The 'privatisation' of national parks in several African countries could be on the cards if a Dutch multi-millionaire and conservationist Paul van Vlissingen gets his way.
He wants to form a company to take over a string of parks in Zambia, Uganda, Kenya, Malawi and Mozambique.
Many high-powered supporters of the plan, including former South African president Nelson Mandela, feel that it could save many badly neglected game parks.
Critics, however, say that no company should be given ownership rights over, and be allowed to exploit, one of the continent's key resources.
Should Africa's wildlife parks be 'privatised' or should they belong to everyone? Do you care about such issues or do you think too much time is dedicated to the fate of animals on the continent?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The following comments reflect the balance of views we have received:
I'll go with those who support privatisation because government is a bad businessman. But my concerns about privatising the national parks in any African country is that it should involve Africans not foreigners. We've been misled in many other sectors.
Africa, I believe should care about the fate of its wildlife as it could bring the needed foreign exchange to many African economies. It could also be an avenue for employment opportunities and scientific research for prospective students.
My only concern here is that this may not be possible as Africa is ravaged by wars and wildlife protection is the last thing on the minds of embattled governments.
We've been misled in many other sectors
Sama S. Mondeh, Sierra Leone/Canada
Sama S. Mondeh, Sierra Leone/Canada
If it takes privatisation to put an end to poaching what are we waiting for? Lack of resources and poor planning have led to the collapse of national parks all over Africa and this needs to be addressed before they turn into derelict dust bowls.
Andrew Parsons, ex Zimbabwe
Based on previous experiences of outside "help", unfortunately we have to be fairly cynical when it comes to the privatisation of parks. If there was no profit to be made from privatisation, the help would not be forthcoming. This is not to say that investment would not be welcome. It's just a matter of sorting out the fine print and making sure that local control and input is not lost completely. Hopefully, the governments concerned will take into account the welfare of local people ahead of the allure of quick and easy money at the expense of yet another of Africa's assets.
For centuries, the world has raided Africa for her people, her land and her resources. No privatisation. Let Africa enjoy and benefit from her cohabitants. Send her some of the money and expertise currently expended on war.
Send her some of the money and expertise currently expended on war
Munir Mitha, Canada/ Tanzania
Munir Mitha, Canada/ Tanzania
This may be an excellent opportunity to protect one of Africa's most beautiful resources. In terms of the wildlife, the local communities, Africa and the world - Mr van Vlissingen will have to make a choice - stewardship or greediness. The former will obviously lead to a win-win situation.
To give ownership of the land and animals is a very bad idea. These resources are not for sale, they do not belong to anyone. I would like to see someone run the parks, but they should be under no agreement to hold ownership of the land or the animals.
D. Burton, USA
Since we as African do not have the funds to manage our parks, it is better to privatise themt so that the animals can survive and keep our wildlife on the continent.
The threat from bush meat trade in West Africa is undermining the efforts of dedicated conservationists. Poachers are an ever present expensive menace to East and Central African wildlife reserves. Given such a diverse and complicated scenario perhaps privatisation could be one option. The danger of course is if privatisation alienates the communities that are the real stock holders of the natural resources. To rely on government protection and alliance it will be doomed to failure. However, if private enterprises could involve the communities in the planning, implementation and share proceeds with them, surely it should be commended.
Given such a diverse and complicated scenario perhaps privatisation could be one option
Debebe Dessalegne, UK
I am for privatisation for managing the parks but not for transfer of ownership. I would also stress that the parks must be made accessible to the locals. 2 tier pricing. CONCERN-Is this not a camouflage for "colonialism/imperialism" where the resources of the world will be owned by the west?
Mahomed, South Africa
The best way of saving Africa's resources is not to make them inaccessible to the common man, as privatisation inadvertently does. We, the Africans, should be empowered in such a way that hunting for the pot becomes not an option. As long as there is poverty and wildlife man's instinct to survive will override the desire to preserve for posterity.
I think it is patronising to us to say that Africans need education on the importance of nature. Take for instance the history of Zimbabwe which shows that for centuries there was no threat to wildlife until the re-arrangement of the distribution of population took away the capacity of man to look after himself in a sustainable manner. Should Africa look after her nature alone? No. Global forces are also responsible for exporting poverty to Africa and should also import to the West part of the burden Africa has to carry to conserve her resources.
Collin Mabiza, Zimbabwe
It's not about ownership rights over one of the continent's key resources; it's about taking care of this resource.
Dirk, South Africa
Unfortunately, Africa has greater problems to address first and don't have the money to do everything they need to. Priorities are set towards their own people which is clearly understandable. I think, the so-called modern world should help and subsidize African countries in order to make sure that the wildlife will be seen by generations of human being (African or not).
Privatising National Parks is maybe one way to save these animals, but if the revenue generated by this company isn't benefiting the local community in one way or another (jobs, infrastructure etc), people won't get involved. Don't get me wrong, most of African people know the importance of wildlife, they had been able to take care of it for centuries before colonisation arrived, they should be able to benefit of it with our aid and support for the next thousands of years.
Left to the devices of the majority of African nations as they operate now, I do not see much hope for the future of Africa's greatest resource. I want my children to experience the beauty of Africa's wildlife like I have had the privilege to do. If this means that parks and reserves need to be privatised, then so be it. Since we have not learnt to protect Africa's wildlife ourselves, then we must be prepared to pay our dues to those that do. As much as critics whine about the right of ownership and exploitation by any one company, so too do Africans not have the inherent right to destroy Africa's beauty as they are doing now.
Since we have not learnt to protect Africa's wildlife ourselves, then we must be prepared to pay our dues to those that do
South Africa / UK
South Africa / UK
Of course. The very basis of the African Continent's tourist industry is their wildlife. Without it, they are losing a whole industry.
We Africans can teach the rest of the world on conservation. We are the only continent proud of conserving wildlife. Where did the wild life in the other continents vanish to? Don't tell me Africans were responsible for the extinction. Game parks are "neglected" because the wildlife should be WILD not "zooed". In Africa there is natural co-habitation between human and their environment.
Viny Shumba, Harare, Zimbabwe
The only people to benefit from private parks are the owners (foreign?) and the tourists. Private owners are even less likely than government to respect the rights of nomadic peoples who formerly used the parks (eg Masaai, Barabaig in Tanzania).
I used to do odd jobs for Save the Rhino in Zambia many years ago. Poachers when caught were rarely punished as most of the poaching was organised by corrupt ministers and officials. Zambia has not had a single rhino in the wild for over 20 years!
I don't think anyone has the right to lecture Africans about wildlife. Africans have been living with nature for centuries with little impact on the environment. It is only due to the greedy rich people in the west who need Ivory, Rhino Horns, etc that poor Africans end up killing these animals to provide food and shelters for their families.
Let me ask everyone in Europe a question: Where are your wild animals? How many species in Europe or America live in the wild?
The answer is NONE - all extinct due to greedy and selfish hunters.
So stop lecturing Africans.
Let Africans take care of their environment. After all they know best.
I don't think anyone has the right to lecture Africans about wildlife
How can Africans be expected to care about the state of their wildlife or nature when the peoples of Africa live in conditions of poverty, lack basic hygiene and healthcare. Concern for nature and wildlife is a luxury afforded by countries whose population have achieved sustainable standards of living.
Corruption is killing Africa in every walk of life, game parks included. This may be the only way to save the wild life & environment.
Martin Waldock, UK
It is the only way that the continents wildlife can possibly survive. As a former safari guide of nine years I have seen first hand what governmental departments can do to their wild animals. Blood dripping out of the back of national parks trucks at dawn leaves no one in doubt as to what must happen at night when parks are closed to the public.
Jim, UK Ex Zim
The wildlife in Africa is a huge asset to the continent and should be very carefully looked after else once again Africa will lose out in the long term.
It is going to be difficult to explain to a starving person that the reason why he can't kill an animal is because a foreigner is making money from them. It is imperative that the local community is educated as to the benefits of a revitalised reserve if this scheme is to work. Also commercial aspects should not prevent locals from enjoying their own natural resources i.e. different pricing for locals and foreigners.
Africa only has some of the most beautiful creatures on the planet. If I had the resources, I'd do my best to save the continent's creatures from extinction. What's there to live for, if we kill everything? If it's necessary to privatise so everything doesn't get killed off, go for it.
What's there to live for, if we kill everything?
The biggest problem Africa has is the artificial boundaries created by colonisation. For wildlife with migratory patterns this usually means they rarely spend the majority of their time in a protected environment, which results in a slow march to extinction. Privatising the parks would overcome this obstacle by creating protected environments across national boundaries, providing the opportunity to properly protect Africa's heritage.
If Africans needed any help in conserving their animals how come the animals are still there? Whatever happened to the animals in Europe or in North America? Was it Africans or Europeans who made the quagga extinct in Southern Africa due to over hunting?
Let Africans look after their own resources including their wildlife.
If Africans want to kill or do whatever they care with their wildlife it is nobody's business.
After all Africans are not given an opportunity to input into the business of other countries - is it because they are seen as being inferior to the so-called white 'experts'? It seems that there are people out there who are determined to re-colonise the continent by 'privatisation' or any other means necessary.
Geoff, UK: The drive towards extinction and the corresponding increase in poaching in Africa has very little to do with colonisation. The huge increase in poaching in Kenya is a prime example of this - Kenya had been independent for over a decade when the government decided to ban hunting which led to an increase in poaching. It appears that African governments have long been keen to reap the reward that these parks provide without ploughing the money back into them or the local community.
Privatisation of the parks is the way to go as long as the money generated is put back into the local community. And it is highly unlikely that a bunch of Europeans are going to be sent out to manage the parks, but rather African companies which already operates a number of very successful private reserves.
The governments take most of the revenues and use them for a number of other issues. I believe privatisation would be a good thing since any company's primary involvement would be to insure the parks are in good order and thus appropriate the revenues accordingly, which in turn would insure the welfare of the region from tourist income.
Tom, East Africa
Africa should care about the fate of its wildlife. Everyday Europeans are destroying our forests and bringing down trees all in the name of the almighty dollar.
Stephen Togba Jr,
The privatization of game parks in African sounds plausible. The fact of the matter is who benefits immensely from the proceeds of these parks when privatized. Though it is debatable, I think, many a time, the decision-makers who are few in number benefit economically at the expense of the masses. It should be noted that wildlife is useful to the African people in different ways, including socio-cultural relevance. The privatization of game parks will be meaningful if there is a reasonable distribution of the proceeds.
The privatization of game parks will be meaningful if there is a reasonable distribution of the proceeds
Sigismond Wilson, Sierra Leone
Sigismond Wilson, Sierra Leone
After my travels in Kenya I came to love many of the National Parks there and developed a deep respect for the locals who worked to keep the wildlife safe from poachers. The truth remains that they are in great need of help, but I hate to see privatisation and capitalism be the only possibility. Is there no common cause greater for joining together the global community than the interests of saving our wilderness and maintaining our native cultures? Why must it make a profit before it can have real value?
If it must be privatized, then the people of these countries should be the ones to benefit from the financial gains and not some foreign company that would take the profits home. My fears are that foreign companies would not respect local cultures, and would not keep the business a local one.
Difficult to say. Can we leave these things with the likes of Robert Mugabe? Some countries do really try, but need help.
Wiebe Goossen, Netherlands
It doesn't appear that there's anyone on the African continent with the means to save the wildlife, so what's the big deal about bringing someone in who's concerned about a heritage that doesn't even belong to them?
I don't see how countries where thousands of people are killed monthly due to internal fighting or die of starvation due to mismanagement can be expected to protect animals. It would certainly be in there best interest to protect both they're animal and citizens though.
For a long time, most national parks in the few countries in which they are established in Africa, have been totally neglected and those that are in operation are either in dilapidated conditions or are barely kept going in order to attract a few interested tourists in the hope of accumulating some amount of foreign currency.
The welfare of the animals or the dynamics involved in wildlife management are given secondary consideration. I sincerely believe that privatizing national parks in Africa is a vital step in the development of this sector in Africa.
Ernest Cole, The Gambia/Sierra Leone