African Parks keep moving steadily forward

Non-governmental organisation (NGO) African Parks has just released its 2020 Annual Report. By the close of 2020, AP had 19 parks under management in 11 countries, over 14.7 million hectares (56,757 square miles, covering ten of the 13 ecological biomes on mainland Africa. This is the largest and most ecologically diverse amount of land under protection for any one NGO on the continent.

African Parks was founded in 2000 as an African solution for Africa’s conservation challenges. AP takes on complete responsibility for the long-term management of national parks and protected areas, in partnership with governments and local communities. The goal of such partnerships is to restore and effectively manage these landscapes, making them ecologically, socially and financially sustainable so they can deliver a multitude of benefits for people and wildlife in perpetuity.

In his Introduction to the Annual Report, Mavuso Msimang, writes movingly about his early childhood when he learned to love nature walking beside his grandfather on his farm in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. He could not learn about nature by visiting national parks, for these were off-limits to people like Mavuso because of the apartheid system of racial segregation. After living in exile for 30 years, he returned to the reborn and democratic country of his birth, and became the CEO of the South African National Parks in 1997. In 2000 Mavuso and some colleagues founded African Parks. He is today the Vice-Chair and has been a Board member for the past 17 years.

Akagera National Park

In 2000 Malawi was the first country to entrust African Parks to manage and resurrect the Majete Wildlife Reserve. Today the organisation is managing four of Malawi’s parks. African Parks is now responsible for 90% of the country’s elephants, 100% of its rhinos and has brought lions and cheetahs back to the country. The parks are the largest employers in their respective regions, and have remained so during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Here is the AP portfolio of protected areas.

Iona National Park

Pendjari National Park; W National Park


Zakouma National Park; Siniaka Minia Wildlife Reserve; Eneida Natural & Cultural Reserve

Odzala-Kokoua National Park

Garamba National Park

Majete Wildlife Reserve; Liwonde National Park; Mangochi Forest Reserve; Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve

Bazaruto Archipelago National Park

Akagera National Park; Nyungwe National Park

Liuwa Plain National Park; Bengweulu Wetlands

Matusadona National Park

What an achievement it is for African Parks to have gained the confidence of governments in these countries to take full responsibility for the management of their protected areas!  But African Parks has its sights set on further efforts to protect Africa’s biodiversity, and its vision for the next decade is that by 2030, AP will aim to manage 30 parks measuring 30 million hectares across 11 biomes, significantly contributing to the vision of protecting 30% of Africa for nature.

Bazaruto Archipelago National Park

Mavuso Msimang says:

“There is a quiet and demonstrable transformation under way across the continent for protected areas, and that is because of the governments that are gaining confidence and trust in the African Parks model, and for progressive funders who are investing in in nature’s capital. We are not stopping. This is a journey I helped create, and it will continue long after me, and all of us. But in the meantime we will continue to do what we have always done. We will be persistent, we will be patient, and we will be polite, but with a ferocity knowing that this is the surest solution for any park in peril in Africa, and therefore for Africa’s wildlife, and always for Africa’s people. And that is a legacy of which I am most deeply proud.”

We are indeed blessed to have people of Mavuso Msimang and his African Parks colleagues’ calibre, dedicated to the protection of Africa’s abundant biodiversity. This is a very special annual report, full of information and beautifully presented, with amazing photography. You can download it by following this link.

Dr John Ledger is a past Director of the Endangered Wildlife Trust, now a consultant, writer and teacher on the environment, energy and wildlife; he is a columnist for the African Hunting Gazette. He lives in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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