Launched early in 2018, M&R Wild is the conservation arm of Matson & Ridley Safaris. True to our conservation roots, it has long been Tammie and Andy’s aim to create a sustainable business that goes above and beyond in terms of generating conservation impacts in Africa.
So now, we are not only giving back through offering safaris that make a difference, but also running and partnering with conservation projects on the ground to keep them going. If you’ve been looking for the opportunity to actively participate in conservation as part of your African safari, here’s your chance.
The Akagera Elephant Project, Rwanda
Led by elephant expert, Dr Tammie Matson, and guided by the management of African Parks in Akagera National Park, Rwanda, this novel project will attempt to provide the first baseline assessment of elephant herd compositions in the park, including categories reflecting ages, sexes, family groups and compositions as well as identification features of individuals and behaviour. It is the first study of its kind on the Akagera elephant population, and scientific input is being provided by several elephant experts, including Prof. Phyllis Lee of the University of Stirling and the Amboseli Elephant Project. Tammie is an Honourary Research Fellow at the University of Rwanda. The project works collaboratively with the Akagera Guides' Co-operative to develop skills locally in elephant identification.
The elephants in Akagera had an unusual beginning. They were introduced to the park in 1975 as orphans of a cull in southern Rwanda and at that time none of the introduced elephants were above the age of ten years. There were 26 elephants introduced to the park initially, a number that has since built up to approximately 130. Times were tough in Rwanda during the early to mid 1990s for people and wildlife alike. In Akagera poaching was rife and many of the elephants bear the wounds of poacher's snares set during this time. Since African Parks teamed up with the Rwandan Development Board to create the Akagera Management Company for the management of the park times have changed. An electric fence was established along the western border of the park to stop human-elephant conflict and thousands of snares were collected to prevent further damage to wildlife populations. Lions and rhinos were exterminated from the park previously, but have now been reintroduced and are faring well under effective management.
Our project presents a special opportunity to participate in a research program that makes a significant difference in the conservation of one of Africa’s most iconic species in a very special national park. Not only are you directly contributing to the park management budget by staying at lodges owned and run by African Parks, with all profits from the lodge fees going back to the conservation of Akagera, but you are also funding the first research project on the elephants in Akagera to date and enabling the collection of data that will aid in their conservation. This is no ordinary African experience!
Photo credit: African Parks
You will have the option to go out with Tammie and collect baseline data on the elephants, using your camera to help take photo identification shots and making notes on interesting behaviours as part of the project. You can also participate in African Parks’ activities such as walking the fence line with the rangers, visit a local Rwandan community and enjoy typical safari activities such as sunset boat rides on the lakes. You will stay at the comfortable Ruzizi Tented Lodge, surrounded by monkeys and hippos overlooking the lake, and the luxurious Magashi Camp, in the exclusive northern part of Akagera.
Bear in mind that wildlife numbers in Akagera are nowhere near as dense as in the more famous (and more tourist-crowded) national parks like the Serengeti in neighbouring Tanzania. Akagera is a work in process, and while great efforts have been made to introduce the ‘big five’, wildlife numbers are still relatively low. It can be difficult to find the elephants and there may be periods of time without sightings. There are tsetse flies in wooded areas. This safari is for people who have experienced the big game parks of Africa and are looking for a more meaningful conservation experience and the opportunity to make a difference. Come and be a part of it!