The widely accepted global definition of a protected area is ‘a clearly defined geographical space, recognised, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values’ (IUCN 2018).

Based on this definition, protected areas can vary from Nature Reserves, to National Parks, to private conservancies and indigenous and community-managed sites; on land, sea and even in urban areas.  Protected areas can be strictly set aside just for nature, but they can also be places where nature, visitation, culture and sustainable resource use are harmoniously combined.

Mounts Iglit-Baco
Mounts Iglit-Baco, photo by: Barney Long

Nearly 15% of the world’s land surface is in protected areas, approaching the globally agreed target of 17% by 2020. But GWC and many other organizations want to aim for 30% or more. Protecting nearly a third of the Earth’s landmass would boost the chances of threatened species’ survival, preserve much of our planet’s natural beauty, and help safeguard the natural systems upon which all life depends.

GWC is committed to working towards that 30% target, through land purchase, through supporting our partners around the world to identify sites where protected areas are most needed, and helping national authorities to formally designate new protected areas.

Quality and Quantity

Declaring an area protected on paper doesn’t make it so; sites need to be secured and effectively managed, monitored, and cared for. GWC is constantly striving to improve the way protected areas are managed to ensure a safer future for biodiversity. We take a multidisciplinary approach,  involving not just conservation biology, but also community development, new forms of land use, anthropology, law enforcement, economics, and business management.

The approach we take involves evaluating current status and performance, identifying conservation targets, working on management plans, supporting decision making, building the capacity of individuals and organizations and tracking performance and impact.

Our work encompasses more than 30 active or potential protected areas.

Participatory protected area planning with a local community in Nicaragua. Photo by: Mike Appleton

Planning - Working with traditional and indigenous peoples to establish their own management plan and system for the biodiversity-rich forests of Indio Maiz Biological Reserve (Nicaragua). 

Species conservation - Protecting the world’s last Javan Rhinos (Indonesia) by boosting the capacity of Ujung Kulon National Park.

Javan Rhino. Photo by: Robin Moore/GWC
Management Team of Mounts Iglit-Baco Natural Park in the Philippines

Helping Build more Effective Organizations - Managing and protecting the last stronghold of the Critically Endangered Tamaraw (Dwarf Buffalo) and the unique indigenous cultures that inhabit the Park by building the capacity of Mts Iglit-Baco Natural Park (Philippines).

Supporting Protected Area Practitioners - Training and mentoring park employees, students, volunteers, NGO staff, community members and anyone working in protected areas where GWC works.

Redonda, months following the removal of rats and goats from the island.

Helping governments declare. new protected areas Working with the Government of Antigua and Barbuda and local NGOs to secure official protected area status for the newly restored island of Redonda and its surrounding seas.

Tracking and Improving Performance

We have developed our own evaluation approach, based on seven main components of protected area management, which we use to identify how we can best help improve management of sites where we work and and to track their performance.

Protected Area Management Diagram

We work openly and collaboratively with Protected Area management teams across our portfolio using this approach, which can be adapted to meet the needs of any type of Protected Area. One park team described the evaluation experience as ‘therapy’, allowing them to reflect on their strengths and weaknesses and plan for sustainable future for their park.

La Amistad National Park, Costa Rica
GWC team working with the staff of La Amistad National Park, Costa Rica. Photo by: Mike Appleton

Stay Wild. Stay Connected.