British biologist Professor Norman Myers introduced the concept of biodiversity hotspots in 1988 as a tool to prioritise biodiversity conservation efforts. They are the places on earth that are richest in biodiversity but also the most threatened.
At the global scale, Conservation International has identified 25 biodiversity hotspots which collectively hold 44% of the world’s plants and 35% of terrestrial vertebrates in an area that formerly covered only 11.8% of the planet’s surface.
Australia is home to one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots - southwest Australia. Other hotspots include the Tropical Andes, Madagascar, New Caledonia, New Zealand and Sundaland (Peninsula Malaysia, Sumatra, Java and Borneo).
Humane Society International (HSI) has been helping the global conservation effort to save biodiversity hotspots. In 2003, with help from former Senator Meg Lees, HSI persuaded the Prime Minister of Australia to establish a $10 million Regional Natural Heritage Program (RNHP) to give grants to conservation projects in the global biodiversity hotspots of the Asia Pacific. The fund was used to conserve biodiversity hotspots that provide habitat for iconic species such as Asian elephants, orangutans and the Sumatran rhino.
In 2001, HSI successfully gained a commitment from Senator Robert Hill to establish a national biodiversity hotspots program, eventually linked to a $10 million NHT fund accessible by landholders. Subsequently, HSI worked with the Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) and Senator Meg Lees, securing $36 million towards an ongoing national biodiversity hotspots program. This program has led to the acquisition of Brooklyn Station in far north Queensland, added to the National Reserve System estate in the Wet Tropics and assisted private landholders conserve biodiversity in the Mount Lofty Ranges in South Australia.
HSI regularly hosts visits from Professor Norman Myers and Conservation International CEO Russel Mittermeier to Australia to promote the continuation of biodiversity hotspot conservation strategies in Australia.
The following were among the critical conservation projects funded through the Regional Natural Heritage Program. HSI was a member of the RNHP Taskforce that advised the Minister.
- Building recognition and pride - the endemic botanic diversity of Tanna Island, Vanuatu
- Community based marine conservation actions in the atoll of Ailuk, Marshall Islands: implementation of two marine sanctuaries through community decision making, capacity building, vocational training, awareness and education
- Consolidating sustainability of the protection of biodiversity and the Golden headed Langur on Cat Ba Island, Vietnam
- Marine Turtle Conservation in Fiji, Tuvalu and Vanuatu
- Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) in South East Asia
- Protecting the Heart of the Coral Triangle: Strengthening Marine Protected Areas in Eastern Indonesia
- Operation Save Coconut Crab 2006 - a community initiative to conserve rapidly declining stocks of coconut crab in Sanma Province, Vanuatu
- Establishing a legislated area for biodiversity conservation in the Torricelli Mountain Range, Sanduan Province, Papua New Guinea
- Conserving biodiversity of the international RAMSAR site Xuan Thuy National Park (Vietnam) through local community and national action
- Integrated human and conservation development at Tanjung Puting National Park, Kalimantan
- Conservation of Key Biodiversity Areas and Threatened Lowland Rainforest Species within the Sierra Madre Mountain Range, Luzon Island, Philippines
- Conserving northern Vietnam’s critically endangered primates through community based initiatives
- Strengthening Protected Area Networks and Management in the ASEAN region
- Effective Management of World Heritage Sites and Capacity Building for Protected Areas in the Marshall Islands
- Bukit Tigapuluh Mega Fauna Survival Project
- Securing the largest population of orangutan on Earth. The Malua Segama (KOCP) Wildlife Survey
- Central Pacific Transboundary Heritage Site
- Saving southern Sumatra’s last elephants: mitigating human-elephant conflicts through local community-driven partnerships
- Conservation of Ahnd Atoll and Small Islands near Pohnpei, Pohnpei State, Federated States of Micronesia in the Polynesia-Micronesia Biodiversity HotspotSouth Pacific Humpback Whale Research
- South Pacific Humpback Whale Research Project – 2006 synoptic surveys and regional capacity building
- Phoenix Islands Conservation Project, Kiribati