South African National Parks (SANParks) hosted the World Protected Areas Leadership Forum (WPALF) from 16-19 August 2010, at Skukuza in the Kruger National Park. Delegates from Kenya, Finland, Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) participated in this forum along with the heads of the various divisions within SANParks.
The forum provides an opportunity for heads of parks and protected area agencies to discuss issues of mutual interest and share information.
Opening the WPALF, the chief executive of SANParks, Dr David Mabunda said the hosting of this forum could not have come at a better time for protected areas world-wide, particularly as governments are wrestling with the effects of the recent economic recession.
He said protected areas need to inspire innovation and improve existing and new offerings that could instill interest from the markets "and a forum such this will enhance our understanding of the various methods and experiences by our counterparts elsewhere in the world."
Speaking at the same meeting, the chairperson of the IUCN's World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA), Nik Lopoukhine, said while most governments now recognise the fundamental value of conservation of biodiversity there are many threats that compromise biodiversity in protected areas. "These include extractive use of natural resources such as mining or construction of highways in areas adjacent to the protected areas."
SANParks presented issues ranging from land claims, tourism management, large mammal management and strategic adaptive management to issues related to Transfrontier Conservation Areas (TFCAs).
The international presentations were an offering from the IUCN on the International Year of Biodiversity as well as a look from Finland on the prioritisation of spatial planning in the development and management of protected areas.