High Priority Conservation Areas Designated World Heritage Sites

6/29/2007

CI Congratulates Madagascar, South Africa for Recognition by UNESCO

Arlington, Virginia � Some of Madagascar�s last remaining rainforest and a dramatic mountainous desert region in South Africa have been designated World Heritage Sites by the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization�s World Heritage Committee.

The Rainforests of the Atsinanana (East) in Madagascar and the Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape in South Africa both are located in Biodiversity Hotspots that are top priorities for Conservation International (CI) in its mission to protect the Earth�s living natural heritage.

CI�s programs in South Africa and Madagascar have worked with governments, international and non-government organizations and local communities to protect the Richtersveld region and Madagascar rainforest for the benefit of those countries and their people.

�World Heritage Sites are special, as only a few hundred of the more than 100,000 parks and reserves on Earth receive this prestigious designation,� said Olivier Langrand, CI�s senior vice president for international government relations. �It means there is now a shared global responsibility to protect these areas as some of the most unique and important examples of our planet's natural and cultural heritage.�

The 160,000-hectare Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape of dramatic mountainous desert in the northwest part of South Africa is communally owned and managed. The property sustains the semi-nomadic pastoral livelihood of the Nama people, who live in small, portable houses of wood and braided marsh plants; collect medicinal and other plants; and have a strong oral tradition.

In Madagascar, six national parks in the eastern part of the island-nation � Masoala, Marojejy, Zahamena, Ranomafana, Andringitra and Andohahela � were listed as a World Heritage Cluster. Although 90 percent of Madagascar�s original rainforest has disappeared, the remaining tracts contain some of the world�s most unique biodiversity. The national parks in the cluster conserve almost 500,000 hectares of forest full of rare and threatened species, including 72 non-flying mammals such as lemurs on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. CI works in partnership with National Parks Madagascar to support management of the cluster, and has joined forces with the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Wildlife Conservation Society, World Wildlife Fund and other partners in the Madagascar National Environmental Action Plan to seek its protection.

CI�s Center for Conservation and Government (CCG) believes that conservation efforts should be complemented and reinforced by international instruments such as the World Heritage Convention. Ratified by 182 nations, the Convention is a legal framework created �to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity.�

Member countries are obligated under the convention to identify, nominate, protect and conserve places of special significance for future generations. In addition, World Heritage Sites benefit from international funding and legal protections.

At present, fewer than 200 of the more than 800 World Heritage Sites are listed for natural value, while the rest are included for cultural value. CI and its partners around the world are working to get more natural sites included on the list by providing recommendations, research and technical support to governments in identifying areas of special natural significance.

This work corresponds with CI�s focus on the Earth�s 34 Biodiversity Hotspots � high priority areas for conservation due to their rich biodiversity and extreme threat � along with High Biodiversity Wilderness Areas and marine seascapes. To learn more about CI's work, please visit www.conservation.org.

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