Surprising Rise in World Park Acreage Still Isn’t Enough
Nearly thirteen percent of the world has been dedicated to parks, preserves, and wildlife preservation—an area the size of Russia—but more acreage needs to be added to meet a 2020 goal, says a new report from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). That figure is up from 8.8 per cent in 1990.
The report, presented at the group’s recent conference in South Korea, showed that these protected areas had surged dramatically of late as governments designated preserves to “to help slow a loss of animal and plant species and to conserve eco-systems which serve vital functions such as purifying water and storing greenhouse gases.”
An article by Reuters published in The Sydney Morning Herald of Australia quoted the organization head Julia Marton-Lefevre, as saying, "These rich natural areas are very important for people, who rely on them for food and clean water, climate regulation and reducing the impacts of natural disasters."
The report was based on a United Nations target of dedicating 17 per cent of the Earth’s land area to preservation by 2020, which “would mean adding at least 6 million sq km (2.3 million sq miles) or an area about twice the size of Argentina or India.”
The newspaper’s Web site said, the “area of the sea protected within national jurisdictions has risen more than four-fold to 4 per cent, from 0.9 per cent in 1990, but is also far short of a UN goal of 10 per cent by 2020. Reaching the target would require adding marine areas the size of Australia.”
The report also cited problems with preserves that are poorly run and said that the disparity between the existing amount of preserved land and the goal could be offset in part by considering land “under the control of indigenous peoples as protected,” said Trevor Sandwith, director of the IUCN's Global Protected Areas Programme. The report indicated that, “Indigenous peoples were often better at conserving territory than governments.”
Sandwith was quoted in the Reuters story as laying some of the blame on the world’s failure to craft an agreement to address climate change, pollution, deforestation and other problems that stand in the way of inducing governments to expand preservation programs
Tigers and Humans Find Harmony in Nepal
Fascinating research just published in last week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals that humans and tigers are both harmoniously using the trails and forests of Nepal’s Chitwan National Park by dividing up the day into “shifts” for tigers and humans.
A story in RedOrbit.com, which bills itself as the “premier internet destination for space, science, health, and technology enthusiasts around the globe," quotes the researcher Jianguo “Jack” Liu, the director of the Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability at Michigan State University (there were other researchers involved, see the story).
“As our planet becomes more crowded, we need to find creative solutions that consider both human and natural systems,” he said. “We’ve found something very interesting is happening in Nepal that holds promise for both humans and nature to thrive.”
The RedOrbit.com article said that the “feared and revered carnivores are taking the night shift to better coexist with their human neighbors. ... This revelation – that the tigers and people are sharing exactly the same space, such as the same roads and trails – flies in the face of conventional conservation wisdom and underscores how successful conservation efforts need sciences that take into account both nature and humans.”
The piece looks at the conventional wisdom that either tigers have the run of the park, with humans kept away, or that humans take precedence and tigers suffer. The new findings that both can coexist by basically avoiding each other holds out hope for the tiger population in Chitwan, Nepal’s first national park, “360 square miles in the subtropical Inner Terai lowlands of south-central Nepal. It is home to more than 40 species of mammals, including the Bengal Tiger.”
The article said, “The park is one of the best tiger habitats in the world,” where the tiger population “has increased to between 70 and 120,” while the “global population of tigers has fallen by a whopping 97% ... this makes Chitwan National Park a vitally important resource.”
Researcher Neil Carter spent two years using hidden cameras to document use of the forest. He ended up discovering the way the two species are avoiding each other, in part because tigers can be active day and night—and that they’re capable of becoming more active at night in the areas where humans are active during the day.
Colombia’s Caribbean National Park
The country of Colombia seems to be surfacing more and more in the travel lit as a great place to go. For Americans that’s in part because the U.S. State Department’s most current comment on travel to the country says, “security in Colombia has improved significantly in recent years, including in tourist and business travel destinations such as Cartagena and Bogota,” while “violence by narco-terrorist groups continues to affect some rural areas.” Even the half-century conflict with the FARC guerrilla army seems open to negotiation.
Luckily Tayrona National Park isn’t too far from Cartagena. The second most visited park in Colombia straddles the spectacular Caribbean shore and boasts great trails and even ruins. It’s rare that a mainstream travel article provides a useful guide to such an attractive place, but a recent story by Stephan Lorenz in Culture Map Houston is worth a look for just such an overview. Want to take that with a grain of salt? Check out a contrarian “rant” about the park.