In a recent development that has drawn the attention of the global conservation community, Fiore Longo, the campaigns director of Survival International, has vocally responded to criticisms levied by Prince Harry’s charity, African Parks, amid rising allegations of human rights abuses.
This controversy has spotlighted the challenging balance between wildlife conservation and human rights in Africa. The matter escalated when African Parks, a prominent conservation organization co-managed by Prince Harry, found itself at the center of allegations involving armed eco-guards.
These guards, employed by the charity, were accused of committing severe human rights violations, including beatings, rape, and torture of indigenous communities near the Odzala-Kokoua National Park in the Republic of Congo.
These serious claims have not only raised ethical concerns but also questioned the practices of conservation entities operating in sensitive regions. In a detailed statement, African Parks acknowledged the gravity of the accusations, stating, "We are aware of the serious allegations regarding human rights abuses by eco-guards against local people living adjacent to Odzala-Kokoua National Park." They revealed that these allegations first came to their attention last year via a letter from Survival International to a board member.
In response, the charity initiated an inquiry through an external law firm, based on the information available.
Contrasting Claims Emerge
However, as per African Parks, the investigation faced hurdles due to Survival International's reluctance to cooperate.
Despite repeated requests for assistance and detailed information from Survival International, African Parks claimed that their efforts were met with limited response, hindering the progress of the investigation. Contrastingly, Fiore Longo of Survival International painted a different picture in an interview with The Times.
Longo expressed frustration with African Parks' approach, highlighting a pattern of the organization seeking additional information from their charity but not taking adequate initiative. "We are a small human rights charity, and they are a multi-million-dollar organization.
They have the resources and responsibility to manage the park and employ the guards. It is up to them to investigate," Longo stated. This standoff between the two organizations underscores a complex dilemma in conservation efforts, where safeguarding wildlife and natural habitats often intersects with the rights and livelihoods of local communities.
As the story unfolds, it raises essential questions about accountability and the ethical responsibilities of major conservation groups operating in vulnerable regions.