We are in the midst of a conservation crisis that is occurring around the globe resulting in the catastrophic loss of countless of species and the accelerated destruction of wild landscapes. Protected areas are facing a critical period where the number of well-managed parks is fast declining. Those that are unmanaged will be lost, and those that remain will become highly valued and possibly even more threatened. The driving forces for all of this is the human demand for:
- High-value commodities: Elephants, rhinos and now even lions are being killed across their range by increasingly militarised poaching networks, driven by the $20 billion a year illegal wildlife market.
- Protein: The demand for protein in the form of bushmeat and fisheries is escalating as the human population increases. Where there is an absence of either formal law enforcement or strong traditional sanctions against extraction, large areas of Africa are being emptied of wildlife. In the Congo Basin alone, an estimated five million tonnes of bushmeat are extracted from the forests each year.
- Land: Conversion of land for human development, including for space, energy in the form of charcoal and firewood, and agriculture is resulting in an unprecedented rate of habitat loss and fragmentation. Once habitats have been destroyed it is near impossible due to costs and politics to return them to their natural state.
While these pressures are real, the opportunity exists to secure these areas and change the trajectory of conservation on the continent. African Parks is the only organisation that secures contractual mandates with governments for 20 years or more, to assume the complete responsibility of park management including the law enforcement component. Combined with wildlife conservation, economic development and poverty alleviation of surrounding communities, African Parks’ mission is to ensure that each park is sustainable for the long term.