Sangha Trinational -- shared between Cameroon, the Central African Republic and the Republic of Congo; Lakes of Ounianga in Chad and Chengjiang fossil site in China have been inscribed on the World Heritage List, following the recommendations of IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). Lena Pillars Nature Park in Russia and Western Ghats in India were also added to the prestigious list by the World Heritage Committee, a 21-nation panel.
IUCN, the official World Heritage advisory body on nature, presented the findings of its comprehensive evaluations of the natural values of nine sites to the World Heritage Committee. Chad is joining the World Heritage family for the first time.
Sangha Trinational is a chain of national parks shared between Cameroon, the Central African Republic and the Republic of Congo. Forming a broad network of well preserved and diverse landscapes, the forests and rivers are home to an outstanding diversity of plants and animals. The area hosts the largest intact populations of forest elephants and great apes, including the critically endangered Western Lowland Gorilla and the endangered Chimpanzee.
"Sangha Trinational is not a fragment but part of a much larger intact environment with good conservation prospects, and harbouring critically endangered species," says Tim Badman, Director of IUCN's World Heritage Programme. "We welcome the fact that this globally significant forest landscape has been recognized by the World Heritage Committee."
The Lakes of Ounianga consist of a series of 18 mostly freshwater lakes in the heart of the Sahara desert in northeastern Chad. Relics of a single, much larger lake occupying the basin less than 10,000 years ago, these lakes are an exceptional example of permanent lakes in a desert.
"The Lakes of Ounianga are a jewel of the Sahara, not only of overwhelming natural beauty, but a testimony to the fragile and unique equilibrium of life on earth," says Youssouph Diedhiou of IUCN's Protected Areas Programme in Central and Western Africa. "IUCN is delighted that Chad's first outstanding natural area is joining the prestigious World Heritage list."
The rocks of the Chengjiang Fossil Site, near the city of Kunming in the Yuann Province of China, are evidence of the rapid appearance and diversification of species and evolutionary development, also known as the Cambrian explosion, which took place over 530 million years ago. The exceptional remains of species recorded at Chengjiang are key to understanding the early evolution of life on Earth.
"The inscription of The Chengjiang Fossil Site on the World Heritage List recognises this iconic site, which provides direct evidence of the origin of animal diversity," says Tim Badman. "The preservation of this exceptional window on the earliest stages of the evolution of biodiversity on our planet is of great scientific importance for the future."
Lena Pillars Nature Park, known for the spectacular natural rock formations along the Lena River, is home to a wide range of rare plants and animals, including the Siberian Musk Deer, the Red Deer, the Siberian chipmunk, and 99 species of nesting birds. Located in the central part of the Sakha Republic (Yakutia), it is an area with an extreme continental climate with an annual temperature range of almost 100º C, ranging from around -60º C in winter to around +40º C in summer.
A series of protected areas across the Western Ghats in India were added to UNESCO's list of iconic places after a persistent campaign for World Heritage status by the Indian government. Mountains, rainforests, rivers and waterfalls are all part of the 160,000 km² area, recognised as a global biodiversity hotspot. The Western Ghats are home to a number of flagship mammals including the endangered endemic lion-tailed Macaque, the endangered Asian elephant and Tiger.
"The Western Ghats and Lena Pillars are certainly regions that hold spectacular natural values, but IUCN's evaluations considered that more work was needed on these nominations to meet the standards the Convention has set in its Operational Guidelines." says Tim Badman. "We welcome these sites to the World Heritage List, but note the conservation challenges that they face will need additional monitoring by the World Heritage Committee to ensure that these sites meet the requirements that accompany listing as flagships for global conservation. IUCN is ready to assist the States in that task."
Two days ago the exceptional marine site of Rock Islands Southern Lagoon became Palau's first World Heritage Site, following IUCN's recommendation. With the new additions announced in St. Petersburg July 2 the number of natural and mixed (natural and cultural) sites is 217.
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