New WCS study analyzes what is damaging the world's most special places

Commercial hunting, illegal activities, extractive industries and civil unrest all have major impacts

BONN, GERMANY (3 July, 2015) – During the 39th session of the World Heritage Committee, WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) unveiled a comparative analysis of the top major threats facing natural World Heritage sites around the globe.

The report drew on data collected from 20 natural World Heritage sites worldwide through UNESCO State of Conservation reports, the IUCN World Heritage Outlook analysis, and a survey of WCS field programs.
According to a cumulative study of the results, the top threats include:
1.    Commercial hunting (illegal killing leading to illegal trade)
2.    Agricultural expansion
3.    Ground transport infrastructure expansion
4.    Illegal activities of all kinds
5.    Mining & quarrying
6.    War, civil unrest & military exercises
7.    Logging & wood harvesting
8.    Invasive/alien species
9.    Livestock farming & grazing of domesticated animals
10. Impacts of tourism & recreational activities
The report also listed other harmful factors, including climate change, wild-fires and oil & gas extraction.
The World Heritage Convention adds an additional level of protection beyond national legislation to the identified 232 natural and mixed natural/cultural sites worldwide in recognition of their outstanding universal value to humankind.  The global network of landscapes and seascapes in which WCS works overlaps with 28 natural and mixed World Heritage sites, including eight “Sites in Danger.” These sites include the iconic Virunga National Park in Central Africa, Belize Barrier Reef, and the Atsinanana rainforests of eastern Madagascar.
Matthew Hatchwell, WCS Europe chief executive and lead researcher of the report, said, “By comparing across multiple studies, we see major themes emerge around what is truly threatening natural World Heritage sites. These places have been recognized as World Heritage sites because of their uniqueness and irreplaceability: “outstanding universal value” is the World Heritage Convention terminology. We need to ensure that we focus our resources on tackling the very real pressures on these sites.”
Susan Lieberman, WCS Vice President, International Policy, said, “We are at the meeting this week in Bonn to draw attention to the threats facing these exceptional treasures. We see that these threats, including wildlife trafficking, unregulated extractives, and other human impacts, are the same as those affecting other endangered land- and seascapes. The international community, including governments, non-governmental organizations and donors, must collaborate to address these threats before some of the most special places in the world are irreparably harmed.”
The report also surveyed the most effective protection and management interventions at World Heritage sites, using data from the IUCN World Heritage Outlook analysis and the survey of WCS field sites. The WCS responses identified research and effective law enforcement, along with engagement with local communities and development of tourism programs, as the most effective management actions to address the threats to the World Heritage sites where it works.
Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)
MISSION: WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. VISION: WCS envisions a world where wildlife thrives in healthy lands and seas, valued by societies that embrace and benefit from the diversity and integrity of life on earth. To achieve our mission, WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in more than 60 nations and in all the world’s oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City,  visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos, and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit: www.wcs.org Follow: @thewcs.