World Heritage in Danger: two natural sites listed

30 July 2010 | International news release

Following the recommendations of IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), important rainforest areas in Madagascar and the Everglades National Park (USA) have been added to the List of World Heritage in Danger at the World Heritage annual meeting, currently taking place in Brasilia.

The World Heritage Committee decided to remove the Galapagos Islands (Ecuador) from the List of World Heritage Sites in Danger, despite IUCN´s recommendation to the contrary.

The Rainforests of Atsinanana are critically important to the survival of Madagascar’s unique biodiversity. Over 80 percent of species there are endemic and include rare and threatened lemurs. But since the 2009 political crisis, illegal logging of precious woods has drastically increased and lemur poaching for bushmeat, previously unheard of in Madagascar, is developing at a worrying rate, with a reduction in population density of 30 to 75 percent observed in some places.

“The ongoing illegal logging of precious woods in parts of Madagascar is of serious concern and is having serious impacts on endangered lemurs,” says Tim Badman, Head of World Heritage at IUCN. “In adding this site to the Danger List, we are calling for international action to halt illegal logging and to also ensure that no illegally logged precious woods from Madagascar enter national markets.”

The Everglades National Park, a sanctuary for birds and reptiles and home to 20 rare, endangered and threatened species, has been added to the Danger List upon request by the USA. It had previously been on this List from 1993 until 2007 because of the large amount of water diverted from the Park to nearby cities, which dried out the wetland habitats and caused a 90 percent drop in the population of wetland birds.

“We commend the USA’s request to re-inscribe the site on the danger list, and its plans for major infrastructure overhaul to restore the Everglade’s fragile wetland ecosystem,” says Mariam Kenza Ali, IUCN World Heritage Conservation Officer. “It reflects the role of the World Heritage Convention in supporting restoration efforts for the wetland habitats.”

The Galapagos Islands, which have been called a unique "living museum and showcase of evolution" were inscribed on the Danger List in 2007 because of threats posed by invasive species, unbridled tourism and overfishing.

“IUCN´s recommendation for the Galapagos was that it should not be removed from the Danger List as there is work still to be done,” says Tim Badman, Head of IUCN´s World Heritage Programme. “But we recognize the major efforts of the Ecuadorian government to rectify the situation there.”

For more information or to set up interviews, please contact:

Pia Drzewinski IUCN Media Relations Officer, m +55 61 8125 8748 e pia.drzewinski@iucn.org  
Brian Thomson IUCN Media Manager, m. +55 61 8219 4408 e brian.thomson@iucn.org  

Photos (audio/video material) are available at/from: http://www.iucn.org/knowledge/news/focus/2010_worldheritage