Following Elephants in Ethiopia

By | Category: Travel rumblings

Safaris and wildlife tourism has an understandable and increasing appeal. Kenya, Botswana, Tanzania and South Africa are countries that immediately spring to mind providing evocative holidays in stunning scenery with seemingly abundant wildlife.
One country you may not think of is Ethiopia. It has suffered much through famine and internal strife over the years so going there has been of limited appeal to visitors. This December however, Ethiopia is starting to promote visits to the Babile wildlife sanctuary situated about 350 miles east of Addis Ababa.
There they have a 300 strong elephant herd, the survivors of a much larger herd which had been greatly reduced by poaching. According to Reuters Africa, also there is the extremely rare black mane lion. It is the combination of the two that Ethiopia hopes will boost its tourism earnings to about $200 million per year a fairly insignificant sum compared to how much tourism brings to more developed areas.
In Babile it is the work of Wildlife Direct (www.wildlifedirect.org) who are using GPS systems to track four of the elephants over the next two years so that conservationists can track how far they roam. On their website is a graphic showing their movements over a three month period. The distance they cover is quite astonishing.
Unlike, it seems, elephants in captivity. In the same week the journal “Science” seems to show that elephants in captivity live much shorter lives in zoos than in the wild. Obesity seems to cut their lifespan in half suggesting they have insufficient room to roam in. (I’ve read this piece a couple of times and I think it just relates to zoos rather than wildlife/safari parks).
The work in Ethiopia would suggest they need a big area to roam in. The work being done by Wildlife Direct over the next few years will help understand that and, as a bi product, if tourists can help fund the research by visiting and leaving money in the local economy, we will have a better idea of just how much space we will need to find.

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