May 16, 2018

Public-Private Partnerships Essential to Combat Wildlife Trafficking in Africa

Public-private partnerships in Africa are essential to combat the wildlife trafficking crisis, protect wildlife and habitats, promote regional security, and provide economic opportunities for local communities. On Wednesday, May 16th, ICCF hosted Peter Fearnhead, CEO of African Parks, on Capitol Hill to discuss with members of the U.S. Congressional International Conservation Caucus his organization’s successful model for public-private partnerships.

Governments in Africa, which often lack the resources and know-how to effectively manage their national parks and which have been unable to adequately protect these lands themselves, have given groups like African Parks long-term responsibility for key parks and protected areas. The African Parks model, contracting with governments over the long term to manage national parks and protected areas, is revitalizing important landscapes, restoring iconic species, and improving local welfare through tourism and other sustainable enterprises.

Mr. Fearnhead emphasized to ICCF partners and Members of Congress the necessity of such a long-term, sustainable model. “Conservation is a not a five-year commitment,” he said, “Conservation is a 100-year commitment.” The private sector, he says, sees great socio-economic development potential from well-managed protected areas and is invested in this model.

African Parks is currently responsible for 15 parks and protected areas, spanning more than 23 million acres, across nine African countries, a portfolio they hope to expand to 20 parks by 2020. To protect wildlife species and combat the growing wildlife trafficking crisis, Fearnhead said, African Parks employs over 1,000 park rangers, who in 2017 alone have arrested 555 poachers and would-be poachers, 282 of which have resulted in convictions.

In addition to efforts to restore and protect biodiversity, the African Parks model is helping realize the economic benefits that well-managed parks can provide, generating local buy-in for the long-term sustainability of important landscapes and iconic wildlife species. The income generated by these parks, Fearnhead said, directly benefits local communities living in and around a park. Over 2,100 local jobs are the direct result of revitalized protected lands under the African Parks model, including $56 million in local salaries in 2017.

Through private-sector management of natural resources and engagement with communities in and around parks and protected areas, public-private partnerships like this are proving to be extremely effective in protecting biodiversity in Africa. This is a model that is working and that, if empowered financially and politically, can play a vital role in the fight against wildlife trafficking and can save some of Africa’s most important landscapes and most iconic wildlife, for the benefit of both people and nature.

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