Angofa Wildlife Tours – Wildlife tourism to conserve the Transylvanian ecosystem

Angofa Wildlife Tours is a new initiative designed to develop rural wildlife tourism in Transylvania to support long-term biodiversity monitoring and conservation efforts alongside local communities within the Tarnava Mare Natura 2000 zone. This zone protects over 890 square kilometers of natural habitats and traditional agricultural areas surrounding the Tarnava Mare river. Several villages within this zone are designated UNESCO World Heritage sites, which puts Tarnava Mare on the map as a potential future Biosphere Reserve, where natural areas are formally protected alongside traditional agricultural zones.

Angofa Wildlife Tours was launched through a partnership between Friends of Wallacea, a global tour agency focused on partnering with rural communities to protect wildlife through tourism, and Fundatia ADEPT, a Romanian NGO that promotes traditional Transylvanian agricultural practices that maintain local biodiversity. This business aims to provide new tour options that differ from existing cultural excursions to both divert income into rural areas that are critical to conservation and to diversify Transylvania’s tourism offerings. The company offers a variety of day tours out of this research centre, including nightly bear ‘safaris,’ birdwatching, and traditional dinners with lectures about local wildlife conservation. Income from tourism at Angofa enables us to hire local hunters and scientists to track and monitor wildlife, shifting perspectives toward seeing animals as collaborators rather than enemies.

This initiative was started at the end of 2019 and therefore we see enormous opportunity and room for growth in the model in Transylvania, as well as other natural areas in Europe. In the short term, the most important investment to be made into this model is the development of the market for wildlife tourism in Transylvania, which is still incipient compared to the well-developed cultural tourism market. The more financially successful this model, the more likely it is to shift long-term attitudes toward wildlife conservation.

In the medium and long term, this model will grow to involve new tour options through partnerships with operators working in other areas of Romania to help connect their income to conservation outcomes, while improving the value proposition for visitors. In the interest of protecting wildlife, we are willing to train and certify additional local operators in wildlife tourism to drive income into additional areas of high biodiversity. Connecting various ecosystems across the country will also demonstrate the value of large-scale conservation in Europe’s wildest country.

This initiative was started at the end of 2019 and therefore we see enormous opportunity and room for growth in the model in Transylvania, as well as other natural areas in Europe. In the short term, the most important investment to be made into this model is the development of the market for wildlife tourism in Transylvania, which is still incipient compared to the well-developed cultural tourism market. The more financially successful this model, the more likely it is to shift long-term attitudes toward wildlife conservation. 

In the medium and long term, this model will grow to involve new tour options through partnerships with operators working in other areas of Romania to help connect their income to conservation outcomes, while improving the value proposition for visitors. In the interest of protecting wildlife, we are willing to train and certify additional local operators in wildlife tourism to drive income into additional areas of high biodiversity. Connecting various ecosystems across the country will also demonstrate the value of large-scale conservation in Europe’s wildest country.

The model of developing wildlife day tours outside of existing tourism hubs has proven to be particularly applicable in Europe, with potential to also expand into the United States, Canada, Australia, and Fiji, working with rural and indigenous communities in these countries. The idea is to work alongside existing hospitality operators (hotels, restaurants, tour operators etc) to shift a portion of tourism revenue into surrounding rural areas and by doing so, also extend the length of tourist visits by providing additional value and interest to the region’s tourism offering.

We also offer a turn-key training program to destination management agencies and local operators to jumpstart the development of tours focused on wildlife viewing and conservation. These tours include the shorter day tour model, as well as longer week-long and multi-week alternatives for more remote areas, and demonstrate how to build and market unique nature tourism offerings near existing tourist destinations.

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