More than USD1 billion per year needed to secure Africa’s protected areas with lions

@petelindseyafrica

Africa’s PAs are facing severe budget deficits, the PAs with lions suffering annual shortfalls of USD1-2 billion annually. This means that without decisive and urgent action to provide elevated support, lions and other wildlife are likely to suffer severe ongoing declines in abundance and distribution, even within the continent’s parks and reserves. As PAs become depleted, they become incapable of delivering economic returns to the host countries and thus become more vulnerable to political pressure for reallocation of land for other purposes. However, if the world steps up to the plate and tackles the challenge posed by under-funding of Africa’s PAs, it could help secure Africa’s lions and a host of other wildlife species. Africa’s PAs represent a global asset and one of the continents foremost comparative advantages. The continent’s iconic parks and reserves have potential to yield essential benefits for people and economies in perpetuity and to provide sustained environmental services for humanity. We have reached a fork in the road and it is time for the world to decide if Africa’s iconic parks and reserves are worth fighting for. 

Key points: 

· Lions have suffered severe declines in both numbers and distribution and now occupy just 8% of their historic range. 

· Though a significant proportion of remaining lion range occurs in protected areas (PAs) – the future security of the species depends on how well those areas are managed.

· We embarked on a major research effort involving Africa’s PAs from a lion conservation perspective.

· This showed that lions are faring poorly in the majority of PAs in which they occur, occurring at >50% of their potential numbers in <1/3 of PAs. 

· A primary cause for this is under-funding of PAs which prevents managers from tackling human threats effectively.

· We assessed the funding of Africa’s PAs and the findings were disturbing.

· The PAs in which lions occur in Africa are running at budget deficits totally USD1-2 billion per year.

· The average funding in the ~80-90% of PAs running at a budget deficit is just 10-20% of what is needed. 

· This means that without a major increase in funding, we can expect severe ongoing declines in lions and other wildlife species even inside Africa’s parks and reserves. 

· As PAs become depleted, they become unable to fulfil their potential to contribute economically and thus become at risk of being degazetted and the land reallocated for other land uses. 

· There is thus an urgent need for elevated funding from both the international community and for many African countries to invest more in their natural assets.

· On the plus side – the budget deficits on a country-by-country basis are modest in geopolitical terms. 

· Furthermore, investing in PAs can be a very good thing for people and economies and can contribute to job creation, rural development, economic growth and economic diversification via tourism industry development.

· In some cases, securing PAs can contribute materially to national and regional security. 

· In addition, Africa’s PAs help to secure environmental services that are essential for human welfare, such as the protection of watersheds and storage of carbon. 

· There is thus a case for investing development funding as well as the meagre available conservation funding in Africa’s PAs. 

· If the word does step up to the plate, a globally priceless asset can be secured with potential to provide indefinite benefits to Africa’s people and economies.

· If the world does not meet this challenge, many African countries risk losing their lions and other wildlife species before ever really having the chance to benefit from them.

@petelindseyafrica

Africa’s PAs and conservation of the King of the Beasts

Lions in steep decline 

Lion numbers have shrunk by 43% in the last 21 years and now occupy just 8% of their historic range. Numbering 20,000-25,000 individuals, there are now fewer lions than there are rhinos. Mercifully, a significant proportion of lion range (approximately 460,000 square miles) falls within protected areas – but the future security of the species depends on how effectively these areas are managed. Panthera (a big cat conservation NGO) and colleagues set about a major study to investigate the status of lions in Africa’s PAs and prospects for future conservation of the species. 

Researching Africa’s protected areas through a lion-conservation lens  

In the first part of the study, the research team looked at how Africa’s PAs are performing from a lion conservation perspective. This showed that a large and growing proportion of PAs are underperforming:  less than 1/3 of PAs have lion populations at 50% or more of their carrying capacity. Prey populations are faring a bit better, but not by much. The research team then looked at the factors that influenced the effectiveness of PAs for lions and found that management budgets were one of the most important determinants of success. 

With these findings in mind, the research team set about trying to assess the budget deficits facing protected areas in lion range. This was a massive undertaking - as they had to map the budgets of both state wildlife authorities and donors across hundreds of PAs. Through a process of direct communications with wildlife authorities and donors, surveys with PA managers and scouring the literature, they gradually pieced together by far the most comprehensive assessment yet of conservation finance related to PAs in Africa. This gave the team a clear idea of the resources available for the management of PAs in lion range. The next step was to figure out what funding is needed to manage PAs effectively. 

This they did in three ways, to produce a range of estimates. First, they used an estimate derived by famed lion biologist Craig Packer. Packer estimated that USD2,000/km2 is required to manage lions to at least 50% of their carrying capacity in unfenced reserves. Secondly, they undertook extensive modelling to look at the relationship between budgets and conservation outcomes for lions. This exercise indicated that lions were generally at or over 50% of carrying capacity where management budgets exceeded USD1,270/km2. Last, they looked at the typical management budgets of the NGO African Parks. African parks (/www.africanparks.org/) have been given the mandate to manage number of PAs in Africa by African governments and have achieved spectacular successes. Their average budget equates to USD978/km2. Using these estimates, we derived an estimate of the funding shortfalls for PAs from the perspective of lion conservation. 

Sobering findings 

This exercise was a sobering one. The research team’s estimates indicated that annual budget deficits for PAs in lion range are in the order of USD1-2 billion per annum. Perhaps most scarily, around 90% of PAs in lion range are running at a deficit, and among those, the average management budget was just 10% or so of what is needed for effective management. The meaning of this is clear: if funding for PA management in Africa is not increased significantly and quickly, we can expect to see continued catastrophic declines in lion and other wildlife numbers in many countries, even inside PAs. In modern Africa, if wildlife and habitats are not actively protected, they invariably fall foul of human pressures, ranging from poaching, illegal livestock incursions, land grabs, illegal logging and mining. 

There are reasons for hope

However, dire as this situation is, there are reasons for hope. Firstly, Africa’s PAs represent an incredible resource for lion conservation. Many African countries have set aside vast acreages as parks and reserves, and in the case of some southern and East African nations, these PAs comprise a far greater proportion of their land area than the global average. If these PAs were managed properly they could support 3-4x the current total wild lion population. Lions are a resilient species and if they, their prey and their habitats are sufficiently protected, their numbers can recover rapidly. Additionally, while the budget deficit facing Africa’s PAs may seem insurmountable, when considered on a country by country level, the amounts seem manageable – and indeed are trivial in geopolitical terms. For example, the estimated budget deficit in Zimbabwe is just USD40 million per year, the price of a single second-rate English Premier League football player. There are strong reasons for Africa and the world at large to make these investments. Beyond their value for the conservation of lions and biodiversity, Africa’s PAs have potential to benefit people and economies to a great extent.

Investing in PAs can be good for people and economies

Africa’s iconic wildlife represents a true comparative advantage for the continent relative to the rest of the world. No other continent comes close to Africa in terms of the sheer abundance and diversity of charismatic mega-fauna. Justifiably therefore, Africa’s wildlife is increasingly a source of pride for many Africans. Africa’s spectacular PAs are attracting ever increasing numbers of tourists to the continent and the tourism industry in Africa is already worth USD34 billion per annum. Furthermore, tourism is one of the fastest growing industries in the world - and as demand for wildlife increases and the supply of wildlife dwindles across the world, the potential value of tourism for African countries will increase accordingly. At the moment, African wildlife-based tourism receipts are relatively concentrated around a relatively limited collection of PAs in East and southern Africa. However, investment in PA rehabilitation can help develop new tourism-nodes. At the moment, African wildlife-based tourism receipts are relatively concentrated around a relatively limited collection of PAs in East and southern Africa. However, investment in PA rehabilitation can help develop new tourism-nodes. For example, following investment in the management of Akagera National Park, African Parks managed to increase tourist arrivals from 10,000 per year in 2010 to 37,000 in 2017 (African Parks 2017).  

Many African economies are not sufficiently diversified and are overly reliant on commodities and agriculture, both of which are prone to volatility. Tourism can diversify economies and drive economic growth and job creation in rural areas where few other economic opportunities exist. However, the value of PAs is not just limited to tourism. In Central African Republic, the operations of African Parks in the Chinko wildlife area are the largest employer in the country outside of Bangui, and the NGO is by far the largest ta payer in the eastern part of the country (African Parks 2016). PAs also provide crucial environmental services, all of which are threatened if degradation is allowed to proceed. For example, PAs are essential for protecting watersheds and for securing fresh water supplies some places, and also act as massive carbon sinks. For example, the Chyulu Hills NP in Kenya provides a key fresh water supply for the coastal city of Mombasa. 

In some contexts, securing PAs can make a significant difference to the national security of the countries involved, especially given that parks and reserves are often situated along national borders. Stark evidence of this ‘security dividend’ is provided by the work of the NGO African Parks in Democratic Republic and Central African Republic. There, AP’s anti-poaching efforts have ‘safe zones’ that have had the unintended consequence of attracting large numbers of refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) from landscapes otherwise affected by conflict. At Garamba National Park, for example, 1,000 refugees from South Sudan were provided with medical treatment and food in 2016 (African Parks 2016), and 2017 saw the arrival of 380 internally displaced people to the Chinko wildlife area (African Parks 2016, 2017).

The benefits of supporting the management of Africa’s PAs thus go far beyond the issue of biodiversity conservation and solidly into the realm of human well-being. There is thus a case for investing development funding in addition to the meagre conservation support provided to the continent. Africa receives USD51-billion of development aid each year, which is orders of magnitude more the modest sum provided for wildlife conservation. Investment of a small portion of that funding to securing the continent’s PAs would be transformational both for wildlife, but also for the continent’s tourism industry. Such investments could yield genuine sustainable rural development in parts of the continent and also help the continent grow resilience to climate change by reducing reliance on rain-fed agriculture.

The need for the developed world to step up 

Developed nations committed USD2 billion towards conservation efforts in developing countries at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, but for many years never came close to fulfilling this pledge. Many people in the developed world derive significant pleasure from knowledge of the mere existence of charismatic species such as lions and elephants, and also benefit from opportunities to visit Africa to view these animals in the wild. However, Africa bears the costs of their conservation. Many African countries bear a greater burden of PAs than other parts of the world, when considered in terms of the size of PAs relative to their economic means to protect them. In addition, the opportunity costs of setting aside vast wilderness areas in Africa are growing sharply as human populations expand. Significantly, impoverished African farmers bear direct costs associated with living with species such as elephants and lions, due to the threats posed to their crops and livestock. Ultimately, Africa’s PAs and charismatic wildlife are a global asset, and we need to find mechanisms to ensure that the world at large helps to cover the costs of protecting them. 

Innovative financing mechanisms are needed – such as approaches that provide African countries with debt-alleviation in exchange for setting aside and managing land as PAs, or by setting up frameworks to allow companies in developed countries to pay development offsets by investing in Africa’s wilderness areas. Steps are also needed to capture the willingness of the world’s philanthropists to pay for conservation. The Lion Recovery Fund (www.lionrecoveryfund.org) represents one such effort (see Box 1 below). A joint initiative of Wildlife Conservation Network and the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, the LRF is set up such that 100% of donations received are reinvested in conservation lion efforts in Africa, many of which are focused on improving the management of PAs. 

Encouraging African countries to invest more in their natural assets

As important as support from the international community is, the most direct way of ensuring that Africa’s PAs fulfil their potential is for African countries to invest more in their natural assets. Just a handful of African countries invest significantly in their PA networks, and some of them invest less than 5% of what is needed for effective management. Unless such countries take steps to significantly bolster the protection and management of their PAs, they run the risk of losing their wildlife before ever really having chance to benefit from it. While we recognise the difficult choices faced by poor countries with an array of competing budgetary needs, their PAs represent assets that could yield significant benefits in the long term if looked after. We urge African countries to see expenditure on their PA networks as an investment in their assets, rather than a cost. Indeed, the countries that do take the decision to invest sufficiently in their parks and reserves are likely to recognise their abundant wildlife as a source of national pride, and benefit handsomely in future as demand for wildlife-based tourism continues to rise and supplies of wildlife around the world dwindle. Conversely, those that do not invest sufficiently are likely to regret the decision in future as their tourism industries are left behind. 

Making better use of existing funding 

As well as elevated funding, it is also crucial to make sure that existing funding is better spent and that steps are taken to ensure high quality management of PAs. One way of improving the management of under-resourced PAs is through long-term partnerships between state wildlife authorities and conservation NGOs. A growing array and diversity of such partnerships are arising in Africa, and in some cases have yielded spectacular results. Well publicised examples include dramatic recoveries of wildlife in parks such as Akagera (Rwanda), Gonarezhou (Zimbabwe), Gorongosa (Mozambique), Grumeti (Tanzania) and Majete (Malawi), achieved via partnerships with NGOs such as African Parks, Frankfurt Zoological Society, Singita-Grumeti Fund, Carr Foundation and the respective wildlife authorities. The Big Cat Conservation Group Panthera, who commissioned this research, are also engaging more and more in the PA-support space in Africa as a means of promoting the conservation of cheetahs, leopards and lions. For example, they have established an ambitious project to provide support for management of the massive (30,000 square mile) Luengue-Luiana National Park in Angola. 

Conclusions 

Africa’s PAs are facing severe budget deficits, the PAs with lions suffering annual shortfalls of USD1-2 billion annually. This means that without decisive and urgent action to provide elevated support, lions and other wildlife are likely to suffer severe ongoing declines in abundance and distribution, even within the continent’s parks and reserves. As PAs become depleted, they become incapable of delivering economic returns to the host countries and thus become more vulnerable to political pressure for reallocation of land for other purposes. However, if the world steps up to the plate and tackles the challenge posed by under-funding of Africa’s PAs, it could help secure Africa’s lions and a host of other wildlife species. Africa’s PAs represent a global asset and one of the continents foremost comparative advantages. The continent’s iconic parks and reserves have potential to yield essential benefits for people and economies in perpetuity and to provide sustained environmental services for humanity. We have reached a fork in the road and it is time for the world to decide if Africa’s iconic parks and reserves are worth fighting for. 

Full article available here >

This research was led by a Peter Lindsey, Jennifer Miller and Lisanne Petracca in collaboration with a team of scientists.

@petelindseyafrica

Since the Lion Recovery Fund was initiated in 2017, a total of 28 grants have been issued to 20 different conservation groups, working in 14 different countries. Many of these grants have been for projects designed to improve the management of Africa’s PAs. This support has helped to improve the management of parks in countries suffering the most acute under-funding, such as Angola, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, and South Sudan. The strategy is to invest in three scenarios: ‘Retain’; ‘Recover’; and Rescue. ‘Retain’ speaks to investing in the PAs that house the largest lion populations to make sure they remain strongholds for the species. For example, LRF recently provided a grant to Frankfurt Zoological Society to help them work with the authorities to tackle threats such as snaring for bushmeat. ‘Recover’ involves investing in PAs that have become depleted, to allow populations of lions and their prey recover to meet their potential. An example includes LRF’s support for Panthera in the vast Kafue National Park in Zambia, to bolster their efforts to tackle poaching for bushmeat, which results in the loss of lion prey if left unchecked. ‘Rescue’ speaks to efforts to invest in PAs in countries where lions are most at risk of going locally extinct. For example, LRF has provided support to projects at sites containing three of the four remaining populations of Critically Endangered West African lions. The LRF reinvests 100% of dollars raised for lion conservation, taking off zero overheads. The LRF goal is to halt the decline in lion numbers and turn around the conservation prospects for the King of the Beasts.  

Last updated October 22, 2018

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