Oman sanctuary first site to be removed from UNESCO’s World Heritage List

28 June 2007
Arabian Oryx Sanctuary

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) today took the unprecedented step of removing the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary in Oman – home to the rare antelope – from its World Heritage List due to what the agency deemed as the country’s failure to fulfil its conservation obligations with regard to the site.

The World Heritage Committee, which is currently holding its annual meeting in Christchurch, New Zealand, deleted the Sanctuary – which had been on the List since 1994 – because of Oman’s decision to reduce the size of the protected area by 90 per cent, contravening the guidelines of UNESCO’s 1972 World Heritage Convention.

In 1996, the population of the Arabian Oryx in the site was at 450 but it has since dwindled to 65 with only about four breeding pairs – mainly due to poaching and habitat degradation – thus “making its future viability uncertain,” according to a press release issued by the agency.

The Committee decided that the reduction in the size of the Sanctuary would “destroy the value and integrity of the property,” which is also home to other endangered species including the Arabian Gazelle and houbara bustard – a large bird prized in the region.

Also today, the Committee inscribed 15 new sites on the List including Japan’s Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine, Turkmenistan’s Parthian Fortresses of Nisa, the Sydney Opera House in Australia, India’s Red Fort Complex, the Mehmed Paša Sokolovic Bridge of Višegrad (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Rideau Canal (Canada), the historic centre of Bordeaux, Port of the Moon (France), the Old Town of Corfu (Greece), and Lavaux vineyard terraces (Switzerland).

Also added were the Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape (South Africa), Twyfelfontein rock carvings (Namibia), the Kaiping Diaolou and Villages (China) and Samarra Archaeological City (Iraq), which was also placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

In addition, Teide National Park (Spain) and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathian (Slovakia, Ukraine) were added as natural sites, and the Ecosystem and Relict Cultural Landscape of Lopé-Okanda (Gabon) was inscribed as a mixed - cultural and natural - site.

The Committee also decided to approve the extension of the natural site of Jungfrau-Aletsch-Bietschhorn, (Switzerland).

The Committee also approved a request from Poland to change the name of Auschwitz on the World Heritage List to “Auschwitz-Birkenau” with the subtitle “German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp (1940-1945).”

In a statement issued following its decision, the Committee said that the remains of the two camps of Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau, as well as its Protective Zone, were placed on the List as evidence of the “inhumane, cruel and methodical effort to deny human dignity to groups considered inferior, leading to their systematic murder.”

The World Heritage List includes 848 properties forming part of the cultural and natural heritage which the World Heritage Committee considers as having “outstanding universal value.”

 

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