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Humane Society International offers South African wildlife-viewing vacations with a conscience

November 18, 2010 | 10:45 pm

Zebra Foal

Not all "ecotourism" is actually as animal-friendly as one might like to think. So if wildlife encounters like swimming with dolphins are out for many animal lovers, what's in?

A new option called Humane Travels is now available to folks who want to get close to wild creatures like elephants, lions, hippos, zebras, giraffes and warthogs while helping them at the same time. 

Humane Society International has partnered with a South African sanctuary, SanWild, to host the series of guided weeklong vacations to the sanctuary and nearby destinations, including the famous Kruger National Park. Guests stay at one of two camps at SanWild -- one with chalet-style accomodations, the other featuring safari-style tents, and each with a common area situated within view of a watering hole where the sanctuary's resident animals regularly gather. Best of all, a portion of travelers' fees will help fund the sanctuary's wildlife protection programs. 

SanWild got its start when founder Louise Joubert began caring for orphaned and injured baby animals left behind during efforts to relocate wild herds. Joubert was able to rehabilitate a large number of such animals, but found that safe places to release them were hard to come by. She solved this problem by founding SanWild in the 1990s. In addition to its earliest rehabilitated-baby-animal residents, the facility now houses a small herd of elephants rescued shortly before they were to be killed in a culling operation, hippos confiscated from a French circus and lions saved from a breeder who planned to start a breeding program to supply the "canned hunt" industry.

Learn more about Humane Travels vacations at The Times' Travel News & Deals blog; for a list of travel dates, rates, reservation forms and payment forms, check out Humane Society International's site.

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: A zebra foal at SanWild Wildlife Rehabilitation Center and Sanctuary in South Africa. Credit: SanWild

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