The Central African Republic (CAR) has made an impressive commitment to biodiversity conservation, with a total of 15 protected areas covering about 10.9% of the country. This study critically examines the status of these protected areas in light of their potential for long-term protection of biodiversity. First of all, the protected area system does not protect a representative sample of the ecoregions of the CAR. Even more important is the fact that only 32% of the protected areas are adequately managed. Law-enforcement is inadequate, and poaching poses the largest threat to biodiversity conservation. Given the dim economic prospects, the CAR will need continued financial as well as technical assistance to deal with protected area management. Experiences have shown that such intervention can make a difference. However more attention needs to be given to capacity building, long-term funding mechanisms, regional collaboration and political commitment to make such interventions sustainable in the long-term. (C) 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.