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A controversy at the 2016 IUCN World Conservation Congress on the topic of closing domestic ivory markets (the 007, or so-called James Bond, motion) has given rise to a debate on IUCN's value proposition. A cross-section of authors who are engaged in IUCN but not employed by the organization, and with diverse perspectives and opinions, here argue for the importance of safeguarding and strengthening the unique technical and convening roles of IUCN, providing examples of what has and has not worked. Recommendations for protecting and enhancing IUCN's contribution to global conservation debates and policy formulation are given.
To stem the loss of biodiversity and ensure continued provision of essential ecosystem services world leaders adopted the 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets in 2010, to be fulfilled by 2020. One key target (Target 11) prescribes an expansion of the global protected area system to at least 17% of land surface and 10% of oceans by 2020. Given that these targets are predominantly based on political feasibility rather than scientific evidence, it remains unclear whether fulfilment of Target 11 will suffice to safeguard biodiversity and ensure continued provision of essential ecosystem services. Despite many data gaps, in particular for ecosystem services, we can use existing global data to estimate the required protected area on land for biodiversity (a minimum of c. 17%) and biomass carbon storage (a minimum of c. 7–14% additional area to protect 75–90% of the unprotected carbon stock), which illustrates that the target of 17% of land will probably fall short in meeting these goals. As crossing thresholds or tipping points in ecosystems could trigger non-linear, abrupt change in delivery of ecosystem services, we need a science-driven understanding of how much protected, intact nature is needed to avoid unforeseen transgression of planetary boundaries.
Conserving biodiversity is a daunting and complex task. Perhaps no species presents a greater challenge than the giant panda – one of the most recognized and threatened animals on the planet. Its difficult-to-traverse, mountainous habitat in China makes quantifying population numbers in the wild exceedingly difficult. Despite a recent survey suggesting that the wild population may be growing, there is no disagreement that the primary threat is severely fragmented habitat. There now are more than 40 isolated populations, many too small or containing too few giant pandas to be demographically and genetically viable for much longer.
Seminal studies have been conducted on wild giant panda ecology by pioneers such as Wenshi Pan, Zhi Lu and George Schaller. However, we still have only touched on the full complement of information necessary for integrated and robust conservation initiatives. One threat to overall giant panda conservation is simply the lack of broad-based knowledge about its biology. This is particularly important for such an evolutionarily distinct species. Its biological systems are unconventional: distinctive from bears, but a derivative of the ursine lineage; a bear-like, monogastric animal that largely survives on grass (bamboo); and a species that has somehow survived to modern times despite an extraordinarily short (three-day) window of sexual receptivity for the female. Surely, a more detailed understanding of such phenomena is critical, both from a scholarly perspective as well as to provide data that can inform wise management decisions.
Madagascar's biodiversity is of extremely high international significance, yet comprehensive efforts to assess current knowledge and set priorities have been absent until recently. Beginning in April 1995, a major participatory effort to assess the country's scientific and conservation priorities was undertaken in Madagascar. This process laid important groundwork for the revision of Madagascar's National Environmental Action Plan. The first stage of the process was a scientific priority-setting workshop. Over one hundred experts, organized in thematic groups, reached consensus on biodiversity priorities for the island, based on cross-discipline comparisons. A principal finding of the workshop is that many areas of outstanding biodiversity and research importance are located outside protected areas. Participants also agreed that corridors needed to be created between the high-priority protected areas in order to maintain gene flow and exchange of species. The second stage of the process was a stakeholder consultation which integrated scientific findings, national priorities, local stakeholder views, and donor input. The stakeholder consultation concluded that a collaborative, regional approach was needed to augment site-based conservation activities. Participants also emphasized that institutional strengthening in forestry and parks agencies needed much higher priority. The net result of the process was the adoption of a landscape approach to conservation which integrates regional planning, biodiversity monitoring and institutional strengthening.
Biodiversity – a measure of the wealth of species, ecosystems and ecological processes that make up our living planet –received public prominence as a result of the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992. The loss of biodiversity, say the authors, is the greatest environmental problem the world faces but the issue has not been given the attention it deserves. With the emergence of the Global Environmental Facility in 1990 came the chance to fund biodiversity conservation on a unprecedented scale and in 1992 the GEF was adopted as the interim funding mechanism for the Convention on Biological Diversity signed at the Earth Summit. Three years after its foundation, the authors of this paper suggest that the GEF has to be reformed radically if it is to become an effective force in conservation. Their conclusions are based on Conservation International's experience with the GEF over the last 3 years in more than 10 countries.
The Pantanal of South America is the world's largest wetland and has an abundant and diverse fauna. Although man's influence has caused many changes there are still some little disturbed areas, which offer opportunities for conservation. The authors discuss some of the threats to the region and recommend how these could be mitigated.
Suriname is a small country, but it still has large tracts of undisturbed forests and rich wildlife. The authors discuss Suriname's plans to extend its already excellent network of protected areas and proposals to amend the hunting regulations. They also consider the country's eight monkey species, whose status can be regarded as indicative of that of the rest of the country's wildlife.
In 1979 there was only one national park in the forested Amazon region of Brazil. In that year Brazil adopted a conservation plan for the Amazonian region, proposed in 1976 as part of a system of conservation units for the whole country. Since then a further four national parks and a number of biological reserves and ecological stations have been established. The plan, which gives priority to ecosystem protection, takes the geographic diversity of plant species into consideration but not that of the fauna. The authors examine the effectiveness of the plan in protecting the primate families Callitrichidae, Callimiconidae and Cebidae and suggest how it could be adapted by recognising the importance of rivers, which limit the distributions of many primate species and subspecies as well as those of many other mammals, birds and plants.
Many governments of developing countries consider that croplands and pastures are more valuable than forest, so they harvest the most valuable timber, turn the smaller trees into charcoal, and burn the rest. Often the whole forest is razed to the ground and burned. Not only does the timber thus become a non-renewable resource, but many other valuable species are lost, for only a handful of scientists know what these valuable non-timber species are, and only rarely has the information been made available to governments.
The pied bare-face tamarin is found only in the vicinity of Manaus, the second largest city in Brazilian Amazonia, where rapid growth in recent years has resulted in much forest destruction. The authors’ studies show that this tamarin is now endangered and they suggest an action plan to ensure its survival.
The people of Brunei know that they need to conserve the resources of their very small country. Proboscis monkey, clouded leopard, dugong, three sea turtles, eight hornbills and the earless monitor lizard are among the fully protected species; and there is little hunting. The people are Muslims, so many animals cannot be eaten. The Government controls timber extraction; no timber is exported and clear-felling is prohibited. So far there are no wildlife reserves, but, after investigating the potentialities of several uninhabited areas, including some mangrove islands, the author has made recommendations.
During a field expedition in eastern Brazil the authors found a new population of the endangered buffy-headed marmoset Callithrix flaviceps in the state of Tinas Gerais where it was not previously known. This was in a privately protected forest that also has an important population of the endangered woolly spider monkey Brachyteles arachnoides and other monkeys.
A large river turtle Dermatemys mawei, found only in the coastal lowlands of the Gulf of Mexico, is becoming rare throughout most of its restricted range. It is found from central Veracruz, Mexico, eastward through Guatemala and Belize, but not in the Yucatan Peninsula, and it is heavily hunted for its meat. The only living representative of the Dermatemydidae, a turtle family known from as early as the Cretaceous, its closest living relatives are the mud turtles (Kinosternidae), and it is not as closely related to the snapping turtles (Chelydridae) as previously thought.4,5,9,20 In the latest classification of turtles the Dermatemydidae are placed in the Superfamily Trionychoidea of the Infraorder Cryptodira.
The seven species of Podocnemis river turtles, in northern South America, have long been important sources of meat for local people; as such they have many advantages over both native mammals and imported domestic species. But most of the populations are now severely depleted, and several species are endangered. The author suggests that if nesting beaches were effectively protected these turtles would recover their numbers, and this, combined with careful management and sustained-yield cropping, would ensure their survival as a valuable resource.
Surinam is one of the few countries in the world where uninhabited and undisturbed tropical rain forest still covers large areas. The Government is fully aware of the importance of this natural heritage. Wildlife is protected, and eight nature reserves, ranging in size from 4000 to 22,000 ha, have been created to protect representative habitats – forest, savannas, coastal flats and important breeding beaches for Kemp's ridley, green and leatherback turtles.
It is becoming increasingly difficult for biomedical research workers to get the wild primates they consider essential for their work. Successful primate ranching could help solve the problem. In 1967 a well-known animal dealer in Colombia, Mike Tsalickis of Leticia, released over 5000 squirrel monkeys on an island in the Amazon in the hope of quick breeding results. Five years later he estimated the island monkey population at over 20,000, and the experiment appeared to have been very successful; later counts, however, suggested considerable errors in the figures and that the monkeys had in fact decreased catastrophically. The authors describe this and other experiments, some successful, but only as a result of expensive supplemental feeding.