His Excellency Mr. Patrice Talon, President of Benin, joined David Bonderman, Founder of TPG capital and The Wildcat Foundation, and Peter Fearnhead, CEO of African Parks, in a moderated conversation with renowned journalist and CBS News Correspondent Lara Logan in New York City.

© Jane Feldman
From left to right: Benin Minister of Foreign Affairs Aurélien Agbenonci, CBS News Correspondent Lara Logan, H.E. President Patrice Talon of Benin, Mr. David Bonderman of Wildcat Foundation, and Mr. Peter Fearnhead CEO of African Parks

New York, NY: Conservation organization African Parks hosted an event at Africa House on Monday, September 24th, with His Excellency President Patrice Talon of Benin, David Bonderman of TPG Capital and The Wildcat Foundation, and Peter Fearnhead, CEO of African Parks, to discuss the role of Public-Private Partnerships for protected area management in Africa. In front of approximately 70 guests made up of government officials from Africa and the United Kingdom, philanthropists, business leaders, conservationists and media, and moderated by renowned journalist and CBS News Correspondent Lara Logan, the panellists engaged in an hour-long conversation about their experiences, motivations, challenges and solutions for conserving vast, wild ecosystems for people and wildlife. The conversation included the benefits of well-managed protected areas and how they can provide the opportunity to achieve multiple objectives ranging from improving governance, providing security for people and wildlife, preserving ecosystem services, and creating a conservation-led economy by contributing to employment and ensuring for sustainable resource utilisation.

“Biodiversity and natural assets are world goods – wealth that survives beyond generations” said H.E. President Talon. “While poverty compromises the existence of everything, including biodiversity, it should not be an excuse to degrade your environment”. President Talon went on to explain his ambitious country’s action plan “Revealing Benin” which his Government launched in December 2016. It includes 45 major projects across nine key sectors, with rehabilitating Benin’s Pendjari National Park as one of these projects as a means to revitalise the local wildlife and local economy to create a better existence for the surrounding communities. 

“If a National Park in Africa is not being managed, it is going to be lost” said Peter Fearnhead, CEO of African Parks. “What we are seeing with the Government of Benin’s commitment to conservation is more than just political will, it is political action. This is being backed by transformational, long-term and multi-year funding by a host of partners who have bought into our model of the full delegation of protected area management, where the outcomes are beneficial for not just wildlife, but for people too”. 

In May 2017, the Government of Benin and African Parks signed a long-term renewable partnership to rehabilitate Pendjari National Park, one of the largest remaining protected reserves in West and Central Africa. Located in the north-west ofBenin, Pendjari is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is part of the W-Arly-Pendjari (WAP) Complex, a triad of connected parks spanning Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger forming the largest remaining intact ecosystem in the whole of West Africa. The park also serves as a last refuge to the critically endangered West African Lion, and the cheetah, and harbours the largest remaining population of elephants in the region.  The ecosystem faces threats from poaching, demographic pressure and exponential resource erosion, but Pendjari’s restoration was made a priority by the Government which recognised that its decline would mean the loss of a significant national asset. Together, African Parks and the Government of Benin, who committed US$6M over five years at the start of the management agreement, set a goal of doubling the park’s wildlife populations over the course of a decade, developing responsible tourism and elevating the park’s profile as a destination, and ensuring conservation-led economic and social development for the benefit of the nation’s people. This was made even more of a reality when in January 2018, a US$23M partnership was announced to safeguard the park with key partners including The Wyss Foundation, National Geographic, The Wildcat Foundation and others. 

When asked how he has used philanthropy to achieve conservation impact, David Bonderman who set up The Wildcat Foundation to help with law enforcement, anti-poaching and prevent wildlife trafficking in Africa said “I see the allocation of financial resources as a means to be able to help focus actions in order to get tangible results. While Wildcat Foundation funds numerous efforts across the continent, I knew that when I met President Talon that we shared a similar vision, and that there was real action behind his words and that Benin’s natural resources were finally being seen as the valuable assets that they are”.

H.E. President Talon ended the evening by stating that “There is much about Benin that has yet to be shown to a global audience, and in protecting our natural assets – our forests and our wildlife - we are ensuring a legacy of sustainability while creating places worth visiting; and I look forward to revealing this, revealing Benin, to the world”. 

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