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Galapagos controversially taken off Unesco’s Danger List

10th August 2010

Conservationists have voiced concern following Unesco’s decision to withdraw the Galapagos Islands from its ‘World Heritage Sites in Danger’ list

Conservationists have voiced concern following Unesco’s decision to withdraw the Galapagos Islands from its ‘World Heritage Sites in Danger’ list.

Unesco’s assessment sees the Galapagos Islands - home to more than 1,300 species found nowhere else in the world - being taken off the Danger List just three years after it was added.

In June 2007, the Galapagos joined Unesco’s Danger List after unregulated tourism saw visitor numbers triple from 40,000 in 1996 to 120,000 in 2007. Options for land-based tourism on the islands has increased markedly in recently years.

However, the environmental impact on the islands - described by David Attenborough as “the most astonishing place on earth” - has allegedly diminished in recent years. The islands have benefited from tourism income and the establishment of conservation schemes by the Ecuadorian government, including a £10 million “Invasive Species Fund”. 

While Unesco has decided the reduction in damage from tourism is enough to take the Galapagos Islands off red alert, both the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the British-run Galapagos Conservation Trust(GCT) feel the decision was premature.

Tim Badman, head of IUCN’s World Heritage Programme, said, "Our recommendation for the Galapagos was that it should not be removed from the Danger List as there is work still to be done."

Chief executive of GCT, Toni Darton, agrees: “We know that the unique biodiversity is still very much at risk – and tourism has a key role to play in conservation.”

As well as the Galapagos Islands being controversially removed, Unesco has added four more regions to the “World Heritage Sites in Danger List”: the Everglades National Park in the USA, the Tombs of Buganada Kings in Uganda, the Atsinanana Rainforests of Madagascar, and the Bagrati Cathedral and Gelati Monastery in Georgia.

During a meeting held in the Brazilian capital Brasilia last week, the World Heritage Committee also declared 21 new sites “World Heritage Sites”. These areas include 16 cultural sites, four natural sites and one new mixed site – the Papahānaumokuākea in the United States of America. The full World Heritage list now contains 911 sites worldwide.

The new sites are:

  • Australian Convict Sites (Australia)
  • São Francisco Square in the Town of São Cristovão (Brazil)
  • Historic Monuments of Dengfeng, in the "Centre of Heaven and Earth" (China)
  • Episcopal City of Albi (France)
  • Jantar Mantar (India)
  • Sheikh Safi al-Din Khānegāh and Shrine Ensemble in Ardabil (Islamic Republic of Iran)
  • Tabriz Historical Bazaar Complex (Islamic Republic of Iran)
  • Bikini Atoll, Nuclear Test Site (Marshall Islands)
  • Camino Real de Tierra Adentro (Mexico)
  • Prehistoric Caves of Yagul and Mitla in the Central Valley of Oaxaca (Mexico)
  • Seventeenth-century Canal Ring Area inside the Singelgracht, Amsterdam (Netherlands)
  • Historic Villages of Korea: Hahoe and Yangdong (Republic of Korea)
  • At Turaif District in ad-Dir'iyah (Saudi Arabia)
  • Proto-Urban site of Sarazm (Tajikistan)
  • Imperial Citadel of Thang Long-Hanoi (Viet Nam)
  • China Danxia (China)
  • Pitons, Cirques and Remparts of Reunion Island (France)
  • Phoenix Islands Protected Area (Kiribati)
  • Putorana Plateau (Russian Federation)
  • Central Highlands of Sri Lanka (Sri Lanka)
  • How do you visit the Galapagos islands sensitively? Find out more about the fascinating creatures of these volcanic islands in our Galapagos Islands travel guide.

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