How objective are protected area management effectiveness assessments? A case study from the iSimangaliso Wetland Park
Koedoe: African Protected Area Conservation and Science
The assessment of protected area management effectiveness was developed out of a genuine desire to improve the way protected areas are managed and reported on, in relation to a formalised set of conservation objectives. For monitoring and reporting purposes, a number of participatory methods of rapidly assessing management effectiveness were developed. Most rapid assessment methods rely on scoring a range of protected area-related activities against an objective set of criteria documented in a
... ia documented in a formal questionnaire. This study evaluated the results of two applications of the same management effectiveness assessment tool applied to the same protected area, namely the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa. The manner in which the assessments were undertaken differed considerably and, not unexpectedly, so did the results, with the national assessment scoring significantly higher than the provincial assessment. Therefore, a further aim was to evaluate the operating conditions applied to each assessment, with a view to determining which assessment was more closely aligned with best practice and hence which score was more credible. The application of the tool differed mainly with respect to the level of spatial detail entered into for the evaluation, the depth and breadth of the management hierarchy that was consulted, the time in which the assessment was undertaken and the degree of peer review applied. Disparate scores such as those obtained in the assessments documented here are likely to bring the discipline of management effectiveness assessment into disrepute unless an acceptable and standardised set of operating procedures is developed and adopted. Recommendations for such a set of 'indispensable constants' were made in this article to ensure that management effectiveness assessments remain robust and reputable, thereby ensuring an honest picture of what is happening on the ground. Conservation implications: We proposed that standard operating procedures should be in place when protected area management effectiveness assessments are undertaken, in order for the results to be credible. This involves ensuring that the right people participate and that each participant is allowed sufficient time to peer review each other.