The Challenges in protecting protected areas

Soccer field next to the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park. rel=
Soccer field next to the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park.
© WWF / Pam Sherriffs

Sharing benefits with native communities

KwaZulu-Natal has about 8% of its land area under protection (compared with 5-6% for the whole of South Africa). That's about 740,000 hectares of protected area. But, as is the case in developing countries all over the world, these areas are under increasing pressure from growing, and poor, human populations on their borders.
When many of the protected areas were proclaimed, the land was very sparsely populated; now human settlements squash right up against the borders and many people look at the "empty" land across the fence with longing eyes. In times gone by, those people would have been kept at bay through strictly authoritarian nature conservation staff backed up with military power.

Times have changed. Nature conservation has become a more democratic arena and much conservation work now involves working with neighbouring communities to ensure that benefits from parks are shared with people on the outside. Benefits include tourism-related jobs and a levy system through which neighbouring communities receive a proportion of tourism income. There's also a much greater focus on education so that people understand why conservation organizations do what they do.

Diminishing resources from the government
Since the first democratic elections held in 1994, the government has prioritised the development of people over nature conservation. Biodiversity, to an increasing degree, is now expected to "pay for itself". While to an extent it can, through measures like increased ecotourism, this is not enough.

So in order to maintain their high standards - such as being one of the best rhino custodians in the world - provincial conservation organisations like Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife have had to look for financial assistance from around the world. WWF is one of the organizations helping to fill the gap.

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