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THREATS TO PROTECTED AREAS
The importance and vulnerability of the world’s
By Christine Carey, Nigel Dudley and Sue Stolton
Published May 2000
By WWF-World Wide Fund For Nature (Formerly World Wildlife Fund) International, Gland, Switzerland
Any reproduction in full or in part of this publication must mention the title and credit the above- mentioned publisher as the copyright owner.
© 2000, WWF - World Wide Fund For Nature (Formerly World Wildlife Fund) ® WWF Registered Trademark WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the planet's natural environment and to build a future in
which humans live in harmony with nature, by:
• conserving the world's biological diversity
• ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable
• promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption Front cover photograph © Edward Parker, UK The photograph is of fire damage to a forest in the National Park near Andapa in Madagascar Cover design Helen Miller, HMD, UK 1
THREATS TO PROTECTED AREAS
Unfortunately, this is not necessarily true. Protected areas that appear in government statistics and on maps are not always put in place on the ground. Many of those that do exist face a disheartening array of threats, ranging from the immediate impacts of poaching or illegal logging to subtle effects of air pollution or climate change. Far from safeguarding the world’s biological diversity, many protected areas are badly in need of protection themselves.
Yet in most countries protected areas are the corner stone of conservation; if they are degraded then there can be little hope for the survival of many threatened species. Such changes also directly threaten the many indigenous people that maintain their traditional lifestyles inside protected areas.
Until recently, our knowledge about threats to protected areas was mainly gleaned from scattered reports and word of mouth accounts. Today, recognition of the seriousness of what can justifiably be called a crisis is stimulating efforts to identify threats and assess performance.
The current report, which WWF Netherlands is pleased to have funded, is the most detailed assessment of threats to protected areas yet attempted on a global basis. It shows what is going wrong, why problems arise, where the crisis points are and what we should be doing about it.
The report sometimes makes gloomy reading. But the news is not all black. The research summarised here suggests that, whilst far from perfect, most protected areas are doing a fair job of protecting biodiversity most of the time. In some cases the situation is still deteriorating, while in others things are improving. One of the threats highlighted in a case study originally prepared for this report, on proposals for a major expansion of salt mining in El Vizcaino biosphere reserve in Mexico, has recently been averted and we congratulate the Mexican government on a far-sighted decision.
Sadly, such successes are still too rare and for example the bushmeat crisis in the Congo Basin serves as a stark reminder of just how fast wildlife can be lost from protected areas; throughout the region mammals, birds and reptiles are being hunted to feed an apparently ever-growing market for wild meat. A Canadian government report, published in spring 2000 as this report was going to press, reminds us that problems are not confined to the poorer countries.
Please read this report. And, much more importantly, please support the work of the governments, conservation organisations and community groups that are struggling to ensure that “protected areas” really do equal “protection”.
Hans Wijers Chairman, WWF Netherlands
A note on the tables Where protected areas are listed in tables in the text, wherever possible their IUCN category and area in hectares are included after their name.
Acknowledgements This report could not have been put together without an enormous amount of help, encouragement and information from many people around the world. In particular, we would like to thank (with apologies
for anyone left off the list):
‘Wale Adeleke, WWF Africa Regional Forest Office; Soenartono Adisoemarto, WWF Indonesia; Iftikhar Ahmad, WWF Pakistan; Ashiq Ahmed, WWF Pakistan; Mark Aldrich, WWF International; Rahimatsah Amat, Malaysia; Edgardo Arevelo, Monteverde Conservation League, Costa Rica; Javier Beltran, World Conservation Monitoring Centre; Ger Bergkamp, IUCN, Switerland; Nora Berrahmouni, UNDP, Algeria; Debora Bigio, FUDENA, Venezuela; Jo Breese, WWF New Zealand; Chris Brown, Namibia Nature Foundation, Windhoek, Namibia; Julio César Calvo, Centro Científico Tropical, Costa Rica; Christine Carey, Switzerland; Guillermo Castilleja, WWF Mexico; Mauricio Castro Schmitz, WWF Colombia Programme Office; Eric Coull, WWF IndoChina Programme Office, Vietnam; David Cumming, WWF-Southern Africa; Dominick DellaSala, WWF-US;
Mary Edwards, World Conservation Monitoring Centre; Bill Eichbaum, WWF-US; Chris Elliot, WWF International, Switzerland; Tom Erdmann, WWF-Madagascar; Shannon Estenoz, WWF-US; Lincoln Fishpool, BirdLife International; Dr Hans Friederich, IUCN, Thailand; Francisco Padron Gil, WWF Mexico; Aimee Gonzales, WWF International, Switzerland;
Steve Grady, World Conservation Monitoring Centre; Tim Gray, Wildlands League, Canada; Biksham Gujja, WWF International; Chandra Prasad Gurung, WWF Nepal Programme Office; Arlin Hackman, WWF Canada; Elie Hakizamwami, Cameroon; Jim Harkness, WWF China; Jenny Heap, WWF International; Marc Hockings, University of Queensland; Andrew Ingles, IUCN, Thailand; Bill Jackson, IUCN HQ, Switzerland, Jim Jarvie, IUCN Indonesia; Jean-Paul Jeanrenaud, WWF International; Val Kapos, World Conservation Monitoring Centre; Harri Karajalainen, WWF International; Ashish Kothari, India; Olivier Langrand, WWF Gabon; Fiona Leverington, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Australia; Rob Little, WWF South Africa; Fausto Lopez, Fundacioin Arcoiris (FAI), Ecuador; Donna Luckman, WWF Australia; Robert Mather, WWF Thailand Programme Office; Don Masterson, WWF-US; Erica McShane-Caluzi, WWF International; Tom McShane, WWF International; Raman Mehta, Idia; Julian Mellor, UK; Erza Millstein, WWF-US; Monica Missrie, WWF Mexico Programme Office; Peter Moore, IUCN and WWF Project Firefight Asia, Australia; Jennifer Morgan, WWF-US; Gezahegn Negussie, WWF UK; Mercedes Otegui, WWF Mexico Programme Office; Gonzalo Oviedo, WWF International, Switzerland; Lisa Padfield, WWF South Africa; Aristotelis Papageorgiou, WWF Greece; Morgan Parry, WWF-UK; Mireille Perrin, WWF International;
Adrian Phillips, IUCN, UK; J Alan Pounds, University of Miami; George Powell; Peter Prokosch, Arctic Programme WWF International; Michael Rae, WWF Australia; Devendra Rana, WWF International; Dr M K Ranjitsinh, WWF-India; Corinna Ravilious, World Conservation Monitoring Centre; Pedro Regato, WWF Mediterrean Programme Office; Simon Rietbergen, Switzerland; Isabel Ripa-Juliá, Spain; Jorge Rivas, Sangay Project, Ecuador; Pedro Rosabal, IUCN HQ, Switzerland; Ruth Elena Ruiz, Fondacion Natura, Rosa M. Lemos de Sá, WWF-Brazil; Sissi Samec, WWF Austria; Ecuador; Christopher Sharpe, Fauna and Flora International, Venezuela; Mingma Sherpa, WWF-US; Guido Schmidt, WWF Adena Spain; David Sheppard, IUCN HQ, Switzerland; Amy Smith, WWF Peru; Debbie Snelson, WWF - Eastern Africa; Mark Spalding, World Conservation Monitoring Centre; Gerald Steindlegger, WWF Austria; Wendy Strahm, IUCN HQ, Switzerland; Simon Towle, WWF-Sepik Community LandCare Project; Paul Toyne, WWF-UK; Chris Weaver, WWF-US LIFE project, Namibia; Sue Wells, IUCN, EARO, Kenya; Hans Wijers, Netherlands; Ed Wilson, WWF - Southern Africa; Pablo Xandri, WWF Spain.
Particular thanks are due to Arnold van Kreveld and Andre Brasser of WWF Netherlands for providing finance and guidance for the project (and the idea for the report in the first place). And to Devendra Rana and Alison Lucas for their hard work arranging the report’s launch. Also thanks to Helen Miller of HMD Design for the front cover design and arranging production of the final report.
The case studies were prepared by Christine Carey and the other chapters prepared by Nigel Dudley and Sue Stolton who also edited the report. Although we have received a great deal of help, responsibility for any errors or fact or interpretation lie with the authors.
The material and geographical designations in this report do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of WWF concerning the legal status of any country, territory, or area, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.
Summary Squandering Paradise?
The importance and vulnerability of the world’s protected areas Protected areas are a vital component of any conservation strategy and also serve a host of other social, cultural and economic needs. Yet the quality of many protected areas is currently declining as a result of an onslaught of threats and pressures. Many more remain insecure and their long-term future in uncertain.
This report explains why protected areas are important, looks at the trends and nature of the threats facing them and makes some predictions about the likelihood of losses. It is illustrated with a range of specially prepared case studies and examples. It ends with some proposals and a call for action in the lead-up to the World Parks Congress in 2002.
A vital part of any landscape Protected areas are the cornerstones of all national and regional conservation strategies. They act as refuges for those species that cannot survive in managed landscapes and as areas where natural ecological processes can continue unhampered by human interference. They are a vital resource for continuation of natural evolution and, in many parts of the world, for future ecological restoration.
Human beings benefit directly from the genetic potential contained in the world’s plants and animal species, a significant proportion of which are currently at risk. Most people also believe that we have an ethical obligation to prevent extinctions caused as a result of our own actions.
Protected areas also play a number of key social and economic roles. Many indigenous and local peoples are given vital protection by protected areas, where they can continue traditional lifestyles that are now often impossible elsewhere. A disproportionate amount of the world’s drinking water comes from areas where natural forest has been preserved and protected areas also help to maintain healthy rivers systems and smooth out the impacts of floods and soil erosion. Marine protected areas maintain coastal fisheries and in consequence are often supported by neighbouring communities. National parks and nature reserves are important “green lungs”, providing space for people to relax, practice sports and experience nature and wilderness. They help to protect traditional cultural and spiritual values. In many countries, key national parks are regarded as part of the nation’s “ecological heritage areas” as important as, say, Chartres cathedral or the Taj Mahal.
Unfortunately, the quality of many protected areas is declining There is an assumption that once a protected area has been identified and declared, its values will be preserved. Sadly, this is not necessarily the case. The quality of protected areas and associated biological diversity can suffer in many ways, ranging from the removal of key species (such as poaching of elephants or great apes) through various types of more general ecological damage to, in extreme cases, almost total destruction. Even if protected areas themselves remain relatively intact, they can be badly affected as a result of isolation and fragmentation if land use in surrounding areas changes dramatically. The report identifies a wide range of threats, from the impacts of human settlement and illegal hunting and fishing through to more complex impacts such as air pollution and climate change.
Three general trends can be identified. First, problems seldom come singly. If a protected area is under threat it is likely to be facing a whole range of different threats; it is quite unusual for a protected area to be perfectly secure except for one overwhelming problem. (There are rare exceptions, such as when a previously well-managed national park is subjected to mining or oil drilling).
6 THREATS TO PROTECTED AREAS
Secondly, protected areas only work in the long-term if they have the support of the people who live inside them or around them. The notion of a protected area as a pristine, empty wilderness is a myth in most places. Protected areas contain human populations – many belonging to communities resident for hundreds or even thousands of years. These communities need to agree with and participate in the management of the protected area.
Third, many problems are beyond the control of individual protected area managers and their staff: a few poorly funded conservation personnel cannot address threats from pollution, drainage, highly organised poaching operations or war. Indeed, the underlying causes of the threats – including such pervasive issues as poverty, over-consumption by a minority and the breakdown of the rule of law – are often far more significant than the concrete actions that actually do the damage within a national park or wilderness area.
The “paper parks” phenomenon – when is a protected area actually protected?