The Asia Protected Areas Partnership (APAP) has continued to gather momentum in recent months, with the addition of two new members: the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests of the Royal Government of Bhutan, and the Wildlife Department of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan.
Each of these two new members brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the Partnership. Bhutan, for example, established its first wildlife sanctuary in 1966; protected areas and biological corridors now cover over 51 per cent of the country's land area. Similarly, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, located in the spectacular north-western part of Pakistan, is home to five national parks, three wildlife sanctuaries, two wildlife refuges, and almost 140 reserves.
The Bhutan Ministry of Agriculture and Forests submitted a formal letter of intent to join APAP on 28 August 2015, thus becoming the eighth member of the Partnership. The Ministry's letter highlighted the important role that APAP can play in fostering regional collaboration, and noted that:
“Given that biodiversity transcends national and political boundaries, APAP would enable member nations to effectively address issues concerning protected areas at a broader level. We remain firmly committed that APAP will contribute to the region’s endeavor in strengthening trans-boundary and regional cooperation in the management of protected areas of the member countries.”
The Wildlife Department of Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province became the ninth member of APAP on 3 September 2015. In a pioneering development, the Wildlife Department is also the very first provincial-level organisation to join the Partnership.
The other members of APAP are from the following countries: Bangladesh; Japan; Mongolia; Nepal; Pakistan (national level); Republic of Korea; and Viet Nam. The Royal Government of Bhutan and the provincial government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa now join these members in setting an example of regional collaboration on protected areas.
IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) supported the establishment of APAP and currently co-chairs this initiative along with the Government of Japan.