The purpose of this website is to raise awareness of natural world heritage sites, and help build an informed ‘constituency’ of people to support their conservation. The outstanding value of each of these places has been recognized internationally through a rigorous process of selection for the World Heritage List and they deserve to be given the highest priority for conservation. If conservation is successful here, these places can serve as ‘ambassadors for conservation’ and ‘models of best practice’ for other national parks and protected areas around the world. And if this website can contribute to that effort it will have achieved a worthwhile outcome.
By most measures humanity is enjoying an unprecedented ‘golden age’ in which we have achieved enormous success in expanding our populations and improving living standards. But this has come at a heavy price for the natural world and investments in conservation and environmental protection have not kept pace. In a world of limited resources for conservation it is imperative that the places featured here – the ‘crown jewels’ of the world’s national parks and protected areas system – are given the priority attention they deserve by the international community. If we can demonstrate an ability to establish world class management of this relatively small portfolio of ‘elite’ places, we will be in a stronger position to ensure that the benefits of protecting natural areas like these can be enjoyed by an ever-increasing part of our human family.
The website is designed to ‘tell the story’ of each place by providing a slideshow of photos that show the landscapes, environment, wildlife, people, threats and conservation needs. This is supported by clear authoritative information, maps, and other resources on each place, including links to other websites. It was launched in June 2017 with a relatively small number of ‘featured sites’ with the intention of covering other places as photographs and other content become available.
Each of the places is given a five-star rating against various criteria, aimed at providing a ‘rough and ready’ assessment of its value, interest and visitor potential. These ratings are inevitably rather subjective, but may be helpful in developing a general impression of each place. The criteria are as follows:
- Scenery. Aesthetic landscape values, where places with dramatic scenery and far-reaching views score most highly
- Wildlife/Biodiversity. The quantity and quality of plant and/or animal life, where places with large congregations of mammals and/or birds; and/or unusual species; and/or exceptional diversity, score most highly.
- Accessibility. An indication of the feasibility of making a visit, for an international visitor, in terms of the amount of time, effort, discomfort and cost involved.
- Facilities. An indication of the quantity and quality of tourism infrastructure at the site or its immediate surroundings, including roads, trails, accommodation and interpretation facilities.
- Integrity. An indication of ‘ecological integrity’ and whether the site remains in an intact, pristine, natural condition.
This website is a private initiative of British-born conservationist, author and photographer Dr Peter Howard. Peter lives in Nairobi, Kenya and has worked in wildlife conservation since 1980, primarily in Africa. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and member of IUCN’s World Commision on Protected Areas. Over a period of 35 years he served in a range of full-time professional positions in Africa with institutions such as KZN Wildlife, WWF, Uganda Forestry Department, Tanzania National Parks, IUCN and the Ghana Wildlife Division. He has also served as Director of the Africa Program of the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society, with responsibility for projects across the African continent. Since 2006 he has become increasingly involved in supporting the world heritage movement and occasional consultancy roles with IUCN and other official agencies. He now travels extensively around the world photographing natural world heritage sites and researching content for these websites.
Whilst Peter’s photographs have provided a foundation for the launch of this website, a global initiative of this kind will inevitably require contributions from many others. As noted above the website is very much ‘a work in progress’ and there’s a long way to go. It must be a global collaborative effort. So, if you can contribute photographs of any natural world heritage site that is not yet featured, please Contact Us. Your contributions will be highly appreciated and are likely to be viewed around the world!
The development of this website owes a huge debt of gratitude to the many people who provided generous support to facilitate Peter’s visits and went out of their way to help. Many sites are remote, difficult to access and rarely visited – some are even located in areas of civil strife – so the logistical challenges of reaching so many places around the world is immense. Peter has been privileged to spend his professional life amongst highly motivated and committed people and the generous support provided by individuals and organisations working in the field, at the ‘cutting edge’ of conservation has been invaluable.