Protected areas are our single best hope for conserving nature. But as the human populace expands, more and more parks are facing a growing array of threats. Are imperiled parks becoming the 'new normal'?
As examples, here's a smattering of recent news about imperiled parks:
- A British petroleum corporation will soon begin seismic testing inside Virunga National Park, a famed World Heritage site in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Just last week, Virunga's Chief Warden was gravely wounded by unknown gunmen, and in the last decade more than 140 park rangers have been murdered there.
- In Thailand, illegal logging is so plaguing another World Heritage site, the Dong Phayayen - Khao Yai Forest Complex, that the IUCN has recommended it be classified as a "World Heritage Site in Danger". The Thai government is now making a belated attempt to combat illegal logging in the park.
- A recent study by E. Bernard and colleagues has documented 93 instances in which national parks in Brazil have been downsized or de-gazetted since 1981. Such actions have increased markedly in frequency since 2008, the authors say.
An apt analogy is the little Dutch boy, desperately sticking his fingers into a dyke that is springing ever more leaks.
But what choice do we have? Even a struggling park is far better than no park at all.