Traditional leaders, Island Councils, communities and government have all contributed to the establishment and management of PAs. Most Cook Islands PAs are not covered by legislation, and the few that are legislated vary in their levels of protection. Only three of the 14 terrestrial PAs are covered by formal government-based legislations and regulations, which include the Suwarrow National Park Declaration, Takutea Island Regulations and Takuvaine Water Catchment Regulations.
There are 14 terrestrial PAs, which total at least 1407.2 hectares (five PAs are uncalculated), or about six per cent of the Cook Islands’ total 240 km2 land mass. Terrestrial PA are concentrated in a few locations. Three of the 15 islands in Cook Islands are wildlife reserves (Suwarrow, Takutea and Manuae), almost 40% of the terrestrial PAs are represented by four motu on Pukapuka, and three of Rarotonga’s four PAs make up 36% of total terrestrial PAs.
The World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) is the most comprehensive global database of marine and terrestrial protected areas, updated on a monthly basis, and is one of the key global biodiversity data sets being widely used by scientists, businesses, governments, International secretariats and others to inform planning, policy decisions and management. The WDPA is a joint project between UN Environment and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).