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Virtual safaris keep wildlife in sight for absent tourists

Wildlife tourism is a major source of revenue for countries such as Kenya.

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A family of elephants grazing in Kenya (Khalil Senosi/AP)

A family of elephants grazing in Kenya (Khalil Senosi/AP)

A family of elephants grazing in Kenya (Khalil Senosi/AP)

Virtual safaris are helping to distract people under coronavirus lockdowns while attracting badly needed support for African wildlife parks hit hard by the loss of tourists.

Wildlife tourism is a major source of revenue for countries such as Kenya. Some operators are now sharing live broadcasts of safaris on social media in the hope that attention to endangered and other species does not fade.

In the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, workers have created what they call Sofa Safari, driving around filming with a smartphone from an open-top vehicle.

“One of the ways we are trying to be innovative is looking at virtual ways of bringing wildlife to people’s homes, to their television sets and to their telephones,” said the conservancy’s managing director, Richard Vigne.

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The world’s last two surviving northern white rhinos feed on hay with a southern white rhino (Khalil Senosi/AP)

The world’s last two surviving northern white rhinos feed on hay with a southern white rhino (Khalil Senosi/AP)

AP/PA Images

The world’s last two surviving northern white rhinos feed on hay with a southern white rhino (Khalil Senosi/AP)

Among the animals featured are the world’s last two surviving northern white rhinos. Researchers have been trying to use in-vitro fertilisation to save the species.

“It’s really important to continue to raise awareness,” said Ellie Jones-Perrott, a zoology student and creator of Sofa Safari.

With limited internet in the rural areas, the live broadcast can be unstable.

“The connection is sometimes very hit and miss, we go in and out of signal especially when we see some cool stuff like the leopards who often live in the bush,” she said. “It’s hard to broadcast that live without cutting off.”

PA