The cultural arm of the United Nations on Saturday established new World Heritage sites in Sri Lanka and Hawaii, while adding an existing natural heritage site in Tanzania to the world’s list of cultural treasures.
Meeting in Brasilia, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) voted to make Sri Lanka’s central highlands a natural heritage site. The high-altitude region is considered a super biodiversity hotspot.
The Papahanaumokuakea island chain of tiny islands and atolls, stretching nearly 2,000 kilometres north-west of the main Hawaiian Islands of the United States, was declared both a natural and cultural heritage site. The Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument is one of the world’s largest marine protected areas, while the region is considered to be the origin of life in native Hawaiian beliefs.
Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Conservation Area, which has been on the list of natural treasures since 1979, was added to the cultural heritage list, too. Including the world-famous Serengeti National Park and Olduvai Gorge, scene of some of the most important finds in pre-human anthropology, Ngorongoro holds an “extraordinary record of human evolution,” UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee said.
UNESCO has now registered 892 World Heritage properties. During its 10-day meeting, which concludes Tuesday, the World Heritage Committee is considering 39 sites for World Heritage listings.
The highlands in south-central Sri Lanka include the Peak Wilderness Protected Area, the Horton Plains National Park and the Knuckles Conservation Forest. At altitudes of 2,500 metres above sea level, the area includes habitats of endangered species such as the western purple-faced langur, the Horton Plains slender loris and the Sri Lankan leopard.
Papahanaumokuakea, the natural and cultural mixed site, “has deep cosmological and traditional significance” including as the place in native Hawaiian culture were spirits return in the afterlife, the heritage committee said. The vast ocean region includes deepwater habitats, seamounts, submerged banks, extensive coral reefs and lagoons.
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area, which includes the eastern arm of the Great Rift Valley, contains fossil evidence of nearly 4 million years of human evolution until the early modern era, including famous discoveries by anthropologists Louis and Mary Leakey. It has long been famous for its rich wildlife and the Ngorongoro Crater, the world’s largest caldera.