IUCN and international partners team up with Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation for natural World Heritage Sites in Thailand

On 1 December 2017, Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with five international organisations working in Thailand including IUCN, World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Freeland and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) for fostering effective conservation and management of Thailand’s natural World Heritage Sites. 

MoU signing ceremony

Dr Scott Perkin, Head of the Natural Resources Group for IUCN Asia, spoke on behalf of the international partner organisations, highlighting three key priorities to ensure the protection of the 200 natural sites now inscribed on the World Heritage List. According to the latest World Heritage Outlook, 29% of all natural World Heritage Sites face significant threats, 25% are affected by climate change – including glacier loss and coral bleaching – while a further 7% are in critical danger. Therefore, the first priority is to “ensure that these sites are well-managed and protected in the long term.” The second priority is to involve and engage stakeholders, such as indigenous peoples, NGOs and the private sector in the nomination, management and monitoring of World Heritage sites. The final priority is for the system of World Heritage Sites to make a stronger contribution to biodiversity conservation and better represent the world’s key ecosystems. “The MoU we are signing today could well be a model for future partnerships aimed at improving the conservation outlook of World Heritage Sites,” said Dr Perkin.

The Thai government and DNP have a history of commitment to the effective conservation and management of Thailand’s natural World Heritage Sites. For example, the Thungyai-Huai Kha Khaeng World Heritage Site has led the way in implementing a Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) patrol system that equips park rangers and managers with information and technology, enabling better protection of the area. It is also an example of successful collaboration between international organisations to achieve important conservation outcomes – in this case, the recovery of Huai Kha Khaeng’s tiger population. Thailand has also made concerted efforts to address challenges in the Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex, another of the country’s natural World Heritage Sites.  Management systems have been strengthened, and transboundary dialogue and cooperation on the issue of illegal rosewood exploitation has been initiated.

Dr Perkin also noted several other outstanding landscapes and protected areas in Thailand which “may also have World Heritage potential.” These included Kaeng Krachan, one of the largest forest areas remaining in Southeast Asia, and the Andaman Nature Reserve, a critical marine ecosystem.  IUCN has been working in close collaboration with Kaeng Krachan park officials, the Seub Foundation and the Regional Community Forestry Training Center (RECOFTC) to strengthen the management of the forest and enhance community engagement. Management of the Andaman Nature Reserve will require transboundary cooperation between Thailand and Myanmar, with IUCN collaboration. “Both of these sites are worthy of much greater attention and investment,” concluded Dr Perkin, expressing his hope that the MoU would result in their inscription as natural World Heritage Sites through closer collaboration between the Thailand DNP and participating conservation organisations. 

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