Belize barrier reef and Los Katios park in danger

27 June 2009 | International news release

The Belize Barrier Reef System and Los Katios National Park in Columbia are the two natural sites added to the List of World Heritage in Danger, following the advice of IUCN.

Composed of seven protected areas, many small mangrove islands and coastal lagoons, the Belize Barrier Reef System is home to a number of threatened species, including marine turtles and the American crocodile.

A series of technical assessments and a joint IUCN/UNESCO monitoring mission to Belize in March 2009 revealed alarming developments such as extensive mangrove cutting and sale of mangrove islands. The Belize Barrier Reef, the largest in the Northern Hemisphere, is also the country’s top tourist destination.

“By adding the Belize Barrier Reef to the List of World Heritage in Danger, the World Heritage Committee is acting to ensure that one of the world’s most outstanding natural places is being protected and that the international community is doing its utmost to support Belize in its conservation efforts," says Tim Badman, Head of the IUCN delegation at the World Heritage Committee meeting.

Los Katios National Park was added to the World Heritage List in 1994 because of the exceptional diversity of flora and fauna in the area, consisting of low hills, tropical rainforests and wetlands. Illegal logging, security concerns, overfishing and potential road construction are all recognized threats to the outstanding value of the site.

“Los Katios National Park needs a high level of protection, one that must involve not only the national authorities but the international community as well," says Pedro Rosabal, IUCN’s Senior Programme Officer on Protected Areas. "IUCN commends the State Party for its proposal to put the site on the danger list. Critical conservation threats call for global action and the danger list is the mechanism we have at our disposal to help countries protect the world heritage.”

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For more information on all natural sites on the World Heritage In Danger List, please visit: http://whc.unesco.org/en/danger/  

For high resolution images, please visit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/iucnweb/sets/72157619639272706/

About IUCN’s work on World Heritage

Each year IUCN, the independent advisory body on nature to UNESCO, reports to the World Heritage Centre on the conservation status of certain natural and mixed World Heritage sites under threat. IUCN’s assessments on what is happening in World Heritage sites are derived from a variety of sources: IUCN members, indigenous peoples groups, the scientific community, experts from IUCN commissions and concerned individuals and organizations.