How African Parks came to manage 15 conservancies in nine countries
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.