A UN panel today declared that the outstanding natural values of Ecuador’s Galapagos islands are in danger, threatened by invasive species, growing tourism and immigration.
The World Heritage Committee placed the Galapagos, as well as Niokolo-Koba National Park in Senegal, on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger in hopes of rallying support for their conservation.
The World Heritage Committee, meeting in Christchurch, is reviewing the state of conservation of the 830 sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, and particularly the 31 sites on the List of World Heritage in Danger before the start of this session.
Called a unique living museum and showcase of evolution, the Galapagos were the very first site to be inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1978.
Located in the Pacific Ocean some 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) from the South American continent, the 19 islands of the Galapagos and their surrounding marine reserve host increasing thousands of visitors each year.
The number of days spent by cruise ship passengers has grown by 150 percent over the past 15 years, the Committee said, and this increase has fueled a growth in immigration, inter-island traffic, and the introduction of more invasive species.
Several airlines are now fumigating passenger cabins, with passengers aboard, to combat the growing threat of mosquito borne diseases, such as avian malaria that could devastate Galapagos wildlife populations. The chemicals, d-phenothrin and permethrin, are approved by the World Health Organization for use in aircraft.
In Senegal, Niokolo-Koba National Park on the banks of the Gambia River was added to the World Heritage List in 1981.
The forests and savannahs of the park are inhabited by the largest of the antelopes, Derby elands, as well as chimpanzees, lions, leopards and a large population of elephants, numerous birds, reptiles and amphibians.
The site is endangered by poaching and by plans to construct a dam on the Gambia river just a few kilometers upstream from the site, the Committee said. The dam threatens to stop the flooding of the grassland of the site which is essential to sustain wildlife.
Two sites were removed from the List of World Heritage in Danger today – the R