African Parks is a non-profit organisation that takes on direct responsibility for the rehabilitation and long-term management of national parks, in partnership with governments and local communities.

Its portfolio includes ten parks in seven countries – Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Malawi, Rwanda and Zambia, with a combined area in excess of 6 million hectares. 

Parks are the only remaining places of hope for Africa’s remaining wildlife. Copyright: Craig Hay
Where wildlife populations were once abundant, many are now decreasing. Copyright: David Garcia


Africa is in the process of losing the few remaining representative examples of its once abundant and unique wildlife heritage but when effective management systems are in place, it is possible to ensure their survival.


Globally, protected areas are the only places of hope for the world’s remaining fauna and flora species. Often, they are the epicentre for sustaining the very ecosystem services necessary for human survival, from mitigating and adapting to climate change, to vital applications in medicine and agriculture.




In Africa, well-managed protected areas are not only important for preserving biological diversity, but are also significant economic assets. Home to some of the world’s most spectacular remaining wildlife collections, these areas also provide unrivalled opportunities for economic development and poverty alleviation. Parks provide a range of resources which are often the primary mechanism for sustaining communities that live on their periphery. They are often the only source of formal employment either in the management of the park, or in tourism and associated private enterprises. 

Communities living around parks often have limited livelihood opportunities. Copyright: Karen Lubbe


Despite their value, many parks in Africa are in the process of irreversible ecological decline. Although there are over 1,200 formally registered national parks in Africa, many exist only on paper. Tragically, it is unlikely that more than 60 parks larger than 100,000 hectares will remain intact in 20 years’ time.


This decline is the result of a combination of underfunding and poor management. To add to these challenges, communities surrounding national parks are often poorly educated with few livelihood opportunities. Alienated from the land, unable to influence park management decision-making, and with little or no legitimate benefit from the park’s existence, local communities face a set of economic incentives that drive the destruction of the park over time. Once national parks have been destroyed, the ecosystem services they provide are lost forever as are the opportunities for sustainable economic development of local communities. 



By entering into long-term agreements with governments to manage and finance one or more of their national parks, African Parks is the only non-governmental organisation in Africa, and possibly the world, that takes on direct responsibility for the management of these critical ecosystems. By management, we mean taking on direct day-to-day responsibility for the area, all activities in it and managing threats to it.


This includes reintroducing founder populations of indigenous species, building necessary park infrastructure, implementing effective law enforcement, managing relationships with neighbouring communities and carrying out projects to ensure they benefit from the parks existence as well as developing tourism and associated business enterprises.



Wildlife and natural resources have value. If not protected, these resources can be exploited to the point of extinction. African Parks is responsible for all anti-poaching efforts in the parks it manages, and this is achieved through proper training, equipping, deployment, discipline and remuneration of law enforcement personnel. The thousands of foot, horseback, boat, vehicle and aerial patrols are complemented by networks of supporting communities, who provide information on poachers and other illegal activities. The establishment of safe and secure parks and surrounding areas is as important for communities as it is for wildlife. 

Thousands of patrols by law enforcement teams keep the parks safe. Copyright: Vanessa Stephens
Children learn about conservation and the importance of parks at school. Copyright: Jean Labuschagne



Central to African Parks’ philosophy is that parks are a choice of land-use, and for them to survive, local people need to value them and to value them they need to benefit from them. This can be through employment, both permanent and temporary, as well through the establishment of tourist lodges and other associated private enterprises, which creates further job opportunities and demand for local products and services.

Neighbouring communities are always directly involved in the management of the park, and where they have utilisation rights, these are protected to ensure they are not plundered by others. Environmental education programmes at schools, and bringing local communities into the parks creates a much deeper understanding of the importance of conservation. 

Home to some of the world’s most spectacular remaining wildlife collections, these areas also provide unrivalled opportunities for economic development and poverty alleviation.



The African Parks model requires that funds raised by the park, through gate fees, tourism operations and a number of other initiatives, are captured directly by the park rather than be paid into government. This creates the base for financial sustainability of the protected area, reducing the dependence on donor support over time. By focussing on such activities from the outset, it is possible to create what we refer to as a “conservation-led economy” where communities are employed, and once paid, are able to buy local goods and services, all of which creating an economy with the park at is core. 



The contracts with government partners are long-term, normally 20 years with the right to renew, but nevertheless finite. At the end of the contract period it is government’s prerogative to decide what to do with the park and the local institution responsible for its management. It is likely that by this point in time there is a strong appreciation of the effectiveness of the model as a mechanism for implementing the national conservation mandate. 




African Parks Network (APN) is the ultimate holding and strategic decision-making entity for African Parks. APN is registered a not-for-profit company under Section 21 of the Companies Act of South Africa and has Public Benefit Organisation status.


Each park managed by African Parks is established as a separate legal entity, which is registered in the host country. Each legal entity has its own Board of Directors with representation by partner institutions and key stakeholder groups, including African Parks Network. This Board is responsible for signing and implementing the agreement with Government and is directly accountable to Government for the proper management of the park. African Parks Network is responsible for compiling the business plan for each park, determining capital investments, operating costs and levels of income for each year of management and appointing a skilled park management unit to execute the plan. 


These entities are integral components to the organisation and their primary role is to facilitate the establishment of partnerships in their respective host countries with individuals, institutions and companies that are willing to become involved with, and support the work of African Parks. They also provide the legal and governance mechanism through which funds can be channelled by financial partners.




The African Parks Foundation of America (APF) is a registered 501 c 3 not for profit organization established with purposes of raising both financial resources and public awareness to support the all park management activities and protection efforts of African Parks Network.






Stichting African Parks Foundation (SAPF) is the proprietary funding body of African Parks in the Netherlands. It is a charitable foundation established in the Netherlands (ANBI), with the primary objective of ensuring the long term integrity of some of Africa's national parks, through direct support of the activities of African Parks Network.


Each of our projects involves a number of important partners:



must invite African Parks to become involved in the management and financing of the park. Importantly, government still owns its park, its wildlife and determines the policy and remains responsible for statutory functions, but it is vital that they share African Parks’ approach to management, and must be comfortable with the delegation of responsibilities to a newly formed local entity, which will become the vehicle for executing the project.



People living adjacent to a park can be critical to the success of the project, which is why community considerations are built into the project from the outset. In some cases, this is a formal relationship with community structures represented on the Board, and in others it is more informal.







Significant finances are required for capital investment and annual park operating costs. We only commit to a project once financial partners are in place, and typically with partner with multilateral donors, conservation NGOs, the private sector, foundations and individuals to assist with the necessary financing requirements. 




As the park develops and wildlife populations recover, we partner with commercial investors to develop and operate tourism lodges and other private enterprises. This creates a sustainable income base for the park, allowing the park to be weaned from donor support. 

Each park is established a separate legal entity, registered in the host country and governed by a board of eminent local individuals representing the key stakeholders in a project



Entire ecosystems have been preventing from collapsing when other agencies have long since given up, often in extremely dangerous circumstances, including civil war. Governments that have committed huge tracts of land to conservation can be proud that their natural heritage is being restored and conserved. 


Key species are reintroduced to the parks and closely monitored. Copyright: Jean Labuschagne

Central to our success are the following unique aspects of African Parks:


  • We have long-term contractual mandates to manage national parks for 20 years or more.
  • Our role is not to advise or provide technical support, but to take direct responsibility for parks placed under our supervision.
  • We become responsible for all the law enforcement staff, making sure they are properly equipped and trained.
  • We reintroduce species that have become locally extinct and put in place ecological monitoring programmes.
  • We establish infrastructure such as roads and bridges, as well as workshops, headquarters and housing.
  • We become responsible for implementing community programmes to ensure that local people benefit from the existence of a national park and understand its value.
  • Our approach is based on tried and tested business principles.
  • We aim to achieve ecological sustainability, socio-economic acceptability and financial viability.
  • Where conditions allow, we stimulate the development of tourism enterprises as a means of increasing the economic and social impact that parks can have.
  • 100 percent of the funds received from financial partners are allocated to projects on the ground as our overhead costs are covered. 

African Parks’ objective is to become the leading player in protected area management on the African continent by being the benchmark of management excellence and park sustainability. As an objective, by 2020, African Parks aims to have responsibility for a portfolio of 20 parks covering an area of 10 million hectares. Because of the geographic spread and representation of different ecosystems, this will be one of the most ecologically diverse portfolio of parks in the world

















Case Study

Majete, a true success story

Just ten years ago, Majete Nature Reserve in Malawi had no wildlife left at all. It employed just 12 people and the infrastructure was in a state of ruin. It had not received a single visitor in three years and did not generate a single dollar of income. Trees were being felled for building materials and charcoal and communities were beginning to settle within its formal boundaries. Today, this park has been fully restocked with the Big Five, including black rhino, hundreds of elephant and all other species including buffalo, waterbuck, sable, and impala. The park’s infrastructure has been fully restored, it has an active and successful community engagement plan including school support, a malaria eradication programme and visitation scheme for thousands of schoolchildren. Three tourism lodges employ some 250 people and host hundreds of tourists annually, generating hundreds of thousands of dollars in entrance fees. 

Leopard were reintroduced to the park. Copyright: Jean Labuschagne