Galapagos, Senegal park on U.N. 'danger' list

/ Source: The Associated Press

The Galapagos Islands and Senegal's Niokolo-Koba National Park were added Tuesday to the U.N.'s World Heritage sites in danger from environmental threats or overuse.

The Galapagos Islands, an Ecuadorian territory situated in the Pacific Ocean some 625 miles from South America, helped shape Charles Darwin's theory of evolution and in 1978 was the first site placed on UNESCO's World Heritage List.

But the islands and a marine reserve surrounding them that are home to dozens of endangered species have increasingly come under threat from invasive species, growing tourism and immigration, the organization's Heritage Committee said.

President Rafael Correa in April declared the islands at risk and proposed restrictions on tourist and residency permits in the islands to try to control the damage.

The Heritage Committee, meeting in the southern New Zealand city of Christchurch to consider the state of conservation on 830 listed heritage sites, noted the number of days spent by passengers on cruise ships has increased by 150 percent over the past 15 years, fueling a growth in immigration and inter-island traffic.

Members agreed to add the islands to the committee's list of sites in danger, the organization said in a statement.

It also added the Niokolo-Koba National Park to the list, saying it was endangered by wildlife poaching and plans to construct a dam just a few miles upstream from the park that threatens to stop flooding of grasslands that is essential to sustain wildlife.

The park's forests and savannas are home to a rich fauna, including antelopes, chimpanzees, lions, leopards and a large population of elephants, as well as numerous birds, reptiles and amphibians.

The in-danger listing helps mobilize support and resources, but provides no direct cash subsidies to support conservation efforts.

On Monday, the committee decided to remove four heritage sites — Florida's Everglades, the Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve in Honduras, the royal Palaces of Abomey in Benin and Katmandu Valley in Nepal — from its in-danger list, recognizing progress in the sites' conservation.

The committee now lists 29 of the 830 World Heritage Sites as in danger and requiring further protection.

At its 10-day meeting, delegates will also consider applications to add at least 45 new sites — including the Sydney Opera House — to the World Heritage list.