This article presents the case of the creation and expansion of Namaqua National Park in Namaqualand, South Africa, to highlight the contradictions between global interests in biodiversity conservation and local livelihoods. Despite the policy shift in the conservation literature from ‘fortress’ to community-based conservation, we argue that in practice conservation still tends to dominate when there is a trade-off between Western-style conservation and support to the livelihoods of marginalized communities. This can again be explained by the hegemony of a conservation discourse that is shared by a network of actors. The article highlights the role played by powerful environmental organizations and wealthy individuals supporting conservation at the expense of land redistribution in Namaqualand. The combination of scientific research and finances provided by this actor-network aided the creation and expansion of the Park. Local people, however, see the expansion of the Park as direct and unfair competition for land that they wish to acquire through the land redistribution programme, as well as an indirect challenge to their local livelihoods. Whatever the merits of their case, it seems clear that communities aspiring to more land, together with advocates of human rights and poverty alleviation, remain on the margins in terms of policy influence, especially when they pursue goals that are perceived by the conservation advocates to be in conflict with those of biodiversity conservation.