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Safaris under threat without unsung heroes

Press AssociationPress Association 30/06/2016

Fuelled by a combination of heart-stirring Attenborough documentaries and glossy National Geographic magazine covers, our interest in nature-themed holidays continues to grow.

Africa, in particular, is regaining popularity; the weak Rand is driving budget-savvy safari-goers to South Africa, and Kenya is slowly clawing back customer confidence after a wobbly period of security fears.

It's the animals that attract tourists to visit these destinations, but in many cases, their very existence is under daily threat. Rhinos, elephants, lions... the number of species slipping towards the endangered list is of woeful concern.

But behind the scenes, committed individuals are striving to protect our world's wildlife, and later this year those efforts will be celebrated and rewarded at the annual Tusk Awards.

The conservation charity, supported by royal patron Prince William, will honour heroes in African conservation at a London ceremony in November.

The recent announcement of the shortlist for the Tusk Award for Conservation is already causing ripples of excitement and features candidates from South Africa, Rwanda and Zambia. All three are heavily involved in protection programs for the star players of our wildlife holidays.

In Zambia, Rachel McRobb oversees a successful anti-poaching project that's now 99 per cent run by communities in South Luangwa. Inspired by her vision, local scouts are working to eradicate poaching snares.

In South Africa, Cathy Dreyer has played a key role in black rhino relocation programs, reintroducing the species into areas where they were previously almost hunted or poached to extinction. She's now responsible for protecting one of the world's most important black rhino populations on the Eastern Cape.

Yet, it's not just the A-list animals that are deserving of attention. In Rwanda, Olivier Nsengimana has launched various campaigns to save the endangered grey crowned cranes, which have declined by 78 per cent in the last 45 years.

Reflecting on this year's nominees, Tusk CEO Charlie Mayhew said: "Choosing just one winner when the inspirational work of all three has done so much for Africa's rural communities and their irreplaceable natural heritage, will be very tough."

Other awards presented at the ceremony will include The Prince William Award for Conservation in Africa, a lifetime achievement award sponsored by Investec Asset Management, and the Tusk Wildlife Ranger Award.

* For more information, visit www.tusk.org

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