African Parks represents an innovative African solution to Africa’s conservation challenges. Through entering into long term partnership agreements with Governments, we take direct responsibility for managing and financing national parks to ensure their survival. Our long-term aim is for the parks under our management to generate a mix of sustainable income streams to pay for running costs and capital replacements. Revenue streams vary from one park to another but combine donor funding, commercial revenues (entrance fees, tourism concession fees and game sales), endowment income and payment for ecosystem services.
Our management approach involves taking direct day-to-day responsibility for a protected area, all activities in it, the management of all threats to its viability, and any commercial revenues flowing from it. Whilst each park management unit is supervised by African Parks head office, it carries direct responsibility for the following activities:
The African Parks mandate often requires total rehabilitation of a park, including the re-introduction of animal species that have become locally extinct. Our conservation approach combines habitat management, wildlife introduction and monitoring programmes, as well as related research. Where necessary we secure park boundaries through fencing and we implement stringent law enforcement and anti-poaching practices. We believe that our success lies in the fact that we take direct responsibility for the day-to day management of the park.
As a result we have succeeded in taking parks that were on the brink of collapse and, with the support of financing partners and host governments, restored them to their former glory. Entire ecosystems have been prevented from collapsing often in extremely dangerous and remote locations, including in war zones. Over the years we have won the confidence of governments in the countries we operate in and renowned institutions such as the World Wildlife Fund, Fauna and Flora International and Wildlife Conservation Society back our management approach.
Central to our philosophy is that parks are a choice of land use and that in order for them to survive, local people need to value them. This can only be achieved by developing a conservation-led economy with the park at its core and with benefits created through job opportunities, skills development and enterprise development. The more tangible the benefit stream, the more the park is valued by those who have the potential to determine its future.
In the remote and often marginal areas where we operate, our parks represent the predominant form of employment opportunities. Depending on size, each of our parks employs between 80 and 250 local staff in permanent positions and many others benefit from temporary employment opportunities. Currently we employ nearly 1000 people in remote rural regions of Africa, directly contributing to the support of some 8 000 dependents.
The establishment of tourism lodges and other commercial enterprises create further employment opportunities. For every tourism bed created, an additional 2-3 direct job opportunities are created, providing an economic stimulus for the entire region. We assist local people to establish community-run tourism enterprises, such as campsites, from which all income flows directly to the communities themselves.
In all the parks, we ensure that communities are directly engaged on management decisions, ensuring that the interests of local people are always taken into consideration. Where communities have resource utilisation rights, these are also protected to ensure they are not plundered by outsiders. Environmental education programmes in local schools and villages help ensure a greater understanding of the need for conserving nature and using resources sustainably.
Where possible we attract funding or engage with social development organisations to provide social welfare services, particularly in the areas of education and health, by facilitating access to community structures and providing information, infrastructure and logistical support.
Whilst we recognise that parks form the cornerstone of the nature-based tourism industry, we do not make any significant investment in tourism infrastructure ourselves. We believe this is the role of specialist organisations which have the necessary skills, capital and marketing channels. Our role is to re-establish the wildlife resource, create the appropriate investment climate, and conclude agreements with reputable tourism companies. In so doing so we create an income stream for the park and establish a foundation for sustainable economic development. In short we build sustainable conservation-led economies.