African Parks has announced a partnership with the National Geographic Society, the Wyss Foundation, and the government of Benin that includes more than $23 million in funds to secure and rehabilitate Benin's Pendjari National Park, one of the last remaining wild landscapes in West Africa.
A nongovernmental conservation organization that manages protected areas across Africa, African Parks assumed management of Pendjari, a World Heritage Site, in partnership with Benin last May. Earlier in the year, Hansjörg Wyss, a member of African Parks' board of directors, made a commitment to support parks currently under African Parks' management and help bring as many as five other parks into the portfolio. The National Geographic Society has committed $7.5 million over five years to complement a portion of Wyss's commitment.
The multiyear partnership will focus on protecting, restoring, and revitalizing Pendjari's landscape through scientific research, innovative technology, visually compelling storytelling, and increased operational effectiveness. To that end, African Parks will share its expertise in protected-area management with Pendjari officials, while National Geographic will complement that work with science-based exploration of the park; technology designed to monitor and protect the site; convenings focused on the development of a large-scale management plan; the creation of educational materials relevant to the community; and the production of visually compelling materials that support the case for long-term financing and protection of the park. Key supporters of the park include the Wildcat Foundation, which works to improve law enforcement and counter poaching, and the Elephant Crisis Fund and Lion Recovery Fund, both of which focus on species-related research and protection.
Located in northwestern Benin, Pendjari measures forty-eight hundred square kilometers and is home to the region's largest remaining population of elephants and the critically endangered West African lion, as well as cheetah, antelope, buffalo, and other species.
"Today's announcement is a testament to the power of partnerships," said National Geographic Society president and CEO Gary E. Knell. "At National Geographic, we strive each and every day to achieve a planet in balance. Combining forces with African Parks, the Wyss Foundation, and the government of Benin, we are capitalizing on the unique capabilities of each organization — including on-the-ground management, cutting-edge science and exploration, and storytelling prowess — to create an unprecedented model for conservation."
(Photo credit: Jonas van de Voorde)