Borneo’s New World

Mulu flying frog at day, Borneo © WWF
Scientists have discovered new species at a rate of three a month in the three years since the Heart of Borneo conservation declaration in February 2007 by the three governments – Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia and Malaysia – which share the world’s third largest island.

A new WWF report records more than 123 species new to science, including the world’s longest insect – a 56cm stick insect from the rainforest canopy – and 37 new orchid species. Launched on Earth Day, 22 April, the report draws attention to this irreplaceable natural treasure – home to 10 species of primate, more than 350 bird, 150 reptile and amphibian and a staggering 10,000 plant species.

The steady discovery of new forms of life more than justifies the commitment by the three governments to conserve the 22 million ha of the Heart of Borneo and WWF is supporting these efforts to make the declaration a reality, especially through sustainable financing sources such as payments for ecosystem services and forest carbon financing mechanisms.

Progress in the Amazon

Chocó Department, Colombia © WWF
A Memorandum of Understanding was signed by IUCN, WWF, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Secretariat and REDPARQUES – the technical cooperation network for protected areas in Latin America – supporting the Amazon countries’ drive for a joint conservation vision for the world’s largest remaining and most intact rainforest.

With unparalleled aquatic and terrestrial biodiversity, the Amazon plays a key role in global climate stability and provides hugely important ecological services.

Progress on the Pan-Amazon protected areas initiative, one of the goals of WWF’s Amazon Initiative, will be reported at the CBD Summit in Japan in 2010. The Colombian Government announced the creation of a one million ha protected area in the Colombian Amazon along the Apaporis River – a priority region for the Amazon Initiative, strongly supported by local indigenous communities.

Protected Areas for a Living Planet

Kaghan Valley, Pakistan. © WWF
Significant progress is being achieved by WWF’s Protected Areas for a Living Planet Programme, promoting the protected area (PA) targets of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in five ecoregions – Altai Sayan, Carpathians, Caucasus, Dinaric Arc and West Africa Marine – stretching across 27 countries and funded by the MAVA Foundation.

Building relations with governments, donors and other partners in all countries is a solid basis to develop fully-representative, well-managed and funded PA networks. The initiative involves the creation of a dozen PAs covering 1,5 million hectares (ha), which is achieving a multiplication effect with the partner governments of the region creating a total of more than 50 new PAs in 2009 covering almost 93 million ha – an area the size of Hungary.

Since 2007 the project raised CHF21 million in co-financing, established three new training colleges, and trained hundreds of government staff. Gap analyses have been completed for Russia, Mongolia and the Dinaric Arc, which are identifying priority areas for future PAs.

Tiger Initiative

Close up of a captive tiger's face (Panthera tigris), California, United States. © WWF
WWF launched a communication campaign on the severe plight of tigers, using the start of the Chinese Year of the Tiger on 14 February to focus public attention and build political will. Throughout the Network – in tiger range states and donor countries – activities are focusing on the continued loss of tigers, down to 3,200 and still falling.

And at the political level, a ministerial conference on tiger conservation in Hua Hin, Thailand, approved a groundbreaking Declaration on Tiger Conservation. This adopted WWF’s target to double wild tiger numbers by the next Year of the Tiger in 2022, and committed tiger range state governments to improve protection for tigers and prey, expand protected area networks, transborder cooperation and a halt to the illegal trade in tiger parts. National commitments are being prepared for the Tiger Summit in Russia in September, where the aim is to launch the world’s first range-wide tiger conservation plan.

The Greening of the Danube

Danube river. © WWF
A decade after four governments agreed to work together to establish a “green corridor” along the entire length of the Lower Danube River, Europe’s most ambitious wetland protection and restoration programme is well ahead of targets for creating protected areas (PAs).

The four governments – Bulgaria, Moldova, Romania and Ukraine – pledged to boost protection in 775,000 hectares (ha) of existing PAs, and add a further 160,000 ha along the river’s final 1,000 km. Ten years on and 1.4 million ha has been brought under protection, benefiting outstanding wildlife, and enhancing water security, flood control, and recreational and tourism livelihood opportunities for the region’s 29 million people.

Behind target is wetlands restoration, as only a quarter of the target 220,000 ha of former wetlands has been restored. The Lower Danube is one of the last free-flowing river stretches in Europe, and one of the aims of the green corridor declaration in 1999 was to maintain connectivity and the river’s ecological health.

New Protected Areas in Cameroon

African forest elephant (Loxodonta africana cyclotis); Dzanga-Ndoki National Park, Central African Republic. © WWF
The government of Cameroon recently signed a decree creating the 58,178 hectare Mount Cameroon National Park, which includes the 4,095-metre high Mount Cameroon. The new park will help protect some of the rarest ecosystems in the Congo Basin.

Mt. Cameroon is home to many species found nowhere else, including a very isolated population of forest elephant. The new park will also improve the livelihoods of 300,000 people living near the park, which provides them with large amounts of non-timber forest products, protects their water supplies and shelters sacred sites.

Cameroon has also declared its portion of Lake Chad – Africa’s fourth largest lake – as a Ramsar wetland of international significance fulfilling a commitment made a decade ago by the four countries sharing the lake. The declaration of this new 2.6 million ha internationallyprotected wetland makes this the world’s largest transboundary Ramsar wetland.

World’s First High Seas Marine Protected Areas

Southern Whale, Argentina © WWF
Coinciding with the Year of Biodiversity, the Argentine government, together with Fundación Vida Silvestre Argentina (FVSA)-WWF plan to announce the designation of a network of five new marine protected areas, covering at least 1 million hectares of Patagonian Sea.

The network is designed to protect feeding grounds of seabirds and cetaceans – especially the southern right whale – cold water corals and deep-sea sponges, in the face of dwindling fish stocks, climate change and other threats. The announcement follows many years of support from FVSA-WWF for marine conservation in Argentina, including the creation of Argentina’s first coastal-marine National Park, Monte León in 2004.

This new announcement is part of FVSA-WWF’s Blue Corridor Campaign, a combined initiative with the Argentine National Parks Department and with the support of key global industry heads, for ecosystem-baseed management to secure a vast tract of ocean extending from the Patagonian south-west Atlantic to the Southern Ocean.

Ambassadors for Forests event

This is a critical year for the world’s forests. With the CBD, the UNFCCC and the complementary REDD+ Partnership making key decisions, WWF sought commitments to strong targets for reducing deforestation and forest degradation in the CBD Strategic Plan and for a REDD+ mechanism under the UNFCCC. WWF brought together Ministers and senior officials from forest and donor countries, NGOs and donor agencies. All five ministers, from Gabon, Mexico, Nepal, Paraguay and Republic of Congo, signed on as Ambassadors for Forests in a new initiative to build political leadership to halt forest loss and safeguard biodiversity, the climate and people’s well-being. Additional governments will be invited to promote the global goal of halting forest loss in the lead-up to the UN Year of the Forests 2011.

Marine protection in Chile and Argentina

The government of Chile announced at the CBD COP new marine protected areas (MPAs) including the 15 million ha no-take MPA Salas y Gomez Island near Easter Island, and WWF prioritized the Gulf of Corcovado – important as a calving ground for endangered blue whales – for urgent protection. WWF presented a Leaders for a Living Planet award to Argentina’s National Park Administration President, Dr. Patricia Gandini, in recognition of her leadership in the country’s conservation efforts in the south-west Atlantic Ocean and the establishment of four new MPAs – part of a doubling of Argentina’s MPA cover, adding more than one million ha along the coast of Patagonia.

Partnerships to achieve conservation targets

A two-part event at the COP saw firstly CBD focal points among the 27 governments across five WWF priority landscapes – Altai Sayan, Carpathians, Caucasus, Dinaric Arc and West Africa Marine – highlight the importance of partnerships and transboundary cooperation in the MAVA Foundation-funded Protected Areas for a Living Planet initiative. This has resulted in over 100 new protected areas (PAs) totaling 4.2 million ha, €16 million in co-funding and commitments to establish 11.5 million ha of new PAs. In the second event, WWF met with donor organizations to explore collaboration to deliver CBD targets in 20 priority multi-country land and sea-scapes by 2020. This idea to focus donor attention and funding on agreed priority areas met great enthusiasm.

Saving Sumatra

Following the landmark announcement at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in 2008, that the 10 governors of the Indonesian island of Sumatra supported by four ministries, had agreed to restore critical ecosystems and protect priority forests, the Roadmap for saving Sumatra’s ecosystems was presented to the CBD COP. Sumatra lost 50 percent of its tropical forest since 1985 and is vitally important for highly biodiverse forests, carbon stored in peat soils and four flagship species: Sumatran elephant, orangutan, rhino and tiger. Three key provinces – Jambi, Riau and west Sumatra – have come together in the RIMBA initiative to achieve forest protection, including three of Sumatra’s six priority tiger landscapes, backed by a 2-year moratorium on conversion of peat swamp forest.

Major conservation commitments in West Africa

Major new commitments were announced at an event hosted by the regional programme for the conservation of coastal and marine zones in West Africa (PRCM) and the CBD’s Lifeweb initiative during the CBD COP. Progress on protected area (PA) creation and fisheries management was highlighted, and the ministers made new PA commitments: Guinea will extend its PA cover from 8 to 25 percent by 2020; Guinea Bissau from 15 to 24 percent by 2012; Mauritania from 30 to 40 percent in 2011; Gambia from 4 to 17 percent by 2020. In addition, Guinea Bissau announced it will host a donor roundtable for financing protected areas in West Africa in 2011. This was supported by the regional ministers, and development partners such as Germany, Netherlands, France, Spain, the GEF, EU, and The World Bank.

ADB-WWF event on key Asia-Pacific ecoregions

On the last evening of the COP, a well-attended dinner – including 10 ministers – heard of progress in the Coral Triangle, Greater Mekong, and Heart of Borneo initiatives supported by the ADB-WWF partnership. A highlight was the Bhutanese Minister’s announcement of the “Climate Summit For a Living Himalayas” in October 2011 of leaders of the four Eastern Himalayan countries – Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal – to focus on sustaining biodiversity and ecosystem services and measures to protect vulnerable forest and freshwater ecosystems. WWF International Director-General Jim Leape’s closing called on the governments present to take up the unique opportunity in the following 24 hours to achieve a landmark agreement to prioritise biodiversity conservation over the next decade.

High seas marine protected areas

The world’s first high seas marine protected areas (HSMPAs) – a WWF priority for many years – were celebrated at a Ministerial Meeting of North-East Atlantic Coastal States under the Oslo-Paris (OSPAR) Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment in Bergen, Norway, in September. The South Orkney islands HSMPA will kick off creation of a MPA network in the Southern Ocean. The second HSMPA – a mid-oceanic ridge in the North Sea, the Charlie Gibbs Fracture Zone – will lead to the creation of the world’s first network of six marine protected areas on the High Seas which will be important areas to support fisheries recovery and provide protection of the rich biodiversity including deep sea corals.

Humpback whales get priority in Colombia

After months of intense debate and only days before a new government took office, Colombia announced in August the creation of the 47,000 ha Malaga Bay Uramba National Natural Park on the Pacific coast – an important mating and calving ground for humpback whales, with 500 to 700 visiting each year. Supporters of the park as a whale sanctuary had to battle proponents of a huge proposed port. The area is recognized as one of the world’s most important sites for the reproduction of humpback whales.

Tripling Madagascar PA cover by 2012

Despite the ongoing political crisis in Madagascar, efforts to implement the Durban Vision – announced at the World Parks Congress in 2003 – to triple the island’s protected areas (PAs) coverage from 1.7 million ha to 6 million ha, have achieved 5.2 million ha and the Ministry of the Environment and Forests has set a goal to create an additional 1 million ha of marine protected areas by 2012. New PA models better link local livelihoods, culture and traditions and conservation. The new PAs include targets on ecosystem services, zoning that allows for sustainable use of natural resources and social safeguards policies. However slash and burn remains a threat to forests throughout the island – even in PAs.

Amazon Alive! A decade of discove

Between 1999 and 2009, more than 1,200 new species of plants and vertebrates were discovered in the Amazon – a rate of one new species every three days – confirming the Amazon as one of the most diverse - and still unknown - places on Earth. New species included in the report “Amazon Alive: A Decade of Discoveries 1999-2009” range from a 4 metre anaconda, to a bald parrot and a new species of pink river dolphin. The report was launched as a means to raise global awareness on the need to protect the Amazon’s fabled biodiversity treasures which provide enormous economic, social, and environmental benefits to people in the region, and to support the Amazon Initiative’s goal to achieve creation of Amazon-wide networks of protected areas.

Help for Brazil’s threatened Cerrado

The Brazilian government announced in September a new plan to protect the Cerrado – a WWF priority area rich in biodiversity and crucial for freshwater supplies, but highly threatened by economic development. Over two years USD200 milllion will be invested in this woodland-savannah area the size of Greenland which feeds important Amazon tributaries and the world’s largest wetland, the Pantanal – both also WWF priorities. The plan will develop a sustainable land use plan to reduce forest loss and ensure continuity of ecosystem services such as provision of freshwater supplies through creation of 2.5 million ha of new protected area and securing 5.8 million ha of indigenous peoples’ territory.

Hope for threatened forests

The Argentine Province Misiones has approved a major new land use law for native forests, helping protect 1.2 million ha of Atlantic forest. This follows a commitment made by the province and the Paraguay government at the World Forestry Congress in 2009 to achieve zero net deforestation in the Atlantic forest. Shared by Argentina’s Misiones Province, Brazil and Paraguay, this is a highly threatened subtropical forest, with less than eight percent surviving and heavily fragmented. WWF and UN-HABITAT are jointly tackling land conflict issues threatening the Virunga National Park in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, noted for mountain gorillas. The aim is to help refugees of the civil conflict while maintaining the park’s integrity and relationships with local communities.