Here at The Expeditions Company, our goal is the conservation of the most endangered species on the planet. We take our guests to some of the most remote places on Earth to find and film these magnificent animals, then we use the profits from these group tours to support local conservation efforts.
We have already had trips around Indonesia in search of the Javan Rhino. What other animals are on our list? I thought to delve a bit more into what animals we are considering putting together tour and support packages for. In no particular order:
Cross River Gorilla
Gorilla gorilla diehli
With fewer there than 300 individuals left in the wild, or anywhere for that matter, this subspecies of Gorilla is unfortunately on the brink of extinction. Inhabiting the lowland rainforests of Nigeria and Cameroon, little is actually known about this great ape. The similarities between the Cross River Gorilla and it’s more numerous (but still in bad shape) Western Lowland Gorilla make it difficult to create awareness of the much more serious state this most endangered species of Gorilla is in. Even Dianne Fossey’s famous Mountain Gorillas (of the eastern Gorilla species) outnumber the Cross River Gorilla, with around 800 individuals compared to 200-300.
We are in the early stages of planning a trip to find and film this creature with a small group. The trip will focus mainly on Nigeria and Cameroon, where the Cross River resides, however, we will also incorporate a visit to the stunning Odzala National Park to the south, to see the dense African lowland rainforest where the largest populations of Western Lowland Gorilla reside alongside Forest Buffalo, Forest Elephant, and Okapi, to name a few.
While the numbers of the Snow Leopard may not be as low as some of the other species on this list, with around 4000-6000 individuals left in the wild, the Snow Leopard faces one of the most difficult issues any conservation effort would find difficult to address: Climate Change.
Snow Leopards are uniquely adapted to their harsh environment. The frozen and rocky terraces of Central Asia have made the animal much more specialized than it’s more adaptable cousin Panthera Pardus. The range of the Snow Leopard stretches along China’s western borders, straddling Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan and Pakistan, with pockets also in Nepal. The Snow Leopard earned its name for a reason. It is excellent at hunting in a frozen, Himalayan environment.
The immediate threats to this animal come mainly from ‘Retaliatory Killings’, where local farmers hunt and kill Snow Leopards encroaching on their pastures who hunt and kill livestock. The problem is, with melting snows and an ever-decreasing permanent reduction in the length of snowy months, Snow Leopards are forced ever closer to human territory in the search for food, resorting to hunting livestock for survival. This greatly upsets locals who, understandably, wish to limit their losses as this is also one of the poorest regions on the planet. Which is why supporting and educating local communities is, at least as far as we believe the best way to solve this problem.
But the biggest issue facing the survival of the Snow Leopard is a macro issue, requiring the action of governments. While Climate Change endangers every species, even us, the threat of Climate Change is especially acute when it comes to the Snow Leopard.
These turtles can live to see well over 150 years. The oldest individuals alive today were born during Abraham Lincoln’s presidency. Sadly, with the way things are going, it’s unlikely that this entire turtle species will exist for another turtle lifespan unless urgent action is taken to protect it.
Hawksbill Turtles are smaller than other sea turtles, such as the Green Turtle and Leatherback. They have a unique appearance, with a serrated-edge shell, which is formed by overlapping scales. This beautiful and unique aspect is also one of the main reasons this turtle is so endangered. The shells are highly sought-after and can fetch a good price in informal markets.
While the Hawksbill’s range is across all of the equatorial oceans, we’ve decided to focus on Caribbean Populations, with our planned tours focusing on Caribbean Islands.
Panthera pardus orientalis
Residing in the temperate forests of the Russian Far East, the Amur Leopard, also known as the Manchurian Leopard or simply Far East Leopard is a subspecies of the Leopard (Panthera Pardus). This unique cat has evolved to survive in this challenging environment, reportedly being able to jump 19 feet vertically.
Unfortunately, the plight of the Amur Leopard is looking very grim. With only 60 individuals left, the species is on the verge of extinction. But there is still hope for this big cat, with organizations like ALTA fighting what is literally a last stand for this beautiful animal. We at The Expeditions Company plan to visit the Amur’s territory and invest as much as possible in this and other organizations who stand between the Amur’s continued existence and extinction.
As you can tell from our logo, we have a special place in our hearts for Rhino. Being based in South Africa, we’ve experienced firsthand the devastating decade our own Rhino species have had. Numbers have plummeted, solely due to illegal trade in Rhino horn. Demand for this substance, despite being no different from the stuff in our fingernails, comes mostly from Asia. Consequently, all Asian Rhino are on the brink of extinction, something that could happen even in the near future.
It is for this reason that we have been focusing our initial conservation efforts on Indonesia. With our Javan Rhino Expedition, Rocco and his team laid the foundation for our involvement in Indonesian conservation efforts. The Javan Rhino’s closely related cousin, the Sumatran Rhino, is next on our list of Indonesian ungulates to support.
The island of Sumatra is rugged and beautiful. It is massive, the sixth largest island the world. Covered in misty rainforests and jagged peaks, it is home to many species who are endangered by the Palm Oil industry. Massive sections of forest have to be cleared for the production of the cheapest vegetable oil in the world. This, coupled with the Rhino horn trade have reduced the population of the Sumatran Rhino to less than 100 individuals.
We already have established relationships in Indonesia and plan to increase our involvement by expanding our already successful efforts in Java to Sumatra as well. An expedition to this region will not only be beneficial to the Sumatran Rhino but for the next animal on this list as well:
Elephas maximus sumatranus
While the population of the Sumatran Elephant is not nearly as low as the aforementioned Sumatran Rhino, with around 2200 individuals, the rapid decrease in its population is why it is classified as Critically Endangered by the WWF. Half of its population was lost in one generation, primarily due to habitat destruction for the Palm Oil industry.
Our Sumatran Expeditions, while mainly focusing on the Sumatran Rhino, will also contribute a portion of proceeds to communities and groups supporting Elephant conservation in Sumatra.
Another species adversely affected by the Palm Oil Industry, the Orangutan is among the most intelligent animals in the world. The Bornean Orangutan differs from its Sumatran cousin slightly, with a broader face, shorter hair, and darker color. While there are still around 100 000 individuals left on the massive island, over half of its habitat has been destroyed by the Palm Oil industry in just the last 20 years.
I have visited the island and went to the Camp Leaky research station to see these beautiful animals for myself. We are determined to visit the island again in the near future to establish a TEC package that supports local conservation and education efforts. This will include jungle walks and about a week of living on a jungle river boat.
Being based in South Africa gives TEC the opportunity to engage with local conservation groups frequently. And there is one animal on every group’s mind: The Rhino.
Faced with an overwhelming and sudden increase in demand for Rhino Horn, poachers are responsible for the alarming drop in the number of this massive, magnificent creature. With fewer than 5000 individuals left and considering the rate at which they are poached, some projections have this species going extinct within a single generation.
The Expeditions Company has purchased 3 Expedition vehicles to accommodate safaris focused on Rhinos. We will be announcing the expeditions very soon, so keep an eye on the blog for an update.