I’ve just attended the World Parks Congress on behalf of Wildlife Tourism Australia Inc.
This important congress is held only once every 10 years, and this time it was in Sydney. The previous one was in South Africa, and at the opening ceremony here in Sydney we watched a video of part of Nelson Mandela’s speech on the importance of protected areas for both biodiversity and people, and were then addressed by his grandson who had flown in for the event. The next will be held in Russia in 2024.
The organisers were expecting about 3,000 delegates: instead we had over 6,000, representing 170 countries!
Promises werte made and goals were set. Delegates n he nature conservation stream agreed that by 2020 one-third of the oceans should be designated as no-take areas, to allow fish and other marine creatures to breed up to pre-exploitation levels and re-poluate the remaining two-thirds. Currently only 1% of the ocean is thus protected. The president of Madagascar promised to triple the amount of marine protected areas around his country, Gabon and Bangladesh pledged to create marine protected areas, and our own environment minister Greg Hunt declared there would never be drilling or dumping on the Great Barrier Reef, that he would work in with other countries to protect the Coral Triangle and the world’s oceans, and that China and Australia had signed an agreement not to allow mining in Antarctica. He also acknowledged the number of extinct and endangered terrestrial mammals in Australia and expressed a commitment to protecting our remaining species.
Much was said about the importance of protected areas to physical and mental health of humans, and the desirability of attracting young people into our parks. I presented a short talk on this theme, and the value of youth becoming involved in citizen science while travelling, including the opportunities presented by Wildlife Tourism Australia’s research network: http://www.wildliferesearchnetwork.org/
Just prior to the Congress, I also led a Parallel Event on behalf of Wildlife Tourism Australia to discuss wildlife tourism and biodiversity conservation n our parks. See http://www.wildlifetourism.org.au/wildlife-tourism-workshop-in-sydney-november-2014/ for details.
The dedication and bravery of rangers worldwide was honoured by awards and speeches, especially those who frequently risked their lives. A long list of those who had in fact died while performing their duties was displayed. Read more about these rangers on http://thingreenline.org.au/story/ Some ways you can assist rangers was presented by the Big Life Group: https://biglife.org/
IUCN has long been known for its Red List of endangered animals. At this Congress they launched the Green List, a positive step to reward those protected areas who are doing a great job on a number of important criteria. The first areas to be accepted for the Green List are situated in Australia, South Korea, China, Italy, France, Spain, Kenya and Colombia. Read more on this at: http://www.iucn.org/about/work/programmes/gpap_home/?18617/Green-is-the-new-gold
The TAPAS (Tourism and Protected Areas) group creed a schedule for all those interested in the connection between tourism and conservation, and I attended a number of the presentations on this theme.
Visit http://worldparkscongress.org/ for further details of this exciting event.