While Africa supports an extraordinary network of protected areas, the majority are too small and unconnected, making it difficult for them to support viable populations of wildlife and sustain Africa’s unique ecosystems.
These designated protected areas vary from strictly protected conservation areas, like national parks, to multiple use conservation areas, such as community conservancies.
Although the total area under protection has nearly doubled in the last five decades, some of Africa’s most prized national parks and game reserves have been degazetted or downsized. Expanding parks and working with communities to set aside land for conservation ensures that wildlife has a safe place to roam.
While Africa hosts an impressive network of protected areas, in general, they are too small and not connected, which puts wildlife at risk as it travels from park to park.
Protected areas must be strategically expanded — and new protected areas created where possible — to ensure the long-term viability of Africa’s wildlife and ecosystem services.
To wildlife, the concept of a national park boundary does not exist. Species frequently travel in and out of protected areas, oftentimes coming into contact with humans. When possible, AWF works with government authorities to strategically expand parks that have become too small for the wildlife they contain.
In Rwanda AWF, with support from the Annenberg Foundation, expanded Volcanoes National Park by 27.8 hectares, making history with the first addition of acreage to the protected area in over 30 years. The additional land, acquired from a private entity, helps the Rwandan Government secure more space for the endangered mountain gorilla as growing numbers came face-to-face with neighboring communities in the Virunga massif. Rwanda has demonstrated to the world that conservation can support economic development. Volcanoes National Park provides employment and substantial revenue to rural communities. The park expansion will ensure that this economic and social support is sustained in the long term.
Limiting human activities that drive habitat fragmentation ensures that landscapes stay intact and ecological services are maintained. AWF supports communities and private landowners to set aside land for conservation through land use plans, conservancies and environmental agreements with landowners to set aside their land for conservation.
AWF has supported communities to create conservation areas in Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Uganda.
For example, in southern Kenya's Amboseli ecosystem, AWF has established six communally owned conservation areas, securing part of the strategic wildlife corridors connecting the Amboseli, Chyulu, and Tsavo National Parks. After land use and tenure assessments, as well as consulting with community members, AWF determined that a Payment for Ecosystem Service mechanism through a lease program was the most appropriate mechanism to deliver conservation and economic development benefits.
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