Following a call by Nelson Mandela to make protected areas useful for poverty alleviation, the fifth World Parks Congress in Durban has passed a number of recommendations on poverty and protected areas, challenging the conventional approach of excluding people and prohibiting resource use within protected areas.
The director of the World Conservation Union (WCU), Akim Steiner, says the business sector has expressed willingness to contribute towards conservation as part of their social responsibilities towards sustainable development.
Africa's globally threatened bird species - almost 10% of the continent's 2 313 species - are on the brink of extinction, as new research shows that 43% of Africa's most critically important places for birds and biodiversity conservation have no legal designation, leaving them open to a variety of threats.
A senior economic adviser has urged delegates attending the fifth World Parks Congress in Durban to find new funding mechanisms for the conservation of protected areas.
As the World Parks Congress theme "Benefits beyond Boundaries" began to unfold at the International Convention Centre in Durban this week, it became clear that spin-offs from protected areas are difficult to measure in monetary terms.
South Africa set itself the target of increasing land under formal conservation from 5.4% in 1994 to 8% by 2010. The country is well on track, with close on 400 000 hectares having been added, and plans to designate a further 121 000 hectares - in what would be the single largest proclamation of land for the country's national parks since 1931.
South Africa has welcomed the publication of a United Nations report on the state of protected areas around the world, saying the document is an important source of information for the conservation community and government agencies.
Africa's efforts to conserve its rich biodiversity and natural heritage have received a shot in the arm with the announcement of increased lending by the World Bank.
Over 20 million South Africans are on the National Common Voters' Roll to be used in the 2004 elections, with over 4 million eligible to vote for the first time. 54% of the country's eligible voters are women, 44% are younger than 35, and 64% live in urban areas.
South Africa has set up a medical research unit to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of traditional African medicines, to develop new remedies for chronic conditions, to safeguard indigenous knowledge, and to provide consumer information and protection.