How African Parks came to man­age 15 con­ser­van­cies in nine coun­tries

The East African - - OUTLOOK -

By PAULINE BAX

When Sarah Hall ar­rived to run Rwanda’s old­est na­tional park in 2010, its rangers could barely cope with poach­ers who were trap­ping hip­pos in snares for food. The rhi­nos had van­ished. The lions had been wiped out.

Last year, the reserve drew more than 37,000 vis­i­tors from Rwanda and abroad, tourists ea­ger to ob­serve such wildlife favourites as 22 lions and 18 black rhi­nos flown in from South Africa.

“It feels like dif­fer­ent place from nine years ago,” said Ms Hall, who man­ages Akagera Park to­gether with her hus­band, as she stood near a fenced en­clo­sure hold­ing mo­tor­bikes seized from poach­ers and hun­dreds of rusty snares.

Akagera is one of the big­gest suc­cess sto­ries of African Parks, an un­usual not-for-profit com­pany that has been man­dated by nine gov­ern­ments in Africa to take over com­plete man­age­ment of some of their re­serves. On a con­ti­nent where wildlife con­ser­va­tion is of­ten a low pri­or­ity, African Parks is the only non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tion to run na­tional parks. It over­sees more than 10 mil­lion hectares in some of the most in­ac­ces­si­ble places, from the law­less Cen­tral African Repub­lic to the flood­plains in the far west of Zam­bia.

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