July 8, 2005

Norway fjords, Egypt desert head for shelter list

GENEVA (Reuters) - Some of the world's deepest Norwegian
fjords and a fossil-strewn Egyptian desert are set to join the
U.N.'s heritage site protection list, a key conservation agency
said on Friday.

The Swiss-based IUCN said the sites -- Norway's
Gerangerfjord and Naeroyfjord plus Egypt's Wadi Al-Hitan, or
Whale Valley -- are among eight it has recommended for approval
at a meeting of the World Heritage Committee in South Africa
next week.

The IUCN, or World Conservation Union, which plays a major
role in proposing sites to be added to 788 already on the
global list, said other areas included India's Valley of
Flowers National Park, home to endangered animals like the snow
leopard. Coastal and marine areas feature prominently in this
year's list of proposals, which also include the Shiretoko
Peninsula located in Japan's northernmost island of Hokkaido.

"It has particular global importance for marine and
terrestrial species," the IUCN said. "It also boasts the
highest recorded densities of brown bear populations in the

The governments on whose territory world heritage sites --
both cultural and natural -- are located are obliged, under a
1972 U.N. convention, to ensure their long-term protection and
prevent any development that could damage them. Thailand's
rugged and mountainous Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest is another
candidate. It is home to more than 800 species of animals, many
which are threatened or endangered.

South Africa's Vredefort Dome near Johannesburg, the
largest and oldest meteorite impact site, is also on the list,
which is maintained by the world body's Paris-based cultural,
scientific and education organization UNESCO.

The talks are set for July 10-17 in Durban.