THE reasons for the accelerating increase in private protected areas remain relatively unstudied. Many have attributed this growth to two significant and closely related factors: ecotourism expansion and the rising societal interest in biodiversity conservation.Even though there is an increasing awareness of private protected areas and their potential to conserve biodiversity, the conservation community unfortunately knows little about them.
A few studies have emerged recently, which focus on the activities, problems, profitability and other attributes of private protected areas. For example, privately owned land in Eastern and Southern Africa contributes extensively to conserving critical biodiversity.
In Southern Africa alone they protect millions of ecologically significant areas, especially in critical corridor and buffer zone areas. Additionally, issues pertaining to the administration of private protected areas, the effectiveness of private protected areas in meeting conservation objectives as well as the concurrent social imperatives of private protected areas have been explored.
Despite these developments and increasing awareness on privately owned protected areas, they are still very complex and remain relatively unknown.
A key strength of private protected areas is their ability to protect rare, threatened species and habitat underrepresented in particular regions.
Some areas also protect remnants of rapidly disappearing habitats and lands under heavy development pressure. What is missing is a country-level appraisal that analyses their general conservation niche as well as defined studies that integrate the depth and breadth of private protected area management at both national and international level, studies that evaluate the political implications and potential for sustainability that should be the focus and discourse concerning private protected areas in a Namibian context.
Joey Mupewa works for Mupewa Environmental Consultants