This Earth Day, we wanted to share a story about one park's transformation, and how when nature is allowed to return, lies a better existence for all.
African Parks assumed management of Chinko in the Central African Republic in 2014 which had suffered from decades of poaching, civil war, and brutal ethnic violence. This 20,000 km2 park was overrun by armed herders, militarized poachers, and over a hundred thousand cattle. But we signed a 50-year mandate because what we saw in this forgotten place was possibility.
In 2014 only cattle could be seen from the air with not a sign of one single wild animal. But, in just three years since we began managing the park, buffalo, hartebeest, hippo, waterbuck and bushbuck were all just recently seen in one flight over the park. Our patrol units now have frequent sightings of Lord Derby eland, bongo and roan antelope and even elephants with calves have been spotted. Lions can be heard calling at night around headquarters, leopards and chimpanzees are being documented, and life is finding its way back into a core protected area larger than the size of Yellowstone that the Chinko staff have been able to keep free of cattle, creating a sanctuary for nature to return.
But not only are wildlife being drawn to this park, so too are humans. 2017 saw the arrival of over 300 Internally Displaced People finding refuge from militias who would have surely slaughtered them were it not for Chinko’s rangers. We were faced with a humanitarian crisis where people fled to the one pocket of security and where safety had been reclaimed – and that place was Chinko.
The Washington Post recently reported on Chinko being the one bright spot in the country in terms of governance and stability, protecting the region's wildlife but also offering the trappings of a working state, providing healthcare, education, law enforcement and even an economy.
We fund the salaries of dozens of local teachers and nurses who make visits to nearby communities, who previously had zero access to education or healthcare prior to us managing Chinko. We train our own employees in hygiene, money management and health. And, weekly markets have emerged, supplying and meeting the demands of Chinko’s 450-strong workforce resulting in a conservation-led economy in one of the world’s poorest countries.
African Parks was founded on the very premise that with effective management, degraded and even destroyed ecosystems could be restored, reaping dividends for both people and wildlife alike. It’s a hopeful notion, steeped in the belief of second-chances and in the tenacity and resilience of nature. Because fundamentally we believe, just as we have seen in Chinko, that in the wake of restoring wild functioning landscapes lies a better existence for mankind. And where nature is rehabilitated and restored, so too can our own humanity.
To help us continue our efforts, and expand our impact, please consider donating to help us protect vast, wild functioning ecosystems, for a brighter future for people and wildlife.