Biodiversity & Conservation

, Volume 10, Issue 5, pp 691-709

First online:

The under-financing of protected areas in the Congo Basin: so many parks and so little willingness-to-pay

  • David S. WilkieAffiliated withBoston College
  • , Julia F. CarpenterAffiliated with
  • , Quanfa ZhangAffiliated withGlobal Environmental Change Program, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


Protected areas in the Congo Basin cover approximately 6% of the landscape, and several international NGOs are proposing substantial additions to the present network of parks and reserves. Yet, chronic under-funding has long precluded effective management of most parks and reserves resulting in their progressive ecological impoverishment, and the loss of biodiversity. Furthermore, not only are the indebted nations of the Congo Basin not in a position to contribute significantly to cover the recurring costs of protected area management, the growing opportunity costs of setting aside protected areas is increasing the incentives to local communities and national governments to 'illegally' exploit economically valuable resources within parks and reserves. If the global value of the biodiversity contained within the Congo Basin is considered worth preserving then donors and international NGOs must work with national governments to reach consensus on an optimal protected area network that (a) contains a representative assemblage of forest species; (b) is composed of forest blocks that are sufficiently large, intact, and likely to persist; (c) contains zones of active speciation (e.g. ecotones), and (d) can expect to receive sufficient long-term financial support to ensure effective management. Given the 'need to eat today' reality of economies in the Congo Basin, the international community must decide to shoulder most of the costs of conservation of globally important biodiversity. If donors continue to under-finance protected areas rather than make the hard choices associated with prioritizing protected area spending then most if not all protected areas within the Congo Basin will continue to exhibit reductions in the biomass of individual species, and risk the extirpation or extinction of large, slow reproducing species, and rare endemics.

Congo management costs protected areas