Making money in the wildest of ways

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Reforesting should make life a little easier for Silverbacks, male leaders who are responsible for a troop’s safety. Photograph: Russel Friedman

Throwing the old economy-versus-environment argument into question, Wilderness Holdings on Friday reported good progress on both sides of the equation in the six months to the end of August, including a reforestation project in Rwanda and a 22 percent increase in after-tax profit.

Profit at the company, which combines ownership of safari camps with support services such as a bush airline and touring and transfer services as well as marketing, sales and reservations businesses, came in at P94 million (Botswana Pula) on revenues that were up by 19 percent at P642 million.

In its results statement the Botswana and JSE-listed ecotourism group emphasised that it had managed to build profits while maintaining a focus on environmental sustainability and partnerships with local communities.

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Bisate Lodge is scheduled to open in June 2017

During this financial year the company completed the largest ever private land acquisition adjacent to the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. The statement added that the land, on which the Bisate Lodge is being built (opening June 2017), was currently undergoing intensive reforestation.

“More than just a luxury lodge, the land will become the site of a visionary reforestation and re-wilding project that aims to restore endemic Albertine Rift flora and fauna,” the statement said.

A Wilderness representative told Call Off The Search: “We are extremely proud of the progress we have made with Bisate’s reforestation programme to date. It has already seen more than 5,000 indigenous trees planted in partnership with the newly-created Tuzamurane Co-operative

“One of the most exciting initiatives is that of reforesting the land in a phased approach using indigenous trees such as Hagenia, Dombeya, Neoboutonia, Hypericum and mountain bamboo.

“This will lead to a natural recolonisation of this restored forest land by endemic and indigenous bird, amphibian, insect, reptile and mammal species.”

“In terms of birds we expect as many as 15 Albertine Rift endemic species to recolonise the restored forest.”

Wilderness Holdings – which operates 45 safari camps and lodges, and 10 scheduled overland safaris in Botswana, Congo, Kenya, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe – said headline earnings per share were up 12 percent during the period under review. In line with the group’s dividend policy no shareholder payout was proposed.

Although that is not to say the spoils are not being spread around a little. The company employs about 2,600 staff from more than 20 different ethnic groups and hosts 35,000 guests from around the world each year.

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The critically endangered Mountain Gorilla is a likely beneficiary of “re-wilding” in Rwanda. Photograph: Caroline Culbert

“We create life-changing journeys for our guests and clients and work closely with our government partners, conservation and community stakeholders and shareholders, to ensure the ongoing financial success and sustainability of our business,” Wilderness Holdings said.

“We aim to maximise the positive impact of our operations on biodiversity conservation and to build and manage our camps in the most eco-friendly way possible to minimise any negative impacts.”

Expectations for the rest of the year were relatively flat although an “increasing trend in late booking behaviour” and continued appreciation of the home currencies could mix things up a little.

– African News Agency (ANA)

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Siobhan Cassidy

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