In November last year, the Responsible Tourism Awards named Great Plains Conservation winners of the Conservation of Wildlife and Habitats category. Through their innovative projects across five African countries, as well as in the Seychelles and India, Great Plains have contributed towards the culture and economies of local communities and have positively contributed to biodiversity conservation.

Great Plains creates alternative and sustainable conservation models that bring together communities, Government and the private sector. Locating areas that have previously been considered unsalvageable, Great Plains aims to save diverse and threatened habitats and provide others with a role model demonstrating respect towards a community’s culture and “greener” ways to conduct business. Great Plains distinguishes themselves from other eco-tourism companies as being foremost a conservation organisation.

In southern Africa, population growth and land development have contributed towards the decrease in animal populations. This, as well as hunting, poaching and culling, has caused a major decline in the elephant population. Great Plains Conservation’s Elephant Footprints project is centered on the Selinda Reserve in northern Botswana and aims to expand the Migration Corridors by creating an enormous no-hunting elephant sanctuary connecting Chobe National Park and Moremi Game Reserve and eventually extending west to Namibia, northwest to Angola and north to Zambia.

Once an area used primarily for trophy hunting, Great Plains has transformed Selinda Reserve into an area packed with diverse wildlife. A 300 000 acre private wildlife sanctuary, Selinda Reserve offers visitors exclusive viewings of large herds of elephant and buffalo and many other wildlife species. These beautiful beasts are now able to roam free and undisturbed in the Reserve without fear of being harmed. Spectacular sightings can occur in the Reserve at the end of the dry season, around December, when 9 000 elephants make their way through the Selinda Reserve looking to quench their thirst.

It is thanks to organisations like Great Plains Conservation that we are given the opportunity to appreciate remarkable animals, like the elephant, enjoy their natural habitats in some of Africa’s most wild and stunning places.