|Dear ATCNews Readers,
It is with great pleasure that I get to kick off 2020 with this announcement that Iona National Park in Angola is now part of the portfolio of parks under management. Today we had a signing ceremony and the official handover with the Government of Angola who have entrusted Iona into our care. This is the 17th park, and the first within Angola, to fall under the management of African Parks. Iona is one of the largest national parks in the country covering 15,200 km2 and is contiguous with the Skeleton Coast National Park in Namibia, making up one of the largest trans-frontier conservation areas (TFCA) in the world.
This is a visionary step for conservation in Angola, and we are exceptionally proud to be partnering with the Government to manage this stunning national asset. Situated in the Namib desert in the south-west corner of Angola, with a 160-km shoreline abutting the Atlantic Ocean, Iona is one of Africa’s sublime wilderness areas with rich terrestrial and marine ecosystems.
Historically, the park was inhabited by rhinos and elephants, but both species have become locally extinct and other wildlife numbers have been severely depleted. Unregulated human activities including poaching and the grazing of livestock have placed considerable pressure on its ecosystems. Together with the Government, we will work closely with local communities, implement law enforcement, restore wildlife, and position the park as a key destination, to ensure the long-term ecological, social and economic sustainability of Iona. Our shared vision is that Iona will support healthy terrestrial and marine ecosystems to benefit Angola’s people and wildlife long into the future.
This could not have come at a better time, as this year, 2020, is the 20th Anniversary of African Parks since our founding in 2000. It is also the year we anticipate reaching 20 parks under our management. With Iona joining our portfolio, we now manage 17 parks in 11 countries, ensuring that 13.5 million hectares are being protected and conserved for generations to come. With more than three parks in the pipeline, our goal of 20 parks by the close of 2020 is likely. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all our Government partners, and our steadfast supporters who are walking this road with us, helping to realize hope in the form of providing safe places, bringing back species, improving livelihoods, securing vast functioning ecosystems, and changing the fate for so many people across Africa. We could not do this without you.