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Unlike humans, wildlife do not understand geo-political boundaries. In Africa particularly, many species migrate or have large home ranges overlapping multiple countries. Many of these species, like wildebeest and elephants, travel hundreds of miles to procure fresh grazing areas or a reliable water source.
In an effort to aid conservation, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) identified 70 protected areas that shared common international boundaries and wildlife. IUCN proposed to generate common conservation objectives and local community support between countries. These areas are called Trans-Frontier Conservation Areas (TFCAs). TFCAs are defined as large areas spanning over frontiers of two or more countries. Generally, they cover multiple protected areas and involve a unique level of international collaboration.
TFCAs, often referred to by some as Peace Parks, are becoming increasingly popular in the realm of sustainable development. The objective is to harmonize policies and practices along international boundaries, which would promote peace and cooperation among countries throughout Africa. Communities are still encouraged to live within TFCAs but the land must remain a natural habitat for native species. TFCAs improve the standards of living in rural communities through the development of tourism and job creation while simultaneously enhancing wildlife conservation. Wildlife benefit from TFCAs because it encourages the involved protected areas to stay protected areas.
The implementation of TFCAs, however, faces obstacles. Perceptions of “who benefits” comes in to question and countries worry if their own political agenda will be affected. For example, many countries differ in natural resource management policy and border security is stricter in some areas.
Furthermore, countries stated that multilateral coordination was the most prominent obstacle for TFCA establishment. Also, government officials believe that countries are usually not on the same level in terms of management planning. Other problems included a lack of funding, security concerns (particularly along the borders) and disease management as animals cross back and forth through different countries and communities.
Though potential issues exist, TFCAs are extremely beneficial and necessary for the conservation of many African species. For TFCA establishment to be successful it requires trust, respect, and transparency among participating countries. They offer regions an opportunity to integrate the economies of their surrounding neighbors, and give those countries the potential to contribute meaningfully to Africa’s conservation efforts. The continuation of these multilateral conservation strategies is vital for wildlife sustainability and it will be interesting to watch these plans develop as communication among African governments improves.
“I know of no political movement, no philosophy, and no ideology that does not agree with the peace parks concept as we see it going into fruition today. It is a concept that can be embraced by all. In a world beset by conflict and division, peace is one of the cornerstones of the future. Peace parks are building blocks in this process, not only in our region, but potentially in the entire world.” –Nelson Mandela
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