Recognising that conservation is as much about people as about the environment, the company has pursued important goals by supporting its non-profit partners, Children in the Wilderness and the Wilderness Wildlife Trust, which have helped change the face of nature-based tourism in southern Africa.
Johannesburg, South Africa – Having pioneered ecotourism throughout Africa for over 35 years, Wilderness Holdings has demonstrated its ongoing commitment to driving sustainable economies by contributing USD14.7 million (R216 million) to conservation and community development initiatives during the 2018 financial year – more than three times the value distributed to shareholders.
This figure is equivalent to 12% of all revenue earned, excluding payments to staff (but does include the USD3.9 million paid to staff employed in the nine community partnership areas, in which 12 Wilderness Safaris camps are operated).
“Over the past three decades, we have learned that the most effective way to achieve sustainable conservation outcomes is to create incentives for conservation that justify the setting aside of land for wildlife, offsetting the costs for the people living alongside wildlife; and helping to finance the costs of managing these areas and their resources”, commented Derek de la Harpe, Wilderness Holdings Chief Sustainability Officer.
The creation of such incentives thus forms the main thrust of the Group’s conservation and related rural development efforts, as illustrated by the attached infographic, which identifies the highlights for the 2018 financial year, also listed below:
- Wilderness Holdings and its guests paid a total of USD5.0 million to landowners, including governments and government conservation agencies, in the form of lease and concession fees, park entry fees and resource royalties;
- Wilderness created significant employment in rural areas (many of which have few economic alternatives), giving value to wildlife in those areas and augmenting and stimulating local economies. A total of 2 580 people were employed across the Group, earning USD36.0 million in salaries, wages and related benefits. Nearly 98% of these staff are citizens of the country of employment and a large portion of them derive originally from the rural communities with which Wilderness works;
- In partnership with its non-profit partner, Wilderness Wildlife Trust, and with support from its guests and other donors, Wilderness channelled USD970 000 into more than 40 different conservation and research projects. This contribution does not include the very significant in-kind contributions made to these projects which include staff time, office space and logistical support;
- Also, with support from its guests and other donors, USD3.8 million was directed towards community development and welfare projects. Once again, this contribution does not include significant in-kind contributions made by Wilderness to making these projects realities;
- In a further effort to circulate cash in rural economies, USD680 000 was paid to local community suppliers (not businesses) of goods and services;
- Finally, Wilderness Safaris’ flagship rural development initiative, conducted through its non-profit partner, Children in the Wilderness, continued with its 17-year effort to educate and empower children in rural community schools, recognising the reality that these are the future custodians of Africa’s wildlife. During the 2018 financial year, 3 733 children participated in Eco-Clubs run in rural schools; and 577 children drawn from the Eco-Clubs participated in 23 environmental and life-skills education programmes hosted in Wilderness Safaris camps. The direct value of this programme in 2018 was USD630 000, with an estimated further USD310 000 in in-kind contributions made by Wilderness, most notably the opportunity cost of hosting the children in its camps and the costs of office space and commitment of time by Wilderness staff to implement these initiatives.
The future of Wilderness Holdings is inextricably linked to the maintenance and improvement of the biodiversity and other resources of the areas in which the company operates, as well as the goodwill of the communities living in and around these areas.
“If either of these are compromised in any way, so is our business. Simply put: without the wilderness, there is no Wilderness. Our economic interests are therefore completely aligned with our conservation and community development objectives, and this is reflected in our 4Cs sustainability platform, which sees concurrent efforts in the dimensions of Commerce, Community, Culture and Conservation, and in the efforts outlined above. We are looking forward to growing our positive ecotourism footprint further and creating even more sustainable conservation economies in Africa in the future”, Derek concluded.
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