ParksWatch : Background
The concept underlying ParksWatch arose
out of a conference held at the White Oak Plantation in Florida in 1993, which
convened a group of academic conservation biologists and professional conservationists
to discuss the plight of tropical biodiversity. There was broad agreement among
the participants that the future of tropical nature lies in protected areas,
especially those with the highest legal status, such as national parks and World
Heritage sites. However, it was also agreed that many tropical parks are weak
as institutions and consequently suffer significant threats to their biodiversity,
jocularly summed up as the scourge of the three “D’s” –
Degradation, Downsizing, and Degazetting.
What could a group of academics do to
make a contribution to what seemed like so overwhelming a challenge? The only
rational option was to engage in a process that would exert leverage on the
institutions responsible for parks. It was surmised that official neglect of
parks can be explained by the “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” principle.
So long as parks have weak national constituencies and are situated far from
the capital city, they will fall below the horizon of officials and budget managers.
By appropriately publicizing the threats faced by parks and the management handicaps
under which they operate, public opinion can be brought to bear on an otherwise
Accurate and credible information on
the current state of parks would be necessary to incite public opinion. Such
information could best be generated through an organized monitoring process
collecting its own objective, independent information. Thus was the concept
of ParksWatch born.
(A book was published as a result of
the White Oaks Conference : “Last
Stand: Protected Areas and the Defense of Tropical Biodiversity”).