Unprecedented commitment in Coral Triangle

Coral Reefs in the Coral Triangle © WWF
In May 2009, the six heads of state from the Coral Triangle countries  - Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, the Solomon Islands, and Timor-Leste made an historic commitment to protect the marine environment and its resources, as well as ensure food security and build climate change resilience.

The Coral Triangle Initiative Leaders’ Declaration launched the most detailed regional action plan for ocean conservation ever seen.

The countries individually announced new commitments on finance, law and marine protected areas.

The six countries will make a joint submission to the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen in December.

Congo Basin rewards

Tropical Rain Forest. Vegetation on riverbank - moist forest of the Western Congo Basin at the edge of Minkebe Reserve. Gabon © WWF
The Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo announced it will create the world’s largest Ramsar protected wetland – the 6.5 million ha Ngiri-Tumba-Maindombe complex.

In addition, wetland sites totalling more than one million ha in both the Republic of Congo and Gabon were added to the Ramsar Convention list of internationally important wetlands.

Gabon announced the country’s first two FSC-certified forests, covering 1.3 million ha.

This brings the total FSC-certified forest area in the Congo Basin region to more than four million ha.

This is well on the way towards WWF’s target of seven million ha by 2012.

Protected areas victories

Autumn in the Romanian Carpathians/George Dinicu, WWF DCP © WWF
This MAVA Foundation promotes protected areas (PAs) - locations which receive protection because of their environmental, cultural or similar value - in five WWF ecoregions – Altai-Sayan, Carpathians, Caucasus, Dinaric Arc and West Africa.

The Foundation has helped create 20 new PAs, with 27 more in the pipeline.

Russia has added 2.2 million ha of PAs, and an analysis funded by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and WWF has recommended establishment of a further 566 new PAs covering 183 million ha.

World’s largest protected area network enlarged

Reservoir in Retezat National Park, Carpathian Mountains, southeast Romania. © WWF
The EU’s Natura 2000 Programme gained a huge boost in January with an additional 9.5 million ha of protected areas (PAs), consisting of 769 important sites in Romania and Bulgaria.

The new sites will add protection for European priority species and habitats including wolves, brown bears, grasslands and forests.

Natura 2000 has been a key European WWF focus for over a decade and is the world’s largest interconnected PA network, with more than 25,000 sites in 27 countries covering 85 million ha or 17 percent of the European landmass.

It is a key weapon in the fight against biodiversity loss.

Linking the Himalayas

Snow leopard (Uncia uncia). © WWF
Tigers, snow leopards and red pandas will all benefit from the creation of an important new 491,000 ha protected area (PA) in northern Bhutan.

The Wangchuk Centennial Park creates an almost contiguous PA network stretching from Kangchenjunga in Nepal in the west, through India’s Sikkim State and across northern Bhutan to India’s Arunachal Pradesh State in the east.

Increasing protected area cover and linking habitats is a key aim of the Living Himalayas Network Initiative.

Freshwater protected areas target achieved

Sunset in East Dongting Lake, a Ramsar wetland site. Hunan Province, China. © WWF
WWF has supported and helped create the announcement of more than nine million ha of new Ramsar sites in the Congo Basin, bringing the total area of freshwater protected areas (PAs) to more than 100 million ha in 10 years.

Three quarters of these freshwater PAs have been established under the Ramsar Convention. In 1999, WWF set a target to achieve 250 million ha of new freshwater PAs worldwide by 2010, and committed itself to achieving 100 million ha of this global target by 2007.

At the Ramsar Convention meeting in October 2008, WWF was recognized for its support of wetland conservation.

Towards an Amazon protected area network

Rio Tamaya meanders through the Amazon lowlands. Large beaches along the river and man leafless canopy trees during the dry season. Department Ucayali, Peru. © WWF
The IUCN World Conservation Congress supported the proposed development of a Conservation Vision for the Amazon biome, an initiative led by REDPARQUES, the Latin American Network for Technical Cooperation on National Parks and Protected Areas, together with the nine Amazonian countries, the CBD Secretariat and WWF’s Amazon Initiative.

In March 2009, the Brazilian state of Amazonas announced the creation of six new protected areas (PAs) totalling 2.3 million ha.

This finalises a PA stretch along the BR-319 highway which aims to reduce deforestation by limiting access to non-protected forest along the road.

Securing Sumatra’s forests

Portrait of a young Orang-utan (Pongo pygmaeus). © WWF
Sumatra’s 10 governors and four government ministries (Environment, Forests, Interior and Public Works) announced their collective commitment to protecting the areas of the island with “high conservation values.”

The commitment was celebrated publicly at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Barcelona, Spain, in October 2008.

This agreement commits Sumatra to protect areas with high conservation values, restore important ecosystems on the island and re-establish connectivity between forests and habitats.

This represents a vital breakthrough in protecting Sumatra’s remaining forests, home to the Sumatran tiger, rhino, orang-utan and Asian elephant, all WWF priority species.

Surviving forest sits on carbon-rich peat soils which must be protected to avoid significant carbon emissions further worsening climate change.

Protecting whales, dolphins and porpoises

Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae). © WWF
Conservationists celebrated when the Colombian Ministry of Transport stopped the development of a port which threatened a key humpback whale breeding site in Malaga Bay.

Elsewhere, the Government of Mexico, supported by WWF, is taking the lead on conserving the vaquita – the only cetacean endemic to North America.

The vaquita is highly endangered. As few as 150 may survive and they are threatened by entanglement in gillnets. The government has committed US$ 25 million on protection measures, including a vaquita sanctuary closed to gillnet fishing.

Conservation gains for coastal east Africa

In Tanzania, the government has acted on WWF recommendations to protect three high priority forest areas covering 170,000 ha in the Eastern Arc Mountains.

The US Government has committed US$ 20 million for WWF’s community wildlife management areas programme.

The governments of Mozambique and Tanzania have joined a Southern Africa Development Community declaration agreeing to outlaw illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing which represents a major threat to local fisheries and livelihoods.

It also represents important progress towards achieving sustainable fisheries within WWF’s Coastal East Africa initiative.

Global Tiger Initiative Launched

The tiger is the largest species of all cats. © WWF
Led by World Bank President Robert Zoellick, the Global Tiger Initiative (GTI) brings together the Smithsonian Institution, Save the Tiger Fund, WWF and other partners to garner support of tiger range state leaders for effective conservation of the severely endangered tiger.

Total tiger populations have plummeted from 30,000 in the 1980s to an estimated 4,000 today.

In December 2008, the Government of Malaysia launched a National Tiger Action Plan with the aim to double Malaysia’s tiger population to 1,000 by 2020.

A champion for Brazil’s environment – Marina Silva

The 2008 WWF Duke of Edinburgh Conservation medal winner Marina Silva © WWF
In November 2008, WWF presented its most prestigious award – the Duke of Edinburgh Conservation Medal – to Marina Silva.

As Brazil’s Environment Minister from 2005 to 2007, she helped steer Brazil’s pioneering Amazon Region Protected Area (ARPA) programme to improve protection and management of over 30 million ha of the country’s Amazon forest. Born into a rubber tapper family, Marina Silva worked with the late Chico Mendes, the renowned environmental activist.

While minister, deforestation decreased by 59 per cent across Brazil, and she played a key role in developing Brazil’s National Water Resource Plan to secure water for millions of people while safeguarding freshwater biodiversity.

She remains a Senator.