised to see thinks like ivory sold in markets because we thought “don’t people know not to buy these things?” and yet there they were proving that there is somehow still a demand. :(
    Very interesting point about space – we think this will become an ever bigger issue as the human population of the earth continues to grow. Might get harder and harder to have a private conversation.
    Thanks for this post.

  • So many of the great African animals now on the endangered list or close to being on it. Shoot wildlife with a camera not with a gun.

  • Leah says:

    Are all of those animals really on the way to extinction by 2025?! I had no idea, that’s absolutely horrifying. If only education spread as quickly as celebrity gossip…

  • Aleksei Maide says:

    Such powerful animals! I really hope we manage to save them, I support a lot of comments before me.

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