Founded in the year 2000, African Parks (AP) is a non-profit organisation that seeks to address environmental conservation issues in Africa, especially when it comes to the decline of Africa’s national parks. African Parks takes on the complete responsibility for the rehabilitation and long-term management of national parks, in partnership with local governments and communities.
The work they do is truly commendable and incredible. Here’s a bit of insight into African Parks and the work they do when it comes to the preservation of Africa’s grasslands, woodlands, jungles and wetlands, as well as the wildlife that make our continent the world’s wildest.
The thought of managing some of Africa’s biggest game parks and wildlife reserves would give many people sleepless nights. Underpinning AP’s work is the model of Public-Private-Partnerships (PPPs). This is where there is a separation of responsibilities between the state (responsible for policy and legislation) and African Parks (responsible for management functions). Great things are never achieved alone, so the separation of these responsibilities is key to producing results. AP’s responsibilities include:
- Saving wildlife – This is made up of a number of approaches, including habitat management, wildlife reintroductions, translocations, monitoring programmes and research. Without wildlife, Africa’s parks would be empty shells.
- Park protection – For the long term sustainability of a park, effective law enforcement is crucial. AP has over 1,000 rangers across its 13 managed parks, who assist with anti-poaching and provide support to local communities.
- Community development – Wildlife parks and reserves may seem like a getaway to you, but they may also be a home to someone else. Local people need to benefit from parks to value them.
- Tourism and enterprise – Through investments in tourism and other conservation based initiatives, revenues go back into parks and communities, aiding in economic development and poverty alleviation. Showing off Africa’s wild side to tourists and visitors is paramount for future growth.
- Management and infrastructure – Many of the managed parks are located in some of Africa’s most remote regions. This means they are devoid of proper management and infrastructure. From communication technology to workshops, roads, bridges and housing, a lot of infrastructure is needed to ensure that a park is managed properly.
Quick Facts on AP
- 6,000,000 ha (60,000 square kilometers) under management and 8,000,000 ha stabilised
- 77,529 ranger patrols for 2016 (up 23% from 2015)
- 833 rangers, making it the largest counter poaching force
- 32,726 snares removed (up 140% from 2015)
- 9 wildlife surveys in 8 parks
- 4,619 people employed across the parks
- US$ 34.8 million invested in conservation efforts across Africa
Parks Brought Back from the Brink
Rampant wildlife poaching, human encroachment and decades of neglect have left these parks on the brink of collapse. African Parks has breathed new life into them and now they are some of Africa’s greatest conservation success stories.
Akagera National Park, Rwanda
Located to the north east of Rwanda’s capital Kigali, on the border with Tanzania, is Akagera National Park. Rwanda’s dense rain forests make way to lush savannah and wetlands (central Africa’s largest protected wetlands). These rolling highlands, vast plains and swamps are home to more than 12,000 large mammals and 482 bird species.
Akagera was not always a wildlife haven. In the 1990s the Rwandan Civil War took its toll and much of the land was reallocated as farm land for returning refugees – the park was reduced from 2,500 km2 to 1,122 km2. Human-animal conflict increased and animal populations declined. With rigorous implementation of law enforcement since 2010, poaching has been reduced, wildlife has prospered and tourism has taken off.
Bangweulu Wetlands, Zambia
Bangweulu means “where the water meets the sky” and once you visit the lake and its wetlands you will understand why. Lake Bangweulu’s grey blue waters disappear into the horizon, blending in completely with the colour of the sky. What’s even more impressive is the medley of wetlands surrounding Lake Bangweulu. The lake and wetlands lie in the centre of an ancient cratonic plateau, which is fed by 17 rivers from a catchment area of 190,000 km2. This watery wilderness teems with birdlife (including the shoebill stork, pratincoles, Montagu’s and Pallid Harriers, and slatey egret) and wildlife (black lechwe, sitatunga, Oribi and tsessebe).
Before Bangweulu was under the stewardship of African Parks, there was rampant poaching and over fishing. Through community driven conservation, improved law enforcement and increased tourism, a balance has been brought back to Bangweulu where both local communities and the natural ecosystem thrive.
Majete Wildlife Reserve, Malawi
Majete’s turnaround is one of African Park’s greatest success stories. Nestled in south-western Malawi, in the Shire Valley, three hours from Lake Malawi is Majete Wildlife Reserve. With the Shire River forming its eastern boundary, Majete is home to 4,000 animals across 70,000 ha.
Fifteen years ago, this reserve was just an empty forest devoid of most wildlife, with only a few antelope and resilient species remaining. Illegal logging was well underway and charcoal production was booming. Given its condition, the reserve had little to no tourists, meaning there wasn’t any money for the upkeep of the reserve – what was left of it.
In 2003, African Parks signed a 25-year agreement with the Malawi government to manage Majete and restore it, so that wildlife could flourish again. More than 2,500 animals were introduced bringing Majete back to Big Five status – including the 500 Elephants initiative, where 500 elephants were relocated to Majete, making it one of the biggest wildlife translocations in human history. Improved law enforcement has meant that not a single rhino or elephant has been poached since 2003. The local economy has also transformed, creating economic opportunities and the provisioning of services through infrastructure construction.
Zakouma National Park, Chad
In one of Africa’s most troubled regions, is Zakouma National Park (ZNP) – a southern Sahara safe haven. This is where the rain forests of central Africa meet the deserts of the southern Sahara and this means a great diversity of wildlife. The collection of landscapes and wildlife in Zakouma has led to the Chadian Government nominating it as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Zakouma wasn’t always the treasure trove of natural beauty it is today though.
Decreed a national park in 1963, Zakouma enjoyed a great stability for 12 years. In 1975 that changed when there was a military coup. For the next 30 years, Chad was plunged into intermittent periods of order and civil conflict. Zakouma suffered from all the repercussions that came with the unrest, such as rampant wildlife poaching, particularly to the elephant population (to fund the ongoing conflict), which left the park on the brink of complete collapse.
In 2010 African Parks was mandated with the protection of ZNP. Within two years of taking over ZNP, elephant poaching was halted entirely. Today, the elephant population is on the rise. Between 2014 and 2016, 120 elephant births were recorded increasing park’s elephant population to 500. In 1986 the buffalo population was at 220, now they sit at over 10,000. Not only has the wildlife benefited from improvements made in ZNP, but so have the local people. ZNP is now one of the biggest employers in the region and 1,267 children receive education from ZNP supported schools. To have a look at our scheduled departure to ZNP in April 2018 follow this link.
Looking Towards the Future
Already undertaking a number of ambitious projects, it doesn’t stop there for African Parks. AP’s goal by 2020 is to manage 20 parks and protect more than 10 million hectares. The spread of these parks will be the most ecologically diverse portfolio of parks under sole management across Africa.
Great achievements are never accomplished alone. Apart from the men and women who give their time towards African Parks and its vision, there are donors and sponsors who provide the financial support that’s necessary towards protecting Africa’s habitats and wildlife. If you’d like to see how you can support African Parks, then head over to their website.