FAO started with field projects on wildlife conservation and protected area management in the 1960s. Between 1975 and 1996, more than 200 projects targeting wildlife and protected areas have been implemented in 85 countries. In the 1990s, FAO member countries decided that the organization should focus more on normative, policy-related work. In the meantime, conservation activities have become more complex and thus will only be successful and sustainable when working in adequate partnerships. FAO's wildlife and protected area management work now ranges from legislative and policy support to capacity development and technical guidance on the conservation and sustainable management of wildlife within and outside of protected areas. Major areas of work are addressing unsustainable use (e.g. “bushmeat crisis“, “empty forest syndrome”), human-wildlife conflict, competition of wildlife with livestock and the transmission of zoonotic diseases to humans at the human-livestock-wildlife interface. An important emerging issue is the impacts of climate change on wildlife and protected areas.
With FAO as a new lead agency for carrying out Global Environment Facility (GEF) projects, there is again more emphasis on projects enabling a good balance between normative and project work. Member countries can therefore expect guidance on strategies and policies and their implementation through practical field projects in a participatory approach. This includes the development and dissemination of concepts, studies, guidelines, educational resources and documentation of the lessons learned, as well as training materials and capacity building activities.