The preservation of South Africa's natural resources is critical to sustaining economic development and driving tourism. A research initiative established by Carnegie Mellon recently unified collaboration among the many stakeholders involved in these efforts.
"The Transboundary Protected Areas Research Initiative (TPARI) is one of the most creative things we've done, in general and for Carnegie Mellon," said Professor Baruch Fischhoff, director of the university's Center for Integrated Study of Human Dimensions of Global Change (CISHDGC). "[The program] is quite unique in being respectful of both people and nature, as well as having links with a range of diverse institutions in Africa."
Bridging the gap between conservationists, government officials, local citizens and visiting researchers, TPARI is an international, interdisciplinary program that addresses the challenging issues surrounding economic, community and wildlife conservation in transboundary protected areas.
These areas, also known as peace parks, span multiple countries, inside which the political borders are abolished to allow for the free migration of animals and humans within the region.
In addition to their primary goal of preserving animal migration patterns and ensuring sufficient food and water for population growth, the parks also encourage tourism, economic development and goodwill between neighboring countries.
Established by then-Professor Conrad Steenkamp, TPARI rapidly developed into a one-stop shop for visiting researchers who needed to identify research opportunities, establish contacts and gain access to the field as quickly as possible.
"The essential TPARI approach is to develop synergies between ourselves and the wide range of academic and other actors involved in research regardless of their institutional affiliation," said Steenkamp. "TPARI thereby aims to contribute toward improved 'collective memory' of research conducted in this region. It also aims at enhancing the benefits of research for local people."
"The breakthroughs here are the kind of subtle progress that one gets when people learn to work together," added Fischhoff.
TPARI is supported by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). The initiative's work over the last four years is culminating in a special issue of the international accredited journal Conservation and Society, which consolidates papers from a range of researchers involved in the TPARI network.