Virtual safaris booming business and better for the environment

Virtual safaris booming business in South Africa
Photo by Gwen Weustink on Unsplash

South African company WildEarth, which brings virtual safaris to your living room, has seen a huge rise in their viewers since the world went into lockdown. Founder Graham Wallington said they are currently attracting up to 3 million viewers a month.

Most visitors wanting to see wild animals in Africa fly in from all over the world. So when the new coronavirus grounded flights and put the world into lockdown, the legendary African safari died. But virtual safaris are booming.

Twice a day, viewers can watch whatever animals the guides spot as they ride through nature. They’ve filmed 200 spots across east and southern Africa since they started the company in 2006.

Highlights include a pack of jackals and African wild dogs fighting over a kudu carcass, a leopard cub jumping out of a tree, a mother cheetah playing with her kids and close encounters with elephants, hippos, lions, baboons and giraffes.

Creating empathy
“Our mission is to connect people with nature and the way we do that is by every single day going out and finding the exact same animals,” Wellington explains.

“We’ve learned that when we give a viewer an insight into the individual opportunities and challenges of that animal, they suddenly start seeing that animal not as a representative of a species but rather as an individual being and that’s the moment when empathy occurs,” he continues.

The footage is free to access. WildEarth makes revenue from selling premium video to broadcasters, merchandise and a small amount of advertising.

From an environmental point of view, it also cuts back on carbon emitted by flights and could help popular spots, like East Africa’s Serengeti, recover from over-tourism.

“If we were to just have more and more tourists come into these sensitive wilderness areas, eventually we destroy the thing that actually brings the people,” he said. “But virtual tourism offers us an opportunity to let the whole world share something without destroying it.”

Source: Reuters

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