Believe it or not, despite Suriname’s extremely rich resources in flora and fauna, the country’s Nature Conservation Law as well as the Hunting Law date back to 1954 (when they were formulated and implemented by the then Dutch government)! Though the Nature Conservation Law was quite progressive and strong for the 50s, 60s and even the 70s (actually, Suriname was the first South American country to have such a law!), those laws clearly do not correspond to the realities of the 21st century anymore and need to be updated (especially when it comes to gold mining activities in the interior, and issues of community and land rights)!
Suriname has a high biological diversity with e.g. 185 mammal species, 668 bird species, 152 reptile species, 95 amphibian species, 338 fresh water fish species, 452 marine fish species, 1,750 invertebrata and 5,075 Spermatophyta (plant) species (M. Werkhoven and F. Baal, 1995).
Since the grand majority of the population lives in the coastal areas, and since most of the interior is only accessible by boat or plane, the interior remains relatively untouched which is a good thing for biodiversity protection. Nevertheless, especially small-scale gold miners are invading the forests in the interior and contribute to deforestation, pollution (soil, air and waste) as well as in reduction in animal species due to poaching activities around the mining areas.
Suriname has established 16 protected areas (11 nature reserves, 1 nature park and 4 Multiple‑use Management Areas) that encompass about 14% of the country’s terrestrial surfaces. Actually, those 14% seem not a lot to me, if we know that the majority of the population (about 90%) lives on the coastal plain anyway!
Further, park management seems rather poor to me and economic interests (i.e. gold mining) are often put over the protection of natural areas. Enforcement and control of existing laws and regulation is therefore a major problem.
Further, there exists different categories of protected or natural areas, and not so surprisingly, all coastal zones (where most of the oil drilling takes place) are classified as MUMA (multiple use management areas) – the lowest category of IUCN’s protected areas list – and are thus exploitable for companies such as Staatsolie.