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UNESCO calls for closer cooperation with CITES to protect World Heritage Sites

At its 38th session held in Doha from 15 to 25 June, the World Heritage Committee expressed its utmost concerns about the impacts of poaching and the associated illicit wildlife trade on World Heritage sites and called for strengthened cooperation with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

At the same meeting, the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania was included on the list of World Heritage Sites in Danger, owing to the poaching crisis affecting this reserve. Large numbers of elephants, black rhinos, cheetahs, hippos and crocodiles live in this immense sanctuary, which measures 50,000 Km2. Selous game reserve joins seven other Sites already on the "in danger" list.

Half of the 14 African World Heritage sites monitored under the CITES Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) programme are now on the “in danger” list, namely Comoé (Cote d`Ivoire), Niokolo-Koba (Senegal); Garamba, Kahuzi-Biega, Salonga and Okapi (all in the DRC) and Virunga (DRC and Uganda). The CITES Secretariat is working with the UNESCO World Heritage Centre to better protect these iconic sites.

Selous Game Reserve is a site monitored by CITES under its Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) programme, which was established at the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES (Harare, 1997). The government estimates that the elephant population in the Selous and Mikumi game sanctuaries has declined from 38,975 in 2009 to an estimated 13,084 today andCITES estimates that in the past year alone, over 20,000 elephants were illegally killed in Africa.

The decision adopted by the World Heritage Committee followed the Director General of UNESCO, Ms Irina Bokova, and the Secretary-General of CITES, Mr John E. Scanlon, jointly expressing concerns in 2013 over the impacts of poaching and related illicit wildlife trade on World Heritage sites in Africa.

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