In the modern, overpopulated world the need for dedicated space for wildlife is increasingly important. National parks, wildlife sanctuaries, and protected spaces for nature help conserve the natural world and benefit us all in many ways. Whether a National Park is giving someone space to walk and exercise, or a wildlife sanctuary is promoting conservation, these places play an important role in society. Here we look at some of the benefits:
What is a National Park?
A National Park is a natural space that is dedicated for the purposes of conservation, recreation, and protection. Different countries have their own national parks and the designation of national parks across the globe depends on each individual country’s system and judgment. But most national parks have similar aims – to conserve wild nature in order to protect it for the future as well as allow people the chance to enjoy it. National parks are often a symbol of national pride. Most national parks are open to the public and provide opportunities for recreation, camping, and walking. Most national parks have an outstanding level of natural beauty, whether the beauty comes from mountains, lakes, rivers or plains.
The first national park was established in the United States in 1872 – Yellowstone National Park. Mackinac Island in the US was established in 1875 and the third national park created in the world was the Royal National Park in Australia. The largest national park by area is the Northeast Greenland National Park, which was developed in 1974.
What is a Wildlife Sanctuary?
Animal sanctuaries exist for many specific reasons, but the overriding reason is to help protect animals and safeguard their lives. Animal sanctuaries give new homes to abandoned animals and animals rescued from dangerous conditions, help to protect animals from illegal activities, and serve as places where endangered animals breed and are therefore protected. Animals in animal sanctuaries cannot be responsibly returned to their natural habitats as they are not fit enough for the wild, or their habitat has been destroyed. A sanctuary is a haven, a place where animals can be protected.
Visitors to National Parks
National parks are increasingly popular around the world. They attract visitors not just from the inside the country but internationally – many people travel to a certain country with the specific intention of visiting their National Parks. Therefore, these parks and sanctuaries are very important for tourism.
For example, in the United States In 2016, 330,971,689 people visited National Parks, according to the National Park Service website. The most-visited national park in the US was the Great Smoky Mountains NP, followed by the Grand Canyon NP and Rocky Mountain NP. In the UK, 4.15 million people visited the Brecon Beacons National Park in 2014.
If you are planning a dream trip to a national park outside your own country you’ll need expert travel insurance to cover the cost of any unexpected illness, accident and/or evacuation.
What are the Benefits of National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries?
- National Parks Help Protect Wildlife
Unfortunately many animal species today face extinction, mainly because their natural habitats are being steadily destroyed. National parks safeguard these habitats, and provide a safe space for wildlife to breed and survive. Without national parks certain animal species are at greater risk of becoming extinct – a landscape needs to be protected in order to provide habitat for wildlife. Animal sanctuaries give a specific place where animals are kept in captivity in order to preserve the species.
- National Parks Help Protect Landscapes
Animals are not the only things that are at risk of disappearing. Landforms like mountains, rainforests, gorges and dunes are at risk of disappearing if they are not protected from the actions of humans and also the natural action of the environment. Many landforms are at risk from pollution, and when they are controlled under national park status they have a better chance of survival. Landforms in national parks are protected from development, destruction, and pollution.
- Parks and Sanctuaries Preserve History
Historical structures built on national park land are preserved in order to give us a better idea of how people lived in the past, and how their cultures worked. There are many different structures that can be preserved which allow people to learn from the past and continue building for the future.
- Helping Preserve Cultures and Tribes
In many national parks around the world people live generally apart from main civilization, and their culture and members are largely protected thanks to the status of the national park. By setting up protected areas, tribes and indigenous peoples who would otherwise struggle in the face of development are protected from these actions. National parks not only protect animals and wildlife, they can also sometimes protect people too.
- Giving People the Chance for Healthy Activity
National parks and to some extent wildlife sanctuaries also exist to provide members of the public with the space for healthy exercise and recreation in the open air. It is important to conserve places where the natural environment is intact, so that people can slow down, enjoy nature, and get some exercise by walking, running, or riding bikes. Many national parks in the US have established trail systems that offer extensive routes for exploration on foot. People benefit from cleaner air to breathe and the chance to relax and combat the stress of busy lives.
As of May 2004, the protected areas of India cover 156,700 square kilometres (60,500 sq mi), roughly 4.95% of the total surface area.
Further information: IUCN protected area categories
India has the following kinds of protected areas, in the sense of the word designated by IUCN:
Main article: National parks of India
National parks (IUCN Category II): India's first national park was Hailey National Park, now Jim Corbett National Park, established in 1936. By 1970, India had 5 national parks; today it has 103 national parks. In terms of area, they encompassed a total 39,919 km²(15,413 sq mi), comprising 1.21% of India's total surface area.
Main article: Wildlife sanctuaries of India
Wildlife sanctuaries (IUCN Category IV): India has over 500 animal sanctuaries, referred to as Wildlife Sanctuaries. Among these, the 50 Tiger Reserves are governed by Project Tiger, and are of special significance in the conservation of the tiger. Latest tiger reserve is Kamlang Tiger Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh.
Main article: Biosphere reserves of India
Biosphere reserve (UNESCO designation roughly corresponding to IUCN Category V): The Indian government has also established Biosphere reserves, which protect larger areas of natural habitat, and often include one or more national parks and/or preserves, along buffer zones that are open to limited economic activities. The Indian government has established 18 Biosphere Reserves of India.
Reserved and protected forests
Main article: Reserved forests and protected forests of India
Reserved forests and protected forest (IUCN Category IV or VI, depending on protection accorded): These are forested lands where logging, hunting, grazing and other activities may be permitted on a sustainable basis to members of certain communities. In reserved forests, explicit permission is required for such activities. In protected forests, such activities are allowed unless explicitly prohibited. Thus, in general reserved forests enjoy a higher degree of protection with respect to protected forests.
Conservation and community reserves
Main article: Conservation reserves and community reserves of India
Conservation reserve and Community reserve (IUCN Category V and VI respectively): These are areas adjoining existing protected areas which are of ecological value and can act as migration corridors, or buffer zone. Conservation reserves are designated government owned land from where communities may earn a subsistence, while community reserves are on mixed government/private lands. Community reserves are the only privately held land accorded protection by the government of India.
Village and panchayat Forests
Main article: Communal forests of India
Village and panchayat forests (IUCN Category VI): These are forested lands administered by a village or a panchayat on a sustainable basis, with the habitat, flora and fauna being accorded some degree of protection by the managing community.
Private protected areas
Main article: Private protected areas of India
Private protected areas: These are regions which are owned by an individual or an organisation / corporation not affiliated to the government or a communal body. Even though Indian legislation does not provide protection to such areas, some NGOs are using methods such as land trusts to help in the conservation effort, and providing limited means of protection.
Main article: Conservation areas of India
Conservation areas: Conservation areas are large, well-designated geographical entities where landscape conservation is undergoing, and usually contains different kinds of constituent protected areas, as well as privately owned land.