June 30, 2009

Two of Earth’s natural sites are in danger

The World Heritage Committee has added the Belize barrier reef system and Los Katios National Park to its list of world heritage sites that are in danger.

Composed of seven protected areas, many small mangrove islands and coastal lagoons, the Belize Barrier Reef System is home to a number of threatened species, including marine turtles and the American crocodile, the International Union for Conservation of Nature said.

The IUCN and the World Heritage Committee, part of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, said a joint monitoring mission to Belize in March revealed alarming developments such as extensive mangrove cutting and sale of mangrove islands.

The Belize Barrier Reef, the largest in the Northern Hemisphere, is also the country's top tourist destination.

By adding the Belize Barrier Reef to the List of World Heritage in Danger, the World Heritage Committee is acting to ensure that one of the world's most outstanding natural places is being protected and that the international community is doing its utmost to support Belize in its conservation efforts, said Tim Badman, leader of the IUCN delegation at a World Heritage Committee meeting Monday in Seville, Spain.

The IUCN said Los Katios National Park in northwest Colombia, consisting of low hills, tropical rainforests and wetlands, is threatened by illegal logging, overfishing and potential road construction.