Special Report

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Grave Danger

Source: FredFroese / E+ via Getty Images

Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls (1982)
> Location: Jerusalem (Site proposed by Jordan)

Jerusalem holds a special place for three of the world’s major religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The World Heritage Centre is processing an action plan to safeguard the Old City by using best practices to improve housing and living conditions of residents while respecting and preserving areas of historical significance.

Chan Chan Archaeological Zone (1986)
> Location: Peru

The Chan Chan Archaeological Zone in Peru contains the remains of a city of the Chimu Kingdom that reached its zenith in the 15th century before it was conquered by the Incas. It is important because of its sophisticated urban organization. It was first put on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 1986 because of its vulnerability to extreme climatic events. Now it is threatened by human relocation and infrastructure development.

Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve (1992)
> Location: Côte d’Ivoire

Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve is near the borders of Guinea, Liberia, and Côte d’Ivoire. Dense forests cover the mountain’s slopes, home to chimpanzees and toads, and the region is rich in fauna, which has been the object of poachers. Land development and controlled fires also threaten the environment.

The Air and Ténéré Natural Reserves (1992)
> Location: Niger

The Air and Ténéré Natural Reserves in Niger is Africa’s largest protected area, at more than 19 million acres. The region is known for its photogenic landscapes and variety of plants and animals. The biggest threats to its integrity are poaching and illegal grazing.

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Virunga National Park (1994)
> Location: Democratic Republic of the Congo

Virunga National Park encompasses 1.9 million acres of swamps, steppes, and snowfields. It is home to mountain gorillas, hippopotamuses, and a variety of birds. Two of Africa’s most active volcanoes — Nyamuragira and Nyiragongo — are located there. Management of the area is complex and can be dangerous as some of the park’s authority agents have been killed. The park needs better surveillance to oversee boundaries and combat poachers. Deforestation is also a concern.

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