Tanzania is one of the world’s foremost destinations for wildlife viewing. However, massive poaching and human encroachment in recent years has led to severe damage to the country’s wildlife habitat. According to WildAid, Tanzania has lost 60 per cent of its elephants in the past six years, mainly because of poaching for ivory.
The East African Safari And Touring Company (EASTCO) is a small family-owned safari touring company that operates with an eco-friendly and socially conscious mindset. EASTCO is unique in that they are keenly aware of the important role businesses can play in fostering sustainability and conservation. EASTCO not only dedicates almost half of their proceeds to purchasing private land so elephants can safely migrate, but they also partner with local Maasai warriors who help protect the elephants, as well as donate proceeds to Maasai communities for local development.
“In every long trip, we try to include an experience that involves the local community— whether it’s spending the night on the beach front camp, watching mongoose race to catch crabs, or canoeing across the bay to the ruins of 13th Century Shiraz at Tongoni,” says Simon King, General Manager at EASTCO.
According to King, one of the most successful projects by EASTCO has been the Randilen Wildlife Management Area (WMA). The Randilen WMA, which is an extension of the Tarangire National Park, has a fast growing sub population of elephants and unique landscapes. Animals are free to roam around the park. However, few tour operators are interested in promoting the area.
EASTCO entered into joint ventures with local communities to develop lodges and hotels—including the Naitolia camp, Boundary Hill Lodge, and Tarangire Treetops—so that locals could get involved in preserving the nearby habitat. So far, this initiative has brought over 350,000 USD in revenue to community development funds, which helped build schools, water tanks, and health dispensaries. The inclusion of locals also means that African elephants can migrate safely with protection from poachers.
These efforts elevate EASTCO above the average safari operator. After 25 years of operation and working with local communities, EASTCO has earned its reputation as one of the world’s eco-friendly operators. In 2016, EASTCO won a silver award in the category of Best Contribution to Wildlife Conservation at the Responsible Tourism Awards.
According to King, one of the major obstacles to their sustainable safari tours is the average client's reluctance to get away from the beaten path. “90 per cent of all marketing is for the same safaris and destinations. It is difficult to convince in an email the experiences we are selling are worthwhile,” says King.
“I want people to feel that they are not just a visitor taking away photographs. We hope they have experiences which make them feel a greater part of an organization, trying to achieve advances in wildlife conservation and community development,” King says.
Click here to learn more about EASTCO, and how you can get involved.