During the 1980s, community based approaches to biodiversity conservation grew rapidly, as part of a general questioning of centralised, state-centric approaches to development. Since the early 1990s, however, there has been a revival of more traditional, preservationist approaches, which emphasise the central management and control of strictly protected areas as an urgent necessity and moral imperative, and which tend to treat local people as ?project beneficiaries rather than as genuine partners. This has been accompanied by a renewed interest in (among other ideas) public-private partnerships in the management of protected areas and by a striking growth in the power and scope of conservation organisations (e.g., World Wildlife Fund, Conservation International and The Nature Conservancy). In this paper I shall seek to understand the ideological and philosophical underpinnings of this revival in the preservationist approach to biodiversity conservation by examining the case of a relatively new kid on the conservation block, African Parks Foundation (APF) of the Netherlands. I shall focus on the history of APFs recent involvement in Ethiopia, where it has entered into public-private partnership arrangements with the Ethiopian government to run two national parks in the south of the country for a period of at least 25 years. Taking inspiration from James C. Scott’s Seeing like a State, I shall argue that APF exemplifies the imperialism of high-modernist planned social order, applied to conservation. I shall ask whether the same strictures applied by Scott to centrally managed social plans in general - that they ignore the necessary role of local knowledge at their peril may also be applied to the conservation mission exemplified by APF.