The "Silent Crisis" is the
continued existence of "paper parks" throughout the tropics, or parks
that are signed into law with much official fanfare, yet which are allowed to
deteriorate in silent obscurity. Given the prevalence of paper parks and the
severity of the infractions left unchallenged within them, we feel that this
crisis represents one of today's most urgent conservation needs.
Most people know that the greatest storehouses
of biodiversity on the planet are the world's tropical rainforests and reefs.
Yet, few people know just how threatened these habitats are, even within the
protected areas set up to preserve them. Protected areas currently amount to
less than 5% of the tropical forest biome. However, many of these protected
areas are actually paper parks lacking any budget, administration or enforcement.
Many paper parks have unrealized potential as destinations for ecotourism, and
are likely to remain underappreciated in the absence of any planning or investment.
Perhaps most egregiously, inadequate monitoring of park conditions has failed
to reveal, and much less resolve, the pervasive threats to paper parks that
jeopardize the biological riches that motivated the initial conferring of reserve
Only rarely is up-to-date information
on the conservation status of protected areas documented and brought to the
public attention; even rarer is the application of corrective action before
a protected area suffers from degradation. Conservation failures therefore go
largely unnoticed. Inaction is further guaranteed by systematic underfunding
and understaffing of parks, combined with policies depriving park guards of
the authority required to carry out their managerial duties.
Inadequate implementation of parks is
particularly acute in developing countries, where most of the world's biodiversity
lies, and where many forces combine to threaten protected areas, including poverty,
landlessness, exhaustion of natural resources, and overpopulation. Yet, in spite
of competing social needs, it is becoming clear from the blossoming of conservation
NGO's worldwide that nature conservation is not only valued by the industrialized
world, but is in fact also of increasing interest to the developing world's
citizenry. Alas, the potential consequences of the loss of tropical biodiversity
and ecosystem functions are of concern to society as a whole, so that the industrialized
world has a responsibility to assist these efforts to the fullest extent possible.
If humankind values intact nature, biodiversity,
and wilderness, PARKS MUST WORK in protecting their natural