Couple Gives $100 Million to Conservation of 57,000 Square Miles of African Protected Areas

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A South Africa-based nonprofit conservation group that manages 19 protected areas on the continent has secured a donation of $100,000,000.

The grant from the Rob and Melani Walton Foundation was pledged to African Parks, which manages parks in eleven African countries

One of the largest contributions ever made to conservation in Africa, this commitment will help to expand African Parks’ reach, preserving a significant portion of Africa’s biodiversity for the long-term benefit of local people and the animals.

Founded in 2000, African Parks takes on the long-term management of protected areas in partnership with governments to protect wildlife, restore landscapes, and ensure sustainable livelihoods for surrounding communities. Currently managing 19 parks measuring almost 57,000 square-miles (14.7m hectares), they take on the complete responsibility and are accountable for all aspects of protected area management, including law enforcement, community development, sustainable financing, infrastructure, and overall governance.

With more than 3,200 full-time staff, 98% of whom are from local communities, and thousands of part-time staff, African Parks has become the largest employer in many regions in which they work. Poaching has been curtailed and practically eliminated in most of the parks under their management, where more than 80% of key wildlife populations are on the rise.

In the last year alone, 110,000 people received healthcare from the hospitals and mobile clinics they support, and over 100,000 children had access to education provided by the schools they support around the parks. Their goal is to directly manage 30 parks measuring over 30 million hectares by 2030. This would bolster African governments’ efforts to help reach the global target of protecting 30% of the planet for nature.

Rob and Melani Walton are longtime supporters of sustainability and conservation efforts around the globe and have been invaluable partners to African Parks since its inception. “As global citizens, we have a responsibility to protect our planet and the people and species that create our dynamic, fragile ecosystems. We are honored to continue to work alongside African Parks, governments across the continent, and community leaders in support of their sustainability goals,” said Melani Walton of the Rob and Melani Walton Foundation, an African Parks Board Member.

The $100M commitment will be allocated over the next five years, with $75M going to the creation of an endowment, which ensures long-term funding. The remaining $25M will go to sustaining parks under African Parks’ management that need it the most. A portion of these funds will be used for five-year matching grants in conjunction with the Legacy Landscapes Fund—to both Iona National Park in Angola and to Odzala-Kokoua National Park in the Republic of Congo, with an additional $10M for each park over the subsequent 10 years.

“This could not come at a more important time… providing a source of stable long-term funding that will contribute enduring protection for some of the most biodiverse, threatened landscapes on the planet,” said African Parks CEO Peter Fearnhead.

“This extraordinary gift will help to realize our vision of protecting vast ecosystems and their ecological functions for humanity in perpetuity.”

Fearnhead said the gift was the largest-ever to its endowment, following a 2017 donation of $65 million from the Wyss Foundation to support several parks.

With the new funding, African Parks will be able to continue to increase their impact by bringing more parks under management, continue to reduce poaching, increase wildlife populations, and improve livelihoods for hundreds of thousands of people across Africa.