A coastal reserve home to the world’s rarest marine mammal has just been added to the UNESCO World Heritage in Danger List, which calls for the safeguarding of cultural and natural treasures. The UN department has identified more than 50 sites that are at risk due to climate change, armed conflict, development, poor management or a combination of issues. We take a look…
Bamiyan Valley, Afghanistan
Minaret and Archaeological Remains of Jam, Afghanistan
Historic center of Vienna, Austria
City of Potosí, Bolivia
The city of Potosí, a silver mining center in the south of Bolivia was once considered to be the world’s largest industrial complex, becoming an “Imperial City” after aristocrat Francisco de Toledo visited in 1572. The area is full of archaeological significance, including the industrial monuments of the Cerro Rico (Rich Mountain), its colonial center, and the ‘barrios mitayos’, where the workers lived. But hundreds of years of mining have rendered the site porous and unstable. As parts of the mountain have collapsed, the city’s beautiful buildings are in peril.
Manovo-Gounda St Floris National Park, Central African Republic
Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve, Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea
A UNESCO Biosphere Reserve for both Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire, Mount Nimba’s slopes are draped in dense forest. These grassy mountain pastures harbor many extraordinary species, including the endemic viviparous toad and chimpanzees that use stones as tools. The reserve faces numerous pressures to its boundaries, caused by the neighboring populations and increased demographic pressure. Intense poaching and the traditional practice of clearing land for agriculture by fire have increased. Both Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire are working to protect the property by empowering local communities and promoting transboundary cooperation, UNESCO notes.
Garamba National Park, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Poaching is also why Garamba National Park was inscribed on the danger list in 1996. The immense stretch of savannah and woodland in the northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo is home to one of the largest, most threatened populations of elephants in central Africa. The park was home to the world’s last known wild population of northern white rhinos, but they were killed by poachers in 2006. Counter-poaching measures, including aerial patrols, have been implemented in recent years. However, chronic insecurity and regional conflict continue to affect conservation.
Kahuzi-Biega National Park, Democratic Republic of the Congo
One of the last groups of eastern lowland gorillas live in the dense primary tropical forest of this national park in eastern DRC. Dominated by two spectacular extinct volcanoes, a population of around 250 gorillas live at levels of up to 7,874 foot (2,400m). It’s also home to 13 other primates, including threatened species. Insufficient financial and human resources to protect the park are one of multiple issues affecting the UNESCO biosphere reserve, as is the control of poaching and illegal mining.
Okapi Wildlife Reserve, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Named after the rare okapi (or forest giraffe) that live in the Ituri forest, this huge swathe of land in the northeast of DRC was created to protect a wide range of rare flora and fauna. It has also been home to traditional nomadic pygmy Mbuti and Efe hunters for centuries. The reserve was listed as under threat in 1997 due to immigration control in the development area, commercial hunting of bushmeat, slash-and-burn forest clearance, illegal mining and logging. Ensuring the involvement of the indigenous populations in the management of the reserve is critical, says UNESCO.
Salonga National Park, Democratic Republic of the Congo
As Africa’s largest forest national park, Salonga is a highly important habitat for endemic endangered species, including wild bonobos, the Congo peacock and the forest elephant. Set at the heart of the central basin of the Congo river, the remote area is only accessible by water but despite this it has a huge poaching problem. Insufficient management capacity, poor governance and weak law enforcement have also troubled the park, which was placed on the danger list in 1999. Since 2015, WWF has co-managed Salonga together with the Congolese park authority ICCN to help protect the area.
Virunga National Park, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Created in 1925, Virunga National Park in the eastern part of Democratic Republic of the Congo is Africa’s oldest national park. It’s home to a quarter of the world’s critically endangered mountain gorillas as well as the rare okapi, elephants, leopards, hippos and chimpanzees. The park was shut for more than eight months in 2018 after series of attacks by militia and smugglers on staff. It reopened in early 2019 but another ranger was shot. UNESCO is urging for strengthened security to combat security threats, poaching, deforestation and smuggling.
Abu Mena, Egypt
Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve, Honduras
The Honduran World Heritage Site of Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve is one of the “few tropical rainforest remains in Central America”. On the site, more than 2,000 indigenous people have managed to preserve their traditional way of life. But in 2011, the reserve was placed on the danger list due to multiple threats: illegal logging, fishing and land occupation and poaching. There were also concerns about the ability of the state to manage the site as a result of the deterioration of the law and the presence of drug traffickers.
The Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra, Indonesia
This site, measuring two-and-a-half million hectares, is made up of three national parks: Gunung Leuser National Park, Kerinci Seblat National Park and Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park, and includes many endangered species. The area is home to an estimated 10,000 plant species, more than 200 mammal species and 580 bird species. But, like so many others, the site is in danger due to myriad human threats, which include poaching, illegal logging, agricultural encroachment and plans to build roads through the site. Discover more of the world’s most endangered rainforests.
Ashur Qal’at Sherqat, Iraq
First established in the third millennium BC, the ancient city of Ashur was an important center of trade and became the first capital of the Assyrian Empire between the 14th to 9th century BC. It was also the religious capital of the Assyrians and associated with the god Ashur. The city was destroyed by the Babylonians, but revived during the Parthian period in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD. Modern day city Qal’at Sherqat was declared in danger by UNESCO in 2003 due to the planned construction of a dam that would have flooded its ruins. Its location in a highly volatile conflict area was also noted.
The fortress city of Hatra, which dates back to days of the Parthian empire in the 3rd or 2nd century BC, was the capital of the first Arab Kingdom. Known for its mighty walls and towers, which helped it withstand two Roman invasions in the 2nd century AD, its architecture represents a unique blend of Hellenistic and Roman styles with eastern decorative features. It was taken by Isis in 2015, who used sledgehammers and guns to destroy carvings and statues. It is undergoing a lengthy restoration process.
Samarra Archaeological City, Iraq
Renowned for its 9th-century mosque and spiral minaret, the Samarra archaeological city is one of Iraq’s most significant cultural treasures. It was the site of a powerful Islamic capital city, which ruled over the provinces of the Abbasid Empire from Tunisia to Central Asia from 836-892. According to UNESCO: “It is the only surviving Islamic capital that retains its original plan, architecture and arts, such as mosaics and carvings.” It was placed on the danger list due to a lack of government control and conflict in the area that threatens its integrity.
Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls
Lake Turkana National Parks, Kenya
The Old Town of Ghadamès, Libya
Leptis Magna, Libya
Tadrart Acacus Rock Art, Libya
Rainforests of the Atsinanana, Madagascar
Old Town of Djenné, Mali
One of the oldest towns of sub-Saharan Africa, the Old Town of Djenné has been inhabited since 250 BC. It became an important link in the trans-Saharan gold trade and was one of the centers for the propagation of Islam in the 15th and 16th centuries. Nearly 2,000 of its original mud-walled houses have survived. Its mosque and other historic buildings were designated a World Heritage Site in 1988 for being representative of Islamic architecture in sub-Saharan Africa. It was inscribed on the danger list in 2016 due to insecurity affecting the area.
Tomb of Askia, Mali
Timbuktu is one of Africa’s most historically significant cities: home to the Koranic Sankore University and other madrasas, Timbuktu was an intellectual and spiritual capital, and was also central to the promotion of Islam in Africa in the 15th and 16th centuries. Its three great mosques are said to “recall Timbuktu’s golden age”. However, despite being continuously restored, these monuments are under threat: armed conflict in the region, illegal trafficking of cultural objects by looters and dealers, and suicide bombings are just some of the dangers that Timbuktu faces.
The Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California, Mexico
The imminent extinction of the vaquita, an endemic porpoise in Mexico’s Gulf of California that is the world’s rarest marine mammal, has seen the Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger for 2019. Despite efforts by Mexico to protect them, including creating a refuge and promoting fishing alternatives to gillnets (the main cause of their demise), only about 10 vaquita remain today. This is compared to nearly 300 in 2005.
Nan Madol, Eastern Micronesia
More than 100 islets off the coast of Pohnpei, which house the ruins of stone palaces, temples and tombs, make up the ceremonial site of Nan Madol in Eastern Micronesia. Dating from AD 1200 to 1500, they were the ceremonial center of the Saudeleur dynasty. According to UNESCO, they reveal a great deal about “the complex social and religious practices of the Pacific island societies of the period”. In 2016, Nan Madol was listed “in danger” due to mangrove overgrowth, storm surge and stonework collapse. Now take a look at the world’s most mysterious stone circles.
Air and Ténéré Natural Reserves, Niger
Hebron/Al-Khalil Old Town, Palestine
Land of Olives and Vines – Cultural Landscape of Southern Jerusalem, Battir, Palestine
This series of ancient terraces, planted with grapevines and olives, have been used to cultivate Battir since antiquity. The local practices of this Palestinian village, set in the central highlands, involve agricultural towers and a complex irrigation system that represents some of the oldest farming methods known to humankind. They became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and were simultaneously added to the World Heritage in Danger list in 2014 due to the irreversible damage the construction of a separation wall could do: “isolating farmers from fields they have cultivated for centuries”.
Fortifications on the Caribbean Side of Panama: Portobelo-San Lorenzo, Panama
The 17th and 18th-century military fortifications on Panama’s Caribbean coast are described as: “a masterpiece of human creative genius” by UNESCO. They formed part of a defense system built by the Spanish crown to protect transatlantic trade. Portobelo was a major Caribbean port and played a leading role in controlling the imperial trade in the Americas. It’s been deemed as at risk since 2012 due to a variety of environmental factors, as well as uncontrolled urban sprawl and development and a lack of maintenance and management.
Chan Chan Archaeological Zone, Peru
Capital of the ancient Chimu Kingdom before it fell to the Incas, Chan Chan was the largest earthen architecture city in pre-Columbian America. The incredible settlement is “an absolute masterpiece of town planning”, according to UNESCO. But it’s extremely fragile and vulnerable to decay and deterioration as a result of extreme environmental events, including those caused by El Niño. The property has been on the List of World Heritage in Danger since 1986 and, despite various steps towards mitigating the degree of physical impact, it continues to be at risk.
Niokolo-Koba National Park, Senegal
Medieval Monuments in Kosovo, Serbia
Four Serbian Orthodox monasteries that “reflect the high points of the Byzantine-Romanesque ecclesiastical culture” make up the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Kosovo. The interiors of Dečani monastery, Patriarchal Monastery of Peć, Our Lady of Ljeviš and Gračanica monastery are adorned with vibrant frescos, a style which developed in the Balkans between the 13th and 17th centuries. It is on the World Heritage in Danger list due to difficulties in its management and conservation stemming from the region’s political instability.
East Rennell, Solomon Islands
Rennell Island, in the southernmost area of the Solomon Islands, is the largest raised coral atoll in the world. East Rennell, which makes up its southern third, includes former lagoon Lake Tegano. Now a brackish lake with limestone islets, it has numerous endemic species, including a sea snake, as does the dense indigenous forest that surrounds it. In 2013, the island was listed “in danger” because of “the limited ability of traditional owners to adequately protect and manage the natural values and resources of the property to World Heritage standards”.
Ancient city of Aleppo, Syria
Ancient City of Bosra, Syria
Ancient City of Damascus, Syria
Ancient Villages of Northern Syria
A remarkable group of 40 villages, situated across eight parks in northwestern Syria, were given UNESCO World Heritage Status due to the insights they provide of rural life in late antiquity and during the Byzantine period. They were abandoned between the 8th to 10th centuries, but the remains are remarkably well preserved. Sadly, much damage has occurred since the war began, including severe damage to the AD 490 Byzantine Church of Saint Simeon during an air strike in 2016.
Site of Palmyra, Syria
Tombs of Buganda Kings at Kasubi, Uganda
Uganda’s Tombs of Buganda Kings at Kasubi, in Kampala City, is the major spiritual site for the Baganda, Uganda’s largest ethnic group. It is the burial ground for the previous four kings, and is a center for preserving traditional and cultural practices. In 2010, the site was ravaged by a fire, which almost completely destroyed the Muzibu Azaala Mpanga building, the main structure at the site. Made of wood, reeds, bark cloth and dry grass, the structure contained four royal Buganda tombs. The building is currently being reconstructed.
Liverpool – Maritime Mercantile City, UK
Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania
Everglades National Park, USA
At the southern tip of Florida, Everglades National Park is home to a huge number of birds, reptiles and threatened species including the manatee, American crocodile and Florida panther. But in 2010, the World Heritage Committee deemed the park to be endangered because of serious degradation of its aquatic ecosystem. The condition is continuing, with reduced water inflows, increasing nutrient pollution, a loss of marine habitat and a subsequent decline in marine species. Now take a look at the most beautiful state park in every US state.
Historic Centre of Shakhrisyabz, Uzbekistan
Located on the Silk Road in southern Uzbekistan, this 2,000-year-old city was the cultural and political center of the Temurids in the 15th and 16th centuries. It’s significant for its collection of exceptional monuments and ancient quarters, which tell of the city’s secular development. As well as parts of its medieval walls, the Ak-Sarai Palace, tomb of Temur and Chor-su bazaar are some of the center’s impressive remains. Shakhrisyabz was listed “in danger” in 2016 due to the over-development of tourist infrastructure within the site.
Coro and its Port, Venezuela
The pretty town and port of Coro in Venezuela dates from the earliest years of Spanish colonization on the Caribbean coast of South America. It is noted by UNESCO for having usual earthen architecture with buildings displaying “unique examples of traditional mud building techniques”. It became an endangered site in 2005, due to damage inflicted by unusually heavy rains in late 2004 and early 2005. Discover these incredible new secrets of the world’s ancient wonders.
Historic Town of Zabid, Yemen
The first of Yemen’s three places on the danger list is former capital (from 13th-15th centuries) Zabid, known for having the highest concentration of mosques in the country, including the world’s fifth oldest. Zabid has also played a significant role in the Arab and Muslim world for centuries. Its sandy-colored streets, traditional minarets and houses are fine examples of homogeneous architectural style, reminiscent of the early years of Islam. It was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993, and placed on the danger list in 2000 with neglect, poverty and conflict within Yemen’s government all to blame.
Old City of Sana’a, Yemen
Famed for its distinctive multi-storied buildings, constructed of “rammed earth” and decorated with geometric patterns, Yemen’s capital is one of the oldest and highest cities in the world. The old city is packed full of exceptional examples of Islamic and Ottoman architecture, which sadly have sustained serious damage due to civil unrest and Saudi-led air strikes. The old city was declared in danger by UNESCO in 2015. Now take a look at the incredible ancient ruins rebuilt before your eyes.
Old Walled City of Shibam, Yemen
Nicknamed “the Manhattan of the desert”, the 16th-century city of Shibam, surrounded by a wall, is hailed by UNESCO as “one of the oldest and best examples of urban planning based on the principle of vertical construction”. But the city is under threat due to armed conflict in the country. UNESCO placed the city on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2015, with the director-general Irina Bokova saying: “In addition to causing terrible human suffering, these attacks are destroying Yemen’s unique cultural heritage.”
Now discover the amazing World Heritage Sites no one visits
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