Public Release: 

World's protected areas suffer from $2.5 billion annual shortfall

Analysis shows extinctions, habitat loss in under funded 'protected areas'

Conservation International

September 12, 2003 (Durban, South Africa) - The budget shortfall for effectively maintaining the world's existing parks and protected areas is estimated to be $2.5 billion annually, according to an international panel of economists, scientists, governments and protected area managers. The bulk of the shortfall exists in developing nations.

The analysis also estimates that maintaining and expanding the global protected area network to conserve many of the most threatened but currently unprotected plant and animal species on Earth would cost approximately $23 billion a year over the next 10 years, including land acquisition expenses. Currently, global funding is just $7 billion per year, with less than $1 billion each year spent in the developing world, where the greatest wealth of biodiversity exists.

Conservation International (CI), the Center for Applied Biodiversity Science (CABS) at CI, the University of Cambridge and BirdLife International released these figures today at the 5th World Parks Congress.

Currently, tens of thousands of protected areas worldwide, most dramatically those in the developing world, suffer from a chronic lack of funding, resulting in a shortage of staff, ranger stations, communications equipment, vehicles and other basic infrastructure.

The shortfall is leading to catastrophic results for many of the world's protected areas. In West Africa, for example, funding of many parks is so poor that areas once rich with elephants, hippos and monkeys are now empty. In Latin America, protected areas have been cleared for agriculture, and in Asia, the last individuals of some of the world's most amazing species - tigers, monkeys and crocodiles - are poached for illegal sale.

"This massive budget shortfall means that too often, protected areas have ineffective and insufficient management, resulting in the progressive degradation of resources these areas were established to protect," said John Hanks, Director of Southern Africa Transfrontier Conservation Areas for CI. "The acceleration of human encroachment is transforming vast natural areas, and species are still teetering on the brink of extinction - in the very places designed to provide them safe refuge."

The panel called for a range of funding sources, including governments, bi-laterals and multi-laterals, foundations, non-governmental organizations and private individuals to make a greater commitment to provide the increase in funds needed to support effective park management. It also noted the critical need to establish new protected areas.

"The developed world easily has the capacity to help the developing world close this shortfall," said Aaron Bruner, Manager of Conservation Economics for CABS at CI. "For $23 billion, significantly less money than Americans spend on soft drinks alone each year, we can save a large number of the places that house the greatest diversity of life on Earth. And for a fraction of that, just $1.5 billion a year, we could take the vital step of making sure that basic management of all existing protected areas in developing countries is well funded."

A 2002 study published in the journal Science found that the long-term economic benefit derived from healthy ecosystems greatly outweighed the costs of protecting them. It showed that developing remaining wild habitats jeopardizes ecosystem services such as flood and storm protection, watershed protection, and carbon sequestration, which helps to control global climate. Collectively, services such as these are worth some $33 trillion each year.

"In weighing the costs and benefits of a global network of protected areas, it is critical to take into account the enormous benefits that undeveloped habitats provide to society," said Andrew Balmford, Senior Lecturer at the University of Cambridge and lead author of the study in Science. "These areas protect our natural heritage, provide numerous local benefits, and generate a wide range of globally valuable ecosystem services."

The creation and proper management of protected areas often provides direct benefits to poor communities. For example, a recent World Bank study found that funding the creation and management of an expanded protected area system in Madagascar would protect soil and water quality and provide direct benefits to poor farmers greatly exceeding protected area management costs.

One of the principal objectives of the Sustainable Financing Stream at the World Parks Congress, which is being jointly coordinated by Carlos E. Quintela, Director of the Wildlife Conservation Society's Conservation Finance Program and Lee Thomas, Vice Chair of the World Commission on Protected Areas, is to address the issues and options that determine the long-term funding viability of protected areas.

"There are many success stories," they point out, "yet there still exists a myriad of technical, policy and institutional constraints that create the shortfall and which will need to be overcome."


Maps and Photos Available to Journalists On Request.

Conservation International (CI) applies innovations in science, economics, policy and community participation to protect the Earth's richest regions of plant and animal diversity in the hotspots, major tropical wilderness areas and key marine ecosystems. With headquarters in Washington, D.C., CI works in more than 30 countries on four continents. For more information about CI's programs, visit

The Center For Applied Biodiversity Science (CABS) based at Conservation International, strengthens the ability of CI and other institutions to accurately identify and quickly respond to emerging threats to Earth's biological diversity. CABS brings together leading experts in science and technology to collect and interpret data about biodiversity, to develop strategic plans for conservation and to forge key partnerships in all sectors toward conservation goals. Read more about CABS at

The mission of the University of Cambridge is to contribute to society through the pursuit of education, learning, and research at the highest international levels of excellence. Read more at

The BirdLife Partnership is working to improve the quality of life for birds, people and other wildlife. For more information on BirdLife International, go to

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