I have always loved wild places

Letter from the President

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex

I have always been grateful for what wild places provide. Since my first trip to Africa as a young boy, I knew I would keep returning to this continent if I could, for its wildlife, for its people, and for its vast expanse. That is why I am so fortunate to have found African Parks and to have been asked to join them in 2018 as their President. I am hugely grateful for their clarity of purpose and am more motivated than ever to do all I can to advance the mission of protecting wild places, for wildlife, for people and for generations to come.

We are currently living through an extinction crisis, and now a global pandemic that has shaken us to our core and brought the world to a standstill. On the extinction crisis the science is clear: we have perhaps a decade to correct course before we lock in our fate. On this pandemic, while much is still unknown, some evidence suggests that the virus’ origins may be linked to our exploitation of nature. The gravity of these challenges is coming to light, but we must not be paralysed by them.

There are solutions that are actionable and that work, and the African Parks model is one of them. African Parks pioneered private-public partnerships as a mechanism for delivering resources and management expertise to some of Africa’s most embattled and vulnerable protected areas. These areas are essential for the well-being of local communities and in safeguarding our global climate, but only if they are protected and functioning properly.

From humble beginnings with just one 70,000 hectare park in 2003, African Parks today manages 17 parks in 11 countries, with over 13.3 million hectares under strong, effective and inclusive conservation management – and we are not stopping here. The parks stretch from rain forests to deserts, and in 2017 we began managing the first marine national park – Bazaruto Archipelago in Mozambique. Last March we found ourselves on the frontline of a devastating weather-related crisis when Cyclone Idai hit the coast. Homes were destroyed, people were displaced, there were cholera outbreaks, and lives were lost. But our Rangers were first in, transporting doctors and medical supplies and delivering food to those in need the most, even before international relief agencies could arrive. It was a stark reminder of how these parks are positioned and the role they play as anchors of stability, providing essential services during our most troubling times, including this global pandemic.

What I see in the African Parks model is exactly what conservation should be about – putting people at the heart of the solution. African Parks is ensuring that the protected areas under our management directly benefit surrounding communities through security, education, jobs, and investments made in local services and enterprises that can stimulate conservation-led economies. Conservation can only be sustained when people living closest to nature are invested in its preservation.

Since becoming a father, I feel the pressure is even greater to ensure we can give our children the future they deserve, a future that hasn’t been taken from them, and a future full of possibility and opportunity.

I want us all to be able to tell our children that yes, we saw this coming, and with the determination and help from an extraordinary group of committed individuals, we did what was needed to restore these essential ecosystems.

To all of our African Parks community, stay safe, stay well. Thank you for your continued support.