In Africa, properly managed protected areas are not just important for preserving biological diversity, they are also some of the continent’s greatest economic assets. Home to some of the world’s most spectacular wildlife assemblages, these areas also provide opportunities for economic development through employment, tourism development and associated private enterprise.
Despite their value however, many parks in Africa are in the process of irreversible ecological decline. Over the years State conservation agencies have become seriously underfunded, management expertise has been lost and proper governance eroded. Coupled with this is the increasing pressure from growing populations in surrounding communities. With little or no legitimate benefit from a park’s existence, local communities face a set of economic incentives that can only lead to its destruction over time.
Although there are over 1,200 formally registered national parks in Africa, many exist on paper alone. It is unlikely that more than 250 will remain intact by 2030. Once a park has been ecologically lost it is prohibitively expensive to recover.
African Parks was established in 2000 by a group of highly regarded conservationists, managers and businessmen who were directly involved in protected area management, were concerned with the decline in national parks across Africa, and sought to address the fundamental question of how to ensure their long term survival.
The group - Mavuso Msimang, Dr Anthony Hall-Martin, Michael Eustace and Peter Fearnhead - approached the late Paul Fentener van Vlissingen, a multinational businessman and philanthropist with a strong interest in conservation, who embraced the African Parks initiative and provided the initial funding to launch our model.