From a wetland in Albania to a bird dropping biodiversity paradise in deepest Peru, GPAP lifts the lid on five of the best kept protected area secrets on the planet.
The Barren Isles archipelago, off the west coast of Madagascar in the Mozambique Channel, is one of the few remaining refuges of marine life in the western Indian Ocean. In addition to housing some of Madagascar’s healthiest and most productive coral reefs, this diverse ecosystem supports more than 4,000 traditional vezo fishers. The vezo live along Madagascar’s west coast and rely almost exclusively on the sea for survival and cultural identity.
The Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park (BJCMNP), Jamaica was designated in 1993 under the Natural Resources Conservation Authority Act, on the boundary of the Blue Mountain Forest Reserve and a group of adjoining forest reserves, designated between 1945 and 1965. The government agency responsible for national parks is the National Environment and Planning Agency, who have delegated management to the Jamaica Conservation and Development Trust (JCDT) – a non-government organisation. These two have a collaborative agreement with the Forestry Department, and JCDT is recognised as responsible for the Park’s operational management.
Located in the Sonoran Desert in northwestern Mexico, El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve (EPGDABR) comprises two distinct parts and harbours a rich trove of biodiversity with many endemic species, including the Sonoran Pronghorn, which is only found in northwestern Sonora and in southwestern Arizona in the United States. To the east lie the dormant Pinacate shield of black and red lava flows and desert pavements, while the Gran Altar Desert stretches to the west with its shifting sand dunes that can reach up to 200 metres in height.
The Guano Islands and Capes National Reserve System in Peru represents an important network of MPAs, full of history and biodiversity. Before the invention of synthetic fertilizers, guano from bird droppings was an essential agricultural fertilizer. Peru was the biggest producer in the world, due to the large nesting bird populations of the Humboldt, or Peruvian, Current and the arid climate´s ability to preserve the guano. After over-exploitation, the government took over management and sustainably managed guano production for 100 years, monitoring the bird populations and rotating guano extraction through the islands every few years. In order to augment the populations of sea birds, walls were built around isolated capes to restrict access and movement of people near nesting areas.
The Butrinti National Park, located in Southern Albania, is a rich natural and cultural site which is home to several globally threatened species, as well as archaeological treasures dating back to the Neolithic period. Situated around the ancient town of Butrinti, the heart of the UNESCO World Heritage site is the Butrinti Lagoon, which is often referred to as a lake, given its large surface area and depth. The park is comprised of natural, semi-natural and artificial habitats such as freshwater marshes, Mediterranean forests and fruit tree terraces. These areas contain a diverse range of animals and plants, many of which are categorised as species of global and cultural concern, resulting in this wetland complex being categorised as a Ramsar Site and a National Park (Category II of the IUCN Protected Area Management Categories) in 2003.