Governments create national parks to save and protect nature, animals and plants in places that are especially beautiful. In some cases they want to protect indigenous people or conserve places that have a historic value. Human activities, like hunting, fishing, mining and farming can destroy such places and the species that live there.
National parks have become extremely popular because people can do a lot of things there. They can enjoy nature with its tall mountains, waterfalls and beautiful lakes. Some of us want to go and see wild animals that they can’t see anywhere else. Natural parks are great places to enjoy outdoor activities, like boating, hiking or camping.
National parks are also created because we want to protect our environment. Certain plants and animals only survive in rainforests, deserts or mountainous areas. By putting them under special protection we can save them from becoming extinct.
National parks around the world
Today there are thousands of national parks and protected areas around the world. The first national parks were established in the United States in the 19th century. Currently, the US has over 60 national parks in all parts of the country. Among the most famous are Yellowstone National Park with its famous Old Faithful Geyser, Grand Canyon National Park which extends along the Colorado River and Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska, with its beautiful glaciers and snowfields that reach into the Pacific Ocean.
Castle Geyser in Yellowstone National Park - Flicka
Neighboring Canada has a series of national parks which protect the beautiful landscapes of the Rocky Mountains. Banff and Jasper National Parks have high mountains, lakes and beautiful rivers with a population of grizzly bears, deer and mountain goats.
South America has dozens of national parks in almost all climate zones. Most of the Galapagos Islands, off the coast of Ecuador, are a national park with species that cannot be found elsewhere in the world. Iguaçu National Park lies between Argentina and Brazil. It covers a large area of rainforest as well as the world famous Iguaçu Falls.
There are two notable national parks in Australia. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park protects the greatest group of coral reefs in the world. It extends almost 2000 km along the coast of northeastern Australia. Kakadu National Park in northern Australia is famous for its Aboriginal cave paintings.
National parks in eastern and southern Africa protect exotic animals. Kruger National Park in South Africa is one of Africa’s largest game reserves. It is home to thousands of buffaloes, elephants, lions, giraffes and many bird species. In the grasslands of eastern Africa, visitors go on safaris and can take a close look at wild animals. Serengeti National Park in Tanzania is famous for its migration of over a million wildebeests and 250,000 zebras.
National parks in Europe offer visitors a great variety of different landscapes and scenery. National Parks in Scandinavia are situated around Norwegian fjords, Swedish forests and Finnish lakes. Switzerland and Austria have many national parks that protect the plant and animal life of the Alps. Mediterranean national parks are embedded in the unique landscapes of Greece, Italy and Spain.
Threats to national parks
Although governments around the world do a lot to protect the living space in these areas there are still many dangers that threaten national parks.
Countries are pressured to give up national parks in favor of economic development of the area and the creation of jobs. Sometimes they contain valuable forests or mineral resources that can be exploited. Companies think that they can make big profits in these areas. The threat is especially big in developing nations, which may depend on such areas. In Africa poachers hunt animals in national parks to make money and sell valuable body parts or fur.
Even though national parks are far away from cities, damaging pollution from factories and traffic can endanger plants and animals.
Global warming is also a problem for protected regions. The world’s surface temperature has steadily increased since the 18 th century. Climatologists predict an increase of the earth’s surface temperature by up to 6°C in the next hundred years. Certain plants and animals in national parks could become extinct.
Rock painting in Kakadu National Park - Thomas Schoch
Every year more and more tourists visit national parks around the world. Although many areas need the income that tourists bring, too many cars and overcrowding leads to pollution and much waste is left in untouched nature.
The original inhabitants of national parks are worried about this development. They are afraid of being driven away by tourism or that holy sites will become overloaded with visitors. In some cases the government and other organizations get most of the profits out of national park tourism.
Many national parks around the world are in areas with extreme weather situations. Wildfires can get out of control and destroy large areas of a protected place.
History and development of national parks
Although people have tried to save beautiful places since history began, governments started taking interest in the conservation of nature in the 19 th century. The United States was the first country to realize that it was worth protecting its land, animals and plants. In 1872 Yellowstone was created as America’s first national park.
The idea of establishing natural parks spread quickly around the world. By the start of the 20th century there many national parks emerged in all continents. Since 1962 international meetings have taken place to coordinate actions to protect parks and their surroundings
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- Aboriginal = from the natives of Australia
- action = doing something
- although = while
- among = along with
- buffalo = African animal that looks like a cow and has long curved horns
- century = a hundred years
- certain = special
- climatologist = person who studies the weather and the changes in climate
- coast = where land meets the sea
- conservation = the protection of animals, plants and land
- coordinate = organize; bring together
- coral reef = line of hard rocks formed by corals, found in warm sea water that is not very deep
- cover = spread over
- create = make
- currently = right now
- deer = large wild animal that has horns, eats grass and can run very fast
- depend on = need
- destroy = to wipe out completely
- developing nations = poor nations of the Third World
- development = here: the way something changes
- dozen = twelve
- economic development = the process of increasing business and trade
- embed = set in
- emerge = appear, come out
- endanger = put in danger
- enjoy = like, have fun
- environment = the world around us
- especially = more than the rest
- establish = create, start
- even though = while
- exotic = unusual; from other places
- exploit = here: to dig minerals out of the ground and sell them
- extend = stretch; reach from one place to another
- extinct = die out
- extremely = very
- fur = thick soft hair that covers the bodies of animals
- game reserve = large area of land where wild animals can live safely
- geyser = when hot water bursts out into the air from a hole in the ground
- government = the people who rule a country
- grizzly bear = very large bear that lives in North America
- hiking = walking in the mountains
- holy = religious
- in favor of = to support; to be for something
- income = the money that you get for work that you do
- increase = to go up; rise
- inhabitant = a person who lives in a place
- Mediterranean = the area between Europe and Africa
- migration = to make seasonal trips from one place to another
- mineral resources = rocks that exist in nature and that are very useful to us, like coal, diamonds or gold
- mining = to dig raw materials, like coal or gold out of the earth
- notable = famous
- offer = give, show
- overcrowding = too many people in a small area
- overloaded = overfull, packed with
- poacher = a person who hunts animals illegally
- pollution = the process of making air and water dirty
- population = here: group of animals
- predict =foretell; foresee; say that something will happen
- pressure = force; have to
- protect = save, guard
- realize = understand
- scenery = panorama, landscape
- series = many
- site = place
- situated = located; to be found
- species = animals and plants that belong to the same group
- spread = move
- steadily = slowly
- surface = the top part of something
- surroundings = the world around us
- survive = to live on and not to die
- take interest = to become interested in
- threat = danger
- threaten = to put in danger
- unique = something that only exists once
- untouched = intact; not used
- valuable = worth a lot
- value = something very important
- variety = wide range, mixture
- waste = unwanted materials that are left behind
- wildebeest = large southern African animal with a tail and curved horns; gnu
- wildfire = fire that spreads quickly and cannot be controlled