Natural World Heritage sites are often at the top of world travelers lists as must-see destinations. Even if you’re unfamiliar with the term, you’ve likely dreamt about planning a trip to some of the top World Heritage sites like the Pyramids of Egypt, the Taj Mahal, and even the Grand Canyon.
In this article, we’ll dive a little deeper into the natural world heritage sites, why some are in danger, what you can do to help preserve them.
What are world heritage sites, and why are they in danger?
World heritage sites are identified by UNESCO. UNESCO is an acronym that stands for United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural organization. UNESCO heritage sites are sites identified of historical, cultural, or even scientific significance. The goal is to preserve these sites for global benefits such as education and cultural significance. Being identified as a world heritage site adds significance and usually boosts travel activity to these locations.
Sites can be listed as in danger for a number of reasons. For natural sites, it’s often due to human activities such as logging, mining, pollution, or other activities that cause serious damage to the site.
Natural world heritage sites in danger
There are a number of world heritage sites in danger. This next section will go through the current ones identified by UNESCO and the damages done (as of October 2021).
- Everglades National Park (Florida, US): hurricane damage and urban development has been detrimental to the area
- Garamba National Park (Democratic Republic of the Congo): the white rhino population is dangerously low because of poaching in the area
- Kahuzi-Biega National Park (Democratic Republic of the Congo): deforestation and hunting have affected the national park
- Okapi Wildlife Reserve (Democratic Republic of the Congo): elephants have been killed within the reserve and looting of park facilities
- Virunga National Park (Democratic Republic of the Congo): deforestation and poaching have been damaging for the site, as well as refugees from a civil war entering the area
- Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve (Guinea): mining in the reserve has caused great damage as well as a large number of refugees moving into the site
- Rio Plantano Biosphere Reserve (Honduras): poaching, logging, and fishing have caused the site to deteriorate; drug trafficking is also prevalent
- Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra (Indonesia): poaching, agricultural encroachment, illegal logging, and urban development have plagued this rainforest
- Lake Turkana National Parks (Kenya): impact of a local dam has displaced the ecosystem
- Rainforests of the Atsinanana (Madagascar): lemurs have become endangered and illegal logging is prevalent
- Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California (Mexico): Vaquita, a porpoise in the gulf, is nearly extinct
- Air and Tenere Natural Reserves (Niger): military conflicts and disturbances in the region, as well as wildlife populations declining
- Niokolo-Koba National Park (Senegal): site has deteriorated, and a low mammal population is threatening the ecosystem
- East Rennell (Solomon Islands): damaged from logging in the area and the effects on the ecosystem
- Selous Game Reserve (Tanzania): mining and extraction of minerals as well as urban development have been detrimental to the site
What can we do?
You’re probably wondering at this point what can be done to help preserve these sites and stop or even reverse some of the damage that has happened. There are a couple of options to help the cause. First, you can volunteer with local NGOs that are dedicated to helping preserve and support these sites. You can also donate to these NGOs to help fund conservation efforts.
Another major way to help is when travelling, you can choose to practice sustainable tourism. This means respecting the culture and customs of the place you’re visiting, as well as not damaging sites while you’re there. Not every site on the list is a good travel destination due to some civil unrest in the area, but many locations are great destinations for your next trip. When planning your trip and visiting the natural world site, it’s important to be mindful and preserve the environment. Ecotours are a great way to visit these sites while still being conscious of the site and preserving the location. Often a portion of the tour fees go to conserving the area you’re visiting.
Keeping these ideas in mind will help your next trip be both fun and sustainable, and possibly help contribute to the cause of protecting these world heritage sites for future travelers to enjoy.
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