Did you know that GLOBAL WARMING and CLIMATE CHANGE are NOT the most immediate threat to the conservation of nature? While Al Gore and Tony Blaire battle for saving the world from the disaster of climate change, the world is unaware for the most immediate crisis for the conservation of nature: More than half of the world's rainforests risk disappearing within 2 decades because there are no park rangers and wardens to manage them. Without those multi functional custodians of national parks and nature reserves, most wild animals are without protection from poachers and rainforests will be invaded and cut down for agriculture or other production purposes.
Let's just give you some examples:
A recent inventory of WICE, TNC and the Brazilian Environment Ministry, showed that only about 60 of the about 245 federal nature and forest reserves of Brazil, had any field staff at all, being about one third of the areas and representing less than a quarter of the area of protected land;
Our good friend, Alberto Paniaguas, the director of PROFUNANPE in Peru, one of the world's most successful trust funds for protected areas, told us that only 50% of the protected areas in Peru has field staff;
Victor Archaga, former director of the protected areas agency of Honduras and current regional coordinator for the Nature Conservancy, told us that there are less than 30 people assigned to Honduras' 100 protected areas;
Renee Gonzales, the director of the Mexican Protected Areas Fund, FANP showed us that only 60% of the protected areas of Mexico have field staff;
The director of the protected areas agency in Angola told us that he had to defend his enormous system against poachers armed with AK47 automatic machine guns with about 500 staff, including the administrative staff.
The last remaining Mongolian Saiga Antelopes are unprotected from poachers who sell their horns on medicinal markets in China.
So what is the problem? Are all those generous donors like the World Bank, the United Nations, and countries like the USA, Germany, the Netherlands, just to name a few, not making generous contributions? Yes they are. But they are restricted by certain policies. In general, these donors are not allowed to finance the hiring of personnel for the government. So they finance very good and useful studies and infrastructure. But without sufficient staff, the nature reserves can't benefit from them, as there is nobody to actually do the work.
The western world has asked the developing and transition* countries to set aside about 10% of their land as nature reserves, and over the last 20 years, they actually did that! But the conservation world has never properly addressed the consequences of such an increase in protected areas: the need for more staffing. As 2/3 of the costs of a protected area are the cost of the salaries of park wardens and rangers, there is a vast shortage of rangers worldwide. The West hardly contributed anything at all to share in the increased costs to pay for field staff. Abandoned nature reserves everywhere are the result. With the effects of climate change becoming more and more visible they need rangers to protect them from forest fires, poaching, illegal tree cutting, etc. Moreover, they also need to be socially integrated with local communities, so that people will respect and appreciate the nature reserves. This can only be achieved if the protected areas are staffed with enough park rangers and wardens. If the world fails to foresee in the need for park wardens and rangers in the next two decades or so, we fear that a great deal of the progress the world has made over the last decade or so, will be lost after all.
The effects of Climate Change on nature will be severe, and if we don't immediately start protecting the last remaining wild areas in the world , probably less than half of the wild plant and animal species of the world will have gone extinct before the end of this century. We must take all the measures possible to prevent climate change from getting worse. But what is already in the air, we can't take out and many people believe that climate change already is a fact**. The only way we can reduce the effects of climate change on nature and wildlife is by having the 10% of the world's land mass set aside as protected area, effectively managed and protected. This is only possible when each and each protected area has sufficient and properly trained field staff.
Climate change has become the new wave of environmental concern. As governments have become increasingly budget aware, the ministers of finance do anything to prevent additional spending. New political agendas will have to be financed from budgets for politically less hot programmes. Nature conservation has lost its political momentum and much of its financing is now used for other purposes, particularly climate change. The largest financing for nature conservation has been redirected to different other noble and important directions, one of it being combating climate change. The World Wide Fund for Nature, WWF is now also using part of its funding to combat climate change.
As global change gets more and more attention from political icons, like Al Gore and Tony Blair, nature conservation will increasingly be pushed to the background. With the financing of the protected areas in developing countries already being very inadequate, the reduction of the budgets for biodiversity conservation to finance climate change abatement, leads to ADDITIONAL species loss.
Not because of the change of the climate, but because of budget reduction! As a result, climate change kills species, long before the effects of climate change and draughts have permanently altered the ecosystems. Don't let this happen! Speak out to your government representative and let him/her know that for you species conservation is just as important as climate change abatement.
Adopt A Ranger, AAR is an innovative initiative to draw worldwide public attention to the most urgent problem that conservation is facing in developing and transition countries: protected areas without field staff. Very specifically, it will contribute to solving the problem by fund raising to finance rangers in the field. It will also help governments in developing and transition countries to assess realistic staffing needs and staffing strategies.
Adopt A Ranger has as its mission to support the conservation of nature worldwide, particularly by:
financing the salaries and operational costs of "national park rangers" and comparable officials whose task it is to protect natural areas and to serve the stakeholder public of the protected area to which they be assigned; and
promoting public interest in the conservation of protected areas in developing countries.
There is no doubt that protected areas in developed countries also suffer from ranger deficits and we would like to mention the severe shortage of all European Mediterranean countries, that have the highest biodiversity in Europe. While Adopt A Ranger focuses on the needs of developing and transition countries, any individual or organization can use Adopt A Ranger to finance rangers for any protected area in any country of the world!
* The "transition" countries are the former communist countries whose economies are now in transition.