I read somewhere that all things can be mended, not with time as is often stated, but with intent. Between a global pandemic that has brought us to a virtual standstill, and a series of recent events that magnify how fractured our world is, having intent matters. In as much as the problems are numerous and complex, so too will be solutions. Twenty years ago, African Parks was created with the intention to be an African solution to Africa’s conservation challenges. Since our beginnings, we have stayed true to our mission – effectively managing and protecting national parks for the benefit of people and wildlife, because we know that what is not well-managed, will be lost.
Our model ensures that effectively managed parks serve as a nucleus for stability; that they become safe places where not only wildlife can thrive, but where people can enjoy their human rights. These parks deliver a host of ecological, socio-political and economic benefits for people living in and around these landscapes. They create jobs, provide education, and change lives. Our approach has been resilient over the years to the changing nature of the threats this continent has faced. But the true test of a great model is not just in tackling the threats that are known, it is in its resilience in dealing with things we could never have imagined.
This pandemic is having a profound social and economic impact on us all, and especially for rural communities. COVID-19, like MERS and SARS, comes from nature, but it is our human actions which unleashed it. The rise in habitat loss and exploitation of wildlife is undeniably linked to these epidemics; and so if there was ever a case for protecting nature, if we ever needed a reminder that our mission matters and that nature matters to people’s lives, it is now.
While what we are currently experiencing is unprecedented, I am confident that the African Parks model, our team, our community of supporters, and partners in Government and civil society, will withstand these extraordinary tests. I hope you enjoy reading through our Annual Report and seeing for yourself how our stories of hope, transformation and defying the odds from the last 20 years serve as a reminder as to what is possible with intention. And it is thanks to you, our bold and committed supporters that we have remained steadfast in changing the trajectory for protected areas in Africa. As challenging as things are and will get, together we are walking the right path in protecting nature and reclaiming a sustainable future for everyone.