CAR Government and African Parks Sign New Agreement for Chinko, Protecting One of Central Africa’s Largest Conservation Areas
Bangui, CAR: The Government of the Central African Republic (CAR) and conservation non-profit African Parks have recently signed a new 25-year public-private partnership (PPP) agreement for Chinko. This mandate aims to expand the area under protection, incorporating adjacent corridors of land around Chinko to see a total 5.5 million hectares in south-eastern CAR come under African Parks’ management. More than safeguarding biodiversity, the conservation of these crucial habitats sustains natural resources and supports stability to enhance the lives of the communities who live and subsist in the area.
The agreement contributes to increasing the long-term connectivity of the landscape, linking Chinko geographically with the existing Yata-Ngaya and Zémongo Faunal Reserves and the André-Felix National Park. Combined, these areas have the potential to be the largest continuous protected wilderness in Africa at eight million hectares in extent, and with two major perennial rivers form one of the most pristine freshwater systems.
“Our public-private partnership with African Parks builds on a relationship forged in 2014, which has already helped to transform Chinko” said His Excellency Amit Idriss the Minister of Water, Forestry, Hunting and Fishing (MEFCP). “This new agreement allows us to increase the impact being made through good governance, demonstrating the value of partnerships in helping to secure a landscape, enabling stability to return, biodiversity to recover, and people to benefit from sustainable development”.
Despite being located in one of the most conflict-prone regions of the continent, Chinko has extremely high levels of biodiversity as one of the only areas in the world that houses both savannah and rainforest species. It is the last refuge for African wild dogs in Central-West-Africa and the country’s stronghold for Eastern chimpanzees, all four species of African pangolins, giant elands, elephants and 24 species of carnivore ranging from Northern lions to golden cats. Unfortunately, prior to embarking on this ambitious conservation project, key mammal populations in Chinko had declined by up to 95% due to poaching and natural resource exploitation compounded by increasing transhumance, the seasonal inundation of hundreds of thousands of cattle led by armed herders from Sudan which fuelled conflict with local communities.
In 2014, African Parks signed a Memorandum of Understanding to manage Chinko and to restore safety for people and wildlife. “Chinko is one of the most optimistic conservation stories emerging from Central Africa. This new agreement with the CAR Government reflects the results achieved together over the past six years in reducing threats and creating opportunities for recovery” said African Parks’ CEO Peter Fearnhead. “It shows that even in complex places it is possible to build a better, more secure future for people and wildlife by working with Government, communities and funding partners. As we face a global health crisis, this reminds us that we can build resilience in these ecosystems, in these places that deliver clean air and water, food security, carbon sequestration, jobs, education and healthcare to support the bedrocks of human wellbeing”.
Despite persistent challenges, today local people and wildlife are finding refuge in Chinko. Key threats have been largely kept out of the park and wildlife are not only stabilising in number but are on the rise. At times serving as a lifeline of security for surrounding communities, providing safe harbour to 380 Internally Displaced Persons during a humanitarian crisis in 2017, the park has also played a pivotal role in improving the lives of thousands of people. It is the region’s largest employer and funds salaries of teachers, doctors and nurses, giving rise to markets and a conservation-led economy. All of this is only possible because of the vital support of the European Union, US Agency for International Development, US Department of State, Elephant Crisis Fund, the People’s Postcode Lottery and a range of private donors.
“The sheer scale of this landscape, its headwaters, its millions of hectares of unbroken tropical forest and wooded savannah make it one of the most important conservation areas in Africa” said National Geographic Explorer in Residence and Conservationist for Wildlife Conservation Society J. Michael Fay, who completed a six-week expedition to document the region in 2017. “There are very few intact places of this magnitude left on Earth where such a unique variety of species can be found. This is a singular opportunity to secure significant natural resources and ensure sustainability in the region, benefiting not only the Central African Republic but the world as a whole”. Involved in the early establishment and management of Chinko, Michael Fay was one of several who were instrumental in supporting the project and in liaising with the Government of CAR to achieve this positive outcome.
About African Parks: African Parks is a non-profit conservation organisation that takes on the complete responsibility for the rehabilitation and long-term management of national parks in partnership with governments and local communities. With the largest counter-poaching force and the most amount of area under protection for any one NGO in Africa, African Parks manages 17 national parks and protected areas in 11 countries covering 13.3 million hectares in Angola, Benin, Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. For more information visit www.africanparks.org, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook