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World Heritage List Adds New Sites

August 1, 2010

The UN’s cultural and scientific body added a region of mountainous forests in Sri Lanka and an isolated archipelago off Hawaii to UNESCO’s World Heritage list, officials said on Saturday.

The World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization added the two sites on Friday during a 10-day meeting held to revise the World Heritage list.

The additions brought the number of environmentally and culturally unique sites considered important to our planet to 892.

In Sri Lanka, a highland region situated in the south central part of the island was added because of its “extraordinary range of flora and fauna,” which includes endangered species such as the langur and loris primates and the Sri Lankan leopard, a UNESCO statement said.

In the United States, the Papahanaumokuakea archipelago, located 160 miles northwest of the main group of Hawaiian islands, was included because of its “deep cosmological and traditional significance for living Native Hawaiian culture… as the place where it is believed that life originates and to where the spirits return after death,” the statement said.

During the meeting in the Brazilian capital of Brasilia, which ends Tuesday, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee also went over its list of endangered sites.

It added Florida’s Everglades and Madagascar’s tropical forest to the list of endangered regions on Friday. It had also removed the Galapagos Islands from the list, despite protests from its consulting body, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, which said the call was “premature.”

The decisions made by the World Heritage Committee brought the number of endangered sites to 35.

The committee declared the Everglades National Park endangered “because of serious and continuing degradation of its aquatic ecosystem.” Water inflows have been reduced greatly and pollution has increased to a point that marine life is in peril, it said.

This is the second time the Everglades made the endangered list. It was on the list between 1993 and 2007 because of hurricane damage, deviation of its water supply, and pollution from agricultural flow-off.

Madagascar’s rainforests of Atsinanana made the list due to excessive illegal logging and poaching of lemurs on the island following political turmoil sparked by a March 2009 rebellion. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said the forests were home to many unique species who were under threat.

The Galapagos Islands were removed from the list of endangered sites under a Brazilian demand meant to reflect progress Quito had made to preserve the archipelago, made famous by Charles Darwin’s 1835 study that supported his theory of evolution.

Peru’s Machu Picchu was not added to the list, but UNESCO noted recommendations that the 15th century Incan ruins be put under close watch because of severe flooding this year.

Image Caption: Laysan and Short-tailed Albatrosses at Northwest Hawaiian Islands National Monument. Credit: White House photo by Shealah Craighead

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