10 Positive Stories from 2021

Thinking back on the year that was, there are plenty of glaringly obvious negativities amongst the 2021 highlights.

From petty inconveniences to profound impacts, we have all suffered on a personal level from the largest, most significant news story of our lifetime… and it’s not done with us quite yet.

While we could dwell on the tribulations of COVID, and we also very much acknowledge those who have suffered, and suffered loss, there were plenty of 2021 highlights that also paved the way for brighter futures and left us with the warm, fuzzy glow of hope.

Reteti Elephant Sanctuary
Photo: @r.e.s.c.u.e / Reteti Elephant Sanctuary

Perhaps it is our newfound sense of kindred unity, maybe we have developed a greater awareness of the world beyond our own myopic lives. Whatever the case, a radiant silver lining has appeared across the planet, reflected in myriad ways, from environmental protection and animal conservation to humanitarian efforts and greener lifestyles.

More than ever, we all need to do our part in protecting the planet but, also more than ever, we are rapidly becoming more aware of our individual responsibility in the greater good.

Let’s focus on the good that came from the last 365 days, as a beacon to follow into a brighter New Year. Here are just ten of the good news stories of 2021:


Tigers Are Seeing Double: Over the last ten years, numbers of tigers throughout Nepal and India have more than doubled. Russia, Bhutan and China have also witnessed an increase in numbers, likewise pledging to double numbers in the coming years. Once heavily poached, better land management, ranger protection, conservation and breeding have led to one of the greatest conservation stories of recent years.

While the Sumatran tiger is still struggling, primarily due to palm oil deforestation, the increase in awareness around the world and the impetus of conscious, conservational tourism are adding to a growing motivation at all levels to protect and preserve the world’s biggest cat. [1]

tiger conservation
Photo: ©Suján

Rhinos Return: Rhino horn is, sadly, still big money. More valuable than both gold and diamonds, it still provides incentive for poachers. But united efforts across Africa have seen poaching numbers plummet.

2020 saw a zero tally of poached rhinos in Kenya and, while a tragic number are still dying in South Africa, the number has dropped by more than two thirds since a peak through 2014 and 2015.

Taken as a whole, rhino poaching has seen a decrease of up to 98 percent over recent years and, while there is still much work to be done, population numbers are slowly creeping back up.

With South Africa still suffering the most from poaching, recent efforts have seen 30 resident white rhino translocated by road and plane to Akagera National Park in Rwanda. It is hoped that this move will further protect the animals from poaching and that their new home will “become a new breeding stronghold to support the long-term survival of the species.” [2]

2021 Highlights
Photo: Howard Cleland/African Parks

Protecting Gorillas From Us: Ugandan conservationist, and wildlife veterinarian Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka has been recognised as a “Champion for the Earth” by the United Nations for her work to protect the gorillas of her homeland. While poaching is still a threat, there is also the very real risk of cross-infection, that is, humans infecting gorillas with a cocktail of pathogens, such as COVID.

Regardless of their intent, humans pose a significant threat to gorillas, which share 96 percent of our DNA. Viruses, infections and other illnesses that affect us can be transmitted to gorillas due to their genetic similarity. ‘Dr Gladys’ has worked extensively in the areas surrounding Bwindi Impenetrable Forest to improve the accessibility to health services for locals, thus also reducing risk of cross-contamination in the already threatened mountain gorilla population. [3]

Gladys kalema zikusoka Photo By Jo Anne Mcarthur 2021 highlights
Gorilla saviour, Gladys Kalema Zikusoka.
Photo: Jo-Anne Mcarthur

Through her efforts, a strong anti-poaching ranger program and the benefits implemented through conservation tourism, numbers are slowly clawing their way upwards. In 2020, 11 infants were recorded across troops in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the population is once more above 1,000. 

No More Trophies: The United Kingdom has banned the import of hunting trophies across some 7,000 protected and endangered species. In one of the toughest laws of its kind implemented anywhere in the world, the recent act will see a blanket ban on the import of lions, rhinos, elephants, zebras, buffalo, polar bears and many more creatures. Though not affecting the ability for UK citizens to hunt overseas, their inability to return home with their ‘trophy’ acts as a significant step towards diminishing the appeal of trophy hunting. In a bill that gained the support of almost 90 percent of the population, the UK has made the import of any body part of thousands of animals a criminal offense, further stigmatising trophy hunting as a barbaric and archaic act. [4]

2021 Highlights

Malawi’s Dog Days: International efforts have risen in support for one of Africa’s most endangered, and most beloved, mammals; the African Wild Dog. With only 6,600 individuals and 700 breeding pairs estimated to remain, African Parks united with Malawi’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife to translocate 14 wild dogs from South Africa and Mozambique to Liwonde National Park and Majete Wildlife Reserve in Malawi.

Both Liwonde and Majete parks have received a significant amount of work over the last decade, and the thriving ecosystems are now home to the first wild dogs seen in Malawi for many years. The pack has already produced nine healthy pups and African Parks’ Country Representative Samuel Kamoto suggests it is just one aspect of a far greater conservation story: “Malawi has emerged as a leader in conservation through its progressive actions to revitalise its parks. We’ve translocated more than 4,000 animals as part of our efforts to create secure, diverse wildlife sanctuaries that can provide a source of long-term socio-economic benefits for people.” [5]

2021 highlights


The Environmental Superhero: Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio is used to playing the role of hero, but in recent years he has proven himself a champion for the planet and has been instrumental in one of our 2021 highlights.

Uniting with Re:Wild, an organisation he has co-founded to protect the world’s most threatened ecosystems, Leo has jointly donated $43 million to help preserve and rehabilitate the Galápagos Islands. Unrestricted tourism, development and pollution have all taken their toll; the project aims to completely rewild the entire archipelago, including restoring ecosystems to protect 54 threatened species and reintroducing 13 locally extinct species. Charles Darwin once said: “I never dreamed that islands, about fifty or sixty miles apart, and most of them in sight of each other, formed of precisely the same rocks, would have been so differently tenanted.” The utter uniqueness of the Galápagos is second to none, and DiCaprio’s efforts will take grand strides towards preserving that uniqueness. [6]

Leonardo Dicaprio 2021 Highlights

A Year of Philanthropy: Though she and her late husband have long been investing in the protection of Argentina and Chile, Kristine Tompkins has now conserved more land than any other single individual on the planet. Her tireless work with husband Doug Tompkins have to date amounted to $345 million in conservation funding, protecting millions of hectares of wilderness.

As with the Galápagos, this region, including Patagonia, is home to endemic and threatened species. The Tompkins’ reserve includes both land and water, forests, waterways and grasslands.

In addition, these reserves are now being returned to local communities, helping to both educate them in their lands’ protection and helping them support and sustain themselves. [7]

A Boost for African Parks: More incredible generosity has given African beneficiaries a $100 million support package. To be distributed by African Parks across some of its protected regions, including Iona National Park in Angola and Odzala-Kokoua National Park in the Republic of Congo, the staggering donation has come from the incredible Rob and Melani Walton Foundation

Peter Fearnhead, CEO of African Parks, declared, “Rob and Melani Walton’s commitment is uniquely visionary in providing a source of stable long-term funding that will contribute enduring protection for some of the most biodiverse, threatened landscapes on the planet.” [8]

Kristine Tompkins, Tompkins Conservation
The wonderful Kristine Tompkins.
Photo: Tompkins Conservation


Ethiopian Education: For we in the west, school closures have been annoying; for students in Ethiopia, they have been a prison sentence. Without education, many have been forced into child labour and, when combined with conflict and poverty, a lack of schooling has stolen their last opportunity of freedom and any level of success.

Fortunately, the Ethiopian government has joined forces with Luminos Fund, an education charity that has developed a fast-track education program to help children escape harsh factory conditions and provide future opportunities.

The ten-month program targets the most vulnerable of students, providing the same level of education as would usually be achieved over three years.

2021 Highlights

The Ethiopian government had addressed the need for youth education several years ago, and with significant success, but recent events undermined these efforts. Instigated by Luminos Fund, these latest efforts provide a much-needed restart for the younger generations and the ability to gain significant education in a much shorter time frame. [9]

The Right to a Clean World: For many years, environmentalists and human rights activists have been lobbying for the global right to a clean and healthy environment. 

In October of 2021, these continued efforts culminated in the United Nations Human Rights Council declaring that every human on Earth now possesses this fundamental right.

UN Human Rights

The ramifications of this landmark decision are multifold:

Firstly, of course, everyone is given the right to clean, non-polluted water, air and land. However, to receive this, numerous environmental protection acts must be put into effect. A gas company, for example, cannot frack land if they will knowingly pollute waterways or agricultural soil. 

And while at this stage it is a non-legally binding resolution, it could in theory extend to an end to deforestation due to its climate effects, the implementation of renewable energy to combat air pollution, a cessation of harmful mineral mining and many, many more acts that harm people, planet and animals alike. [10] 

It has been a turbulent year, though we have been fortunate enough to be able to share the world’s most magical experiences and sights with many of our clients. But what we have noticed the most is that the 2021 highlights brought with them hope and positivity, the understanding that we all play our part, we can all make a difference and that we are all united in creating a future we wish to see.

Farewell 2021, and welcome 2022 – our first year in a bright, joyful, sustainable and exciting journey. We can’t wait to share it with you, and wish you all the very best.

[1] https://www.onthegotours.com/blog/2021/03/10-conservation-success-stories/
[2] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/nov/29/white-rhinos-flown-from-south-africa-to-rwanda-in-largest-single-translocation
[3] https://news.mongabay.com/2021/12/ugandas-dr-gladys-honored-by-u-n-for-work-linking-conservation-and-health/
[4] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/importing-of-hunting-trophies-banned-to-protect-worlds-threatened-species
[5] https://www.africanparks.org/african-wild-dogs-return-malawi
[6] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/may/18/leonardo-dicaprio-pledges-43m-to-restore-the-galapagos-islands
[7] https://reasonstobecheerful.world/kristine-tompkins-conservation-chile-argentina-national-parks/
[8] https://news.mongabay.com/2021/09/african-parks-secures-100m-for-conservation-in-africa/
[9] https://news.trust.org/item/20211130100057-i9d5n/
[10] https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/10/1103082?fbclid=IwAR0xxSFLmi46-Ktly5Aop8lNiHglCu1E_gHckzP7oNW_-0_mhpkFlzOsOu4

Header image: Ol Jogi