African Parks (AP) has recently been the subject of a book by Dutch author Olivier van Beemen, which makes a number of allegations about our organisation and the protected areas we manage. Given that the book is replete with hundreds of factual inaccuracies and a similar number of misleading statements, which in our view reflect the author’s own prejudices, we believe that the book is neither balanced nor fair.

For conclusions to be drawn, we believe that they need to be based on the full set of factually correct information, with the necessary context, and without prejudice. Our attempt to correct even the most erroneous conclusions in the book, using facts and data, found virtually no audience with the author and publisher. Multiple individuals interviewed by the author have protested the author’s biased intent, and one widely referenced interviewee has retracted his contributions due to misrepresentation of his views.

We therefore completely distance ourselves from this book. In our view, it represents a missed opportunity to honestly discuss and advance the conversation around the challenges and complexities of biodiversity conservation in Africa.

Several of the conclusions drawn by the author, are addressed below.

Human Rights

The book refers to several allegations of human rights abuses. We have thoroughly reviewed every allegation made by Van Beemen, including going through case files and reports. While each allegation is taken seriously, it is important to note that the author has:

- Presented cases of abuse that, if they occurred, happened prior to AP involvement, which he does not make clear;

- Presented cases that, if they occurred, happened at the hands of national police or other state agencies, which he does not make clear; 

- Presented allegations made by individuals whose accounts differ substantially from official statements, witness accounts, and who were oftentimes criminally prosecuted for the crimes they committed;

- Presented allegations made by former employees whose employment was terminated for gross misconduct.

Our initial assessment highlighted three cases that warrant further follow up, which is underway. African Parks has a zero-tolerance approach towards abuse of any kind, and we are committed to protecting and safeguarding people’s human rights. The scope of our conservation law enforcement is limited by way of our agreements with governments, to the execution of the national wildlife acts. Our approach and standards are codified in our Standard Operating Procedures and Codes of Conduct. We have multiple safeguards in place designed to prevent potential abuses, and to detect and address them if they do occur. These include regular human rights training, stringent reporting requirements, grievance mechanisms, law enforcement audits and the ability to dismiss staff who violate our codes of conduct or national laws, either through disciplinary procedures or legal process.

Despite our best efforts, the scale of the organisation and the complexity of the areas in which we work can unfortunately still result in incidents occurring. We deeply regret any violations that may have occurred, or still may occur, in our name. We have a duty to remain vigilant, not to be complacent, and to constantly work towards improving our procedures to prevent potential abuses.


The author asserts that African Parks has poor conservation results. In his book Van Beemen compares selective data lifted from African Parks’ annual reports (including from captions of photos) to draw his own conclusions about our wildlife results. This is impossible and irresponsible to do - conclusions can only be drawn when evaluating proper datasets from the scientific survey reports. The data from scientific surveys show that in projects managed by African Parks, 84% of 25 key species have either increased or stabilized. 8% of species show initial decline but increase over past 3 surveys. 4% shows initial decline, but stabilization over past 3 surveys. 4% i.e. a single species, shows decline over past 3 surveys. African Parks regularly shares data sets with the IUCN specialist groups for integrity checks.

Despite the author’s professed passion for conservation, he appears to have little appreciation for the many challenges that the people and wildlife of Africa are facing - in terms of catastrophic biodiversity loss, climate change, and environmental degradation, all of which impact on local people. Indeed, the author seems to imply, based on a handful of conversations that simply allowing unfettered, illegal resource use would somehow be a better option for local people, rather than working to use conservation as a tool for sustainable development. The question of what becomes of communities if the resources they depend on are exploited beyond recovery is never asked, let alone answered.

Looking ahead

African Parks is an African non-profit organization, founded and headquartered in Africa, and managed, and governed by a diverse team made up of predominantly African people (97% of our staff are nationals from the countries we work in). Our aim is, and always has been, to sustainably manage critically important natural systems for the benefit of people, through holistic and long-term management partnerships with governments and local communities. The past 20 years have been and will continue to be a learning process for us. Are there aspects of our work that can be improved and done better? Of course there are. Nothing about protected area management is easy, particularly in some of the challenging and remote areas that we work in. However, we are unwavering in our efforts to constantly improve how we work, including continually refining our strategies, strengthening our standard operating procedures, undertaking ongoing capacity development, conducting third party audits and always being accountable for our actions.

It is our firm belief that the conservation of Africa’s astonishing biodiversity and natural spaces does not need to work in competition with the needs of the people and communities who live here. In fact the opposite is true. Effective conservation helps to nurture sustainable development and brings benefits for people across the continent. Working closely with local communities and governments has been key to all our achievements to date, and remains at the heart of everything African Parks does.