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When one thinks of Africa, one imagines huge tracts of untamed veld and majestic wild animals roaming the plains as far as the eye can see.  It’s a place where humans have only scratched the surface in terms of development, and where nature still reigns supreme. But this is no longer the reality in many parts of Africa.


The African continent is undergoing a massive transformation. Once-pristine wilderness areas are being degraded and destroyed at an alarming rate, while iconic species are being pushed to the brink of extinction. While many NGOs (non-government organisations) are doing sterling work, more must be done to reinvigorate Africa’s natural heritage.


One of the most effective ways to combat this destruction is through rewilding.

What is rewilding?

Rewilding can be defined as the large-scale restoration of ecosystems where humans have heavily impacted the natural environment. This includes the reintroduction of missing species, both large and small. I particularly enjoy the thinking around rewilding offered by Raquel Filgueiras, head of rewilding at Rewilding Europe: “Rewilding is about trusting the forces of nature to restore land and sea.”

Rewilding not only benefits the environment but also local communities who rely on healthy ecosystems – and eco-tourism – for their livelihoods.

According to Barbara Creecy, South African Minister of Environmental Affairs, “The success of ongoing cross-border collaborations is an outstanding example of how African countries are working together to solve conservation problems and grow the eco-tourism sector.”

The benefits of rewilding in Africa

Over seven hundred animals have been gifted to Mozambique since 2018, thanks to donations from South Africa’s department of forestry, fisheries, and the environment. (South Africa is fulfilling a pledge to donate animals to Mozambique in an effort toward restoring old national parks which have been depleted of wildlife.) There is an over-abundance of animals in South Africa, making it a wildlife hub for the rest of the continent.

A beloved South African conservation area, the Kruger National Park is particularly well-positioned to support the restoration of decimated protected areas in neighboring countries. The park enjoys multitudes of over 147 mammal species thanks to many years of implementing expert conservation management and protection strategies.

Zinave National Park, Mozambique

Generous wildlife donations from South Africa and Zimbabwe and restocking from other areas in Mozambique have resuscitated Zinave National Park’s large wild animal population. It now boasts 13 species: impalas, reedbucks, waterbucks, buffalos, zebras, wildebeest, giraffes, sables, and elephants. Prior to these donations, a history of wars, hunting, and a lack of management resources resulted in the loss of several large mammal species at Zinave. Their medium-term rewilding strategy is to relocate 7 000 animals to the park over a five-year period. An 18 600-ha sanctuary was erected within the 400 000-ha park as an initial habitat for translocated wildlife, while sufficient security measures are implemented.

Akagera National Park, Rwanda

Akagera National Park, a lush 112 147 ha game park on the northeast side of Rwanda – a two-hour drive from the capital of Kigali – is another African rewilding success story.

Decades of poaching and human-wildlife conflict nearly wiped out the region’s large mammals. However, in 2010 a partnership was established between the Rwandan government and not-for-profit African Parks to help co-manage Akagera. Akagera National Park now hosts both lions and rhinos and generates more than US$2.5 million annually (pre-COVID) from nature-based tourism, employing nearly 300 people – most of whom are from Rwanda.

Akagera has become a boon for the local community. Ten percent of tourism income is earmarked for reinvestment into the region through new infrastructures like roads, schools, and health facilities. Local entrepreneurs have also enjoyed a leg up, with beekeeping, fish farming, and cultural crafts being supported through increased tourist visits.

Magashi Camp opens

With tourism thriving, a luxury camp was opened in 2019 in the park’s northern reaches, managed by a pan-African lodge company, Wilderness Safaris. Magashi Camp, comprising six lakeside tents, is a safari enthusiast’s dream: beds shielded by rose-colored mosquito nets and a campfire overlooking water teeming with hippos.

Harnessing Restoration for Climate Resilience

Many of Africa’s rewilding initiatives being undertaken are often huge, continent-wide operations. But they are crucial if we want to see a future for our continent’s amazing wildlife, eco-systems, and her people.

Another key reason for rewilding Africa is to help combat climate change. The continent is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of global warming, such as droughts, floods, and heatwaves.

Scientists claim that, at this stage, solely reducing greenhouse-gas emissions will not help us quickly enough. A rapid phasing out of fossil fuels aside, many believe that nature restoration is the cheapest and simplest way to draw down substantial amounts of the carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere. Other high-tech alternatives need research, money, and time before they can be used on a large scale. Therefore most Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change pathways for limiting warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels continue to look to forestry and improved land management to help with carbon drawdown over the next few decades

Rewilding – especially the recultivation of indigenous vegetation – can help to inhibit these effects by increasing the amount of carbon dioxide that is absorbed by flora and soils. This process, called ‘carbon sequestration’, helps to slow down the rate of climate change. A rewilded landscape is more resilient to the effects of climate change, as a greater variety of plants and animals increases the chances that some will be able to adapt and survive.

Restoring Africa's Ecosystems

Rewilding is a massive undertaking, but it is essential if we want to ensure the survival of Africa’s unique biodiversity – and the livelihoods of the many humans who depend on good conservation practices. Overall, it’s not just about conserving what we have – it’s about restoring what we’ve lost.

If you would like to find out more, or support an African rewilding and conservation organisation, here are just a few of my recommendations:

I am pleased to report that many of Timeless Africa Safaris’ preferred suppliers are also deeply committed to rewilding:


In this article
  • Introduction
  • What is rewilding?
  • Rewilding benefits
  • Zinave National Park, Mozambique
  • Akagera National Park, Rwanda
  • Harnessing Restoration for Climate Resilience
  • Restoring Africa's Ecosystems

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