By Kaden Pradhan
London, United Kingdom
The Rob and Melani Walton Foundation have pledged a colossal $100 million to the non-profit organization African Parks, the largest contribution ever towards the protection of African conservation areas.
The charity announced the donation early in September, expressing their gratitude for the “transformational” gift.
Over the next five years, $75,000,000 will be allocated to “the largest endowment gift in African Parks’ history,” whilst the other $25,000,000 will support existing parkland. With the donation, African Parks hopes to double the land it manages, from almost 15 to 30 million hectares by 2030. The money will help preserve a significant portion of Africa’s biodiversity, allow the charity to work more closely with local communities, and ensure reliable funding in the future.
African Parks was established in 2000, in response to the rapid decline in conservation areas in Africa because of poor management and funding. It is a holistic organization that focuses on the economic growth of local communities and the alleviation of poverty, such that parkland can remain socially and ecologically sustainable in the future. 98% of African Parks personnel are from local areas. More than 100,000 children in Africa are supported by schools managed by the organization.
The charity also employs one thousand Rangers that patrol its parks in order to prevent poaching and ensure that the wildlife are safe and secure. This has been hugely successful, with illegal hunting almost eliminated and over 80% of vital flora and fauna on the rise. As such, it is considered by many to be worthy of the vast donation.
Rob and Melani Walton, the people behind the donation, have supported sustainability and conservation efforts globally for years and had been partners of African Parks for many years before the pledge. Following the donation, Mr. Walton stated: “The impacts of the climate crisis are undeniable, and we must act swiftly and boldly to protect communities so that people and nature can thrive together. In Africa, part of the solution is conserving more park lands to protect biodiversity and ensure communities receive the health and economic benefits these areas can provide when well-managed.”
In response, the CEO of African Parks, Peter Fearnhead said, “Rob and Melani Walton’s commitment is uniquely visionary in providing a source of stable long-term funding that will contribute enduring protection for some of the most biodiverse, threatened landscapes on the planet. This could not come at a more important time, when investment in intact protected areas is urgently needed to address biodiversity loss, mitigate climate change, preserve invaluable ecosystem services, and create sustainable economic opportunities for people. This extraordinary gift will help to realise our vision of protecting vast ecosystems and their ecological functions for humanity in perpetuity.”
At this crucial time when the entire natural world is under increasing threat from climate change and anthropization, this pledge is welcome news to people around the globe. Perhaps, ultimately, it is financial investment which is the most needed and most lacking factor to help future conservation.