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From the Big Five to the ugly five, Africa’s wildlife steals the show on any safari, and Endangered Species Day (17 May 2019) is chance to raise awareness about the sad plight of some of the intriguing animals we so are eager to spot on the game drive.

Of course, it’s also a time to celebrate the weird and wonderful from the Wild Dog (unsightly, but sociable creatures) to the Mountain Gorilla (the latest “gelfie” of the gorillas and their park rangers going viral) and what better way to do that than by booking a tour with us. Your visit to Africa’s parks and reserves will have a direct impact on conservation projects, but more importantly, you will hear about the work that’s being done on the ground and learn to appreciate the issues faced by the continent’s animal kingdom. 

We hook up with some exciting projects on our way across Africa including, Botswana’s Khama Rhino Sanctuary (a community-based project which benefits the locals) and Zimbabwe’s Wild Dog Project (one of the most endangered species in the whole of Africa), and we even have our own two tonne rhino celebrity (star of our #SaveInongwe campaign) based in Zambia’s Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, but before you decide on your dream safari, here’s where to meet Africa’s most endangered and critically endangered wildlife.

The Black Rhino

Rhino

The figures for Black Rhino are startling, the population dropping by a massive 98% between 1960 and 1995. Conservation initiatives are going some way to combat poaching and since then numbers have increased, however the black rhino is still considered critically endangered, their precious horns seen as having medicinal powers. South East Asia is driving the illegal poaching of rhinos in Africa and putting the species in jeopardy of extinction.

Where to spot them?

Go walking with black rhino in Zimbabwe’s Matobo National Park, the opportunity to get up close and personal with these magnificent beasts a thrilling safari experience. You can also overland your way across Etosha National Park with us, our camp providing you with a 24/7 game viewing experience.

Mountain Gorillas

There’s good news for Africa’s Mountain Gorillas as they are no longer considered critically endangered. After last year’s census, the total number of mountain gorillas (living in the Virunga Mountains and Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is now believed to be above 1,000 individuals. Of course, this all comes down to the great work being done by rangers on the ground, every traveller contributing to the current success story.

Where to spot them?

Uganda came top of our list when we looked at the trendsetting safari hot spots for 2019, and interest undoubtedly gathered pace when the recent snap of two gorillas photographed posing for a relaxed selfie with the rangers who rescued them as babies, went viral. 

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is the place to be. In 2018 there was an exciting baby boom at Bwindi, and later that same year, Uganda Tourism announced the successful habituation of three new gorilla families and the addition of more permits: 19 gorilla families now available for trekking and the total number of trekking permits standing at 152 per day.

Wild Dog

While we might not instantly fall head over heels with the Wild Dog (or Painted Dog) – the species listed as one of Africa’s Ugly Five – they are very sociable and they will often charm their way onto your checklist – just ask anyone who watched David Attenborough’s Dynasties series. Sadly, human overpopulation, poaching, diseases like rabies and threats from other predators such as lions and hyenas are all contributing to their demise.

Where to spot them?

Denning (usually the dry season months) is the best time to see these animals, as they tend to cover large distances searching for prey.  The Hwange National Parkis unmissable as it’s also home to the Wild Dog Project – the park housing to one of the largest populations in Africa.

Pangolin

The single most poached and trafficked species on the planet, the pangolin’s scales are still being used in traditional medicine in Asia. Sadly, their armour-plating is a poor defence against humans and sightings of these gentle creatures are becoming rarer and rarer. Small and reclusive they are not easy to spot so it’s bound to be a memorable safari moment if you find one, these cute critters walking on their back feet and using their tails as a balancing pole.

Where to spot them?

South Africa’s Kruger and Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park.  Preferably on a night-drive as these animals are nocturnal.  Don’t get your hopes up as sightings are extremely rare.

African Penguin

The African penguin is one of the most endangered species in Africa. Numbers have plummeted in recent years due to depleted fish stocks from over fishing and fish stocks moving further west due to climate change. The African penguin is also at risk from oil spills. The only penguin species breeding in Africa, they are easily recognisable by their dapper black and white plumage and jack-ass braying call.

Where to spot them?

See them at Boulders Beach, near Cape Town on the Cape Peninsula, where there is a visitor centre and boardwalk past their nests.

Grevys Zebra

Over the course of the past 30 years, the population of the Grevy’s zebra (the largest and most threatened of the three species of Zebra) has plummeted by a whopping 54% to a population of just 2,680. Similar to the plains zebra, these wild equines can be distinguished by their narrow stripes, taller body, white belly, rounded ears, brown muzzle and black dorsal stripe. Poaching, loss of habitat and competition for water sources are all unfortunate factors in their situation.

Where to spot them?

Head for Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park or Botswana’s Okavango Deltato catch sight of the striped set.

Rothschild giraffe

Rothschild’s giraffes (also known as the Baringo or Uganda giraffe) are distinguished by their spots. Masai giraffes’ legs are decorated with brown spots all the way down to their feet, but Rothschild’s giraffes appear to be wearing white socks. Sadly, major threats to this sub-species are habitat loss, poaching and population segregation.

Where to spot them?

Your chances of spotting a Rothschild Giraffe will go up markedly if you visit Kenya’s Lake Nakuru National Park.

Chimpanzee

Chimpanzees are one of the most endangered animals in Africa – the biggest threat to their survival is habitat loss and an increasing demand for bushmeat – deforestation, disease also contributing to their demise.  Any sighting is magical, these guys sharing 98% of our genes, – their behaviour in some ways strikingly similar.  

Where to spot them?

In the Queen Elizabeth National Park, you will find Kyambura Gorge’s atmospheric “underground” rainforest – home to our distant cousins.

Hooded Vulture

Sure they get a bad rap as the villains in various animated movies, but it’s important to remember that these scavengers are staunch eco-warriors – vultures controlling disease outbreaks by keeping the veld clean of rotting carcasses. Under threat, the hooded vulture is now listed as critically endangered. Indiscriminate carcass poisoning, increase in trade for traditional medicine, hunting, persecution as well as habitat loss and degradation are the reasons behind their plight.

Where to spot them?

Often the first to descend on a kill, these feathered folks inhabit South Africa’s Kruger National Park and also Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park.

Cheetah

The Cheetah might be viewed as vulnerable, but on their own race to extinction, there are calls to put the world’s fastest land mammal on the endangered list. As per the IUCN, only 6,674 mature individuals of the species remain and the population is steadily decreasing. In fact, the cheetah ceases to exist today in 91% of its historic range.  Poaching, encroachment on their habitat and a reduction in the prey populations of the cheetah threaten their survival.

Where to spot them?

The Serengeti is a hotspot for cheetah sightings – these famed Big Cats loving nothing more than an energetic sprint across the plains.

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