All over the planet, countries are increasingly working to conserve the wealth and beauty of their natural resources. While some say setting aside nature reserves inhibits economic development, others vehemently contend that doing so is of great import, not only to wildlife and biodiversity, but to the future of the human race as well. Below, we take a look at those countries with the highest relative proportions of their respective land areas being set aside as terrestrial, protected, nature reserves.
10. Hong Kong (SAR China) 42%
Nearly 42% of Hong Kong’s terrestrial space is occupied by protected reserves. 24 country parks and 22 special areas, including the Tai Mo Shan, Ma On Shan, and Lantau Island, collectively cover an area of around 440 square kilometers in the country. Hong Kong’s reserves are managed by the Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation Department. Hong Kong’s protected areas attracted nearly 13.5 million visitors in 2011. The citizens of Hong Kong also regard these nature reserves as the best recreational spots in the region.
9. Seychelles 42%
Seychelles, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean, currently has a staggering 42% of its territorial area being protected as national parks and reserves. What is more, the government of the country plans to further expand these protected areas to achieve the target of protecting 50% of its land area. The Morne Seychellois National Park and the Praslin National Park are two important protected areas in Seychelles, each hosting rare and unique flora and fauna including many endemic species. These protected areas also draw thousands of tourists to the island nation every year.
8. Liechtenstein 43%
In Liechtenstein, a land-locked German speaking microstate in central Europe, protected forests cover 43% of the total territory of the region. These forests are vital to the inhabitants of the region, protecting human settlements and transport routes from being damaged by avalanches and landslides. The Nature and Landscape Division of Liechtenstein maintains the natural protected areas and forest protection areas of the country, which also serve as the habitats for many threatened species of flora and fauna.
7. Namibia 43%
Namibia was the first African country to introduce environmental protection in its constitution. 43% of the country’s territorial area is currently under conservation management, as per recent World Bank Data (2011-2015). In 2010, with the formation of the Dorob National Park, Namibia became the only country in the world to have a completely protected coastline. While the Namibia Wildlife Resorts maintains the facilities in Namibia’s national parks, a non-governmental organization, Namibia Nature Foundation, is responsible for raising funds for wildlife protection and conservation. Namibia’s protected forests attract thousands of tourists to the country, greatly benefiting the country’ s economy as a whole.
6. Brunei 44%
Brunei, a tiny island nation in Borneo in Southeast Asia, has 44% of its land area covered by protected forests, which implies that 2,629 square kilometers of its total territorial area of 5,962 square kilometers are protected. Two national parks, the Ulu Temburong National Park and the Ulu Ulu National Park Resort, as well as 47 forest reserves, nature reserves, and wildlife sanctuaries account for the protected areas found in the country. The Forestry Department of the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources in Brunei oversees the management of the country’s protected areas.
5. Turks and Caicos Islands 44%
The Turks and Caicos Islands are a group of tropical islands that are part of the British Overseas Territories in the Lucayan Archipelago. Of their total land area of 1,017 square kilometers, 451 square kilometers of area are protected. 11 national parks, 11 nature reserves, 4 sanctuaries, and other protected areas on the islands are maintained by The Department of Environment and Maritime Affairs. Tourists, especially Americans and Canadians, visit the Turks and Caicos islands in large numbers every year, allured both by its spectacular beaches and protected tropical forests. This brings significant income to the government and the locals residing in the area.
4. Germany 48%
As per World Bank data from 2011 to 2015, nearly 48% of Germany’s land area is protected. Germany has 16 national parks, 742 Special Protection Areas, and an assortment of nature reserves, landscape protection areas, and Sites of Community Importance, as well as other types of protected areas. Forestry forms the second most important type of land use after agriculture in the country, and the country’s forest and timber industry provides 1.3 million jobs in the country. While the forest policies in Germany are framed by the Federal Government, the Länder are responsible for managing the protected areas and implementing the forest policy targets. Such a system is meant to ensure the ongoing, responsible use of Germany's forests for both nature conservation and economic development.
3. Venezuala 53%
The South American nation of Venezuela has large areas of protected land area. More than half (494,049 square kilometers) of the country’s land area of 917,366 square kilometers is protected. The country has 154 protected areas, including 46 national parks, 34 national monuments, 10 forest reserves, 54 protective zones, and a large number of other protected areas. Venezuela’s protected forests help conserve some of the world’s most rare and elusive species of fauna and flora, drawing tourists from all across the globe to the country.
2. Slovenia 54.5%
54.5% of the land area of Slovenia, a European Union member state in south-central Europe formerly part of Yugoslavia, is protected. A large number of nature reserves (59), natural monuments (1159), special protection areas (354), horticultural monuments (121), sites of community importance (323), and ecologically important areas (305) cover the territorial area of Slovenia. The forests of Slovenia play important ecological and social functions, and also contribute to the beauty of the Slovenian landscape. The Slovenia Forest Service, established by the Republic of Slovenia with the passing of the Act on Forests, 1993, maintains and manages the forests of the country.
1. New Caledonia 61.3%
New Caledonia, a special collectivity of France in the southwest Pacific Ocean, hosts the largest percentage of territorial protected lands in the world. 63% of the terrestrial area in New Caledonia is under protection, in addition to protected marine habitats. The rainforests and dry forests of New Caledonia host some of the most diverse and unique arrays of flora and fauna in the world. This has made the region a top conservation priority, and many international organizations, including the World Wide Fund for Nature, have constantly lobbied to preserve the unique ecosystems of New Caledonia.