Achieving biodiversity conservation objectives and targets requires environmental management agencies to undertake monitoring. Several management practices have been used but are they successful? Using SANParks as an example, we focus on three cases of national parks that use different techniques to implement environmental monitoring. We assessed a top-down, bottom-up and an integrated approach to setting targets using Table Mountain, Mokala and Bontebok National Parks respectively. Attainment of national and international objectives from State of Biodiversity assessment scores and achievement of objectives within individual Park Management Plans served as measurement criteria. We highlight several reasons for lack of achievement of objectives and targets for protected areas and illustrate that setting of objectives and monitoring must have complete full integration into park operations, both on staff and budget scales, rather than be seen as an external function from service divisions within parks or external service providers. An integrated approach to setting of objectives and targets of national and international importance is best achieved via the robust implementation of strategic adaptive management with interventions, measurement, reflection and adaptation integrated as learning by doing. Our results may not be unique but only a few organizations implement adaptive management in its full context.
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