News Release

Five natural wonders declared World Heritage

21 June 2013

Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 21 June 2013 (IUCN) -- Namib Sand Sea in Namibia, Xinjiang Tianshan in China, Tajik National Park in Tajikistan, Mount Etna in Italy and El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve in Mexico have been declared World Heritage sites, following expert recommendations of IUCN.

In addition, the World Heritage Committee approved the extension of Mount Kenya National Park to include the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and Ngare Ndare Forest Reserve, also following IUCN's recommendation.

“From vast deserts in Namibia and Mexico to high mountain ranges in China and Tajikistan and a volcano in Italy, the new World Heritage Sites are a celebration of the beauty of nature and our joint commitment to conserve it for generations to come,” says Tim Badman, Director of IUCN World Heritage Programme. “We congratulate the State Parties for their hard work to make this possible and the World Heritage Committee for applying the high standards that it has set itself.”

Namibia, Namib sand sea. Photo: IUCN Peter HowardThe Namib Sand Sea — a unique coastal fog desert with a diverse range of large, shifting dunes – is a place of outstanding natural beauty where atmospheric conditions provide exceptional visibility of the landscape by day and the dazzling southern hemisphere sky at night. It has been long identified as one of the main gaps on the List and is the first site in ten years to be inscribed under all natural World Heritage criteria.

Bogda - China, Xinjiang Tianshan. Photo: IUCN Pierre GallandLocated in the eastern part of the Tianshan mountain range – which extends across China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan – Xinjiang Tianshan contains a scenically beautiful series of ecosystems, including snow-capped mountains and red bed canyons. Its inscription on the World Heritage List was based on the outstanding scenic values and natural features of the area together with the associated mountain ecosystems within a Central Asian arid continental climate.

Head of Vanj River, Tajik National Park. Photo: IUCN/Les MolloyTajik National Park in the East Pamirs is a vast area – 18% of the country of Tajikistan – protecting an exceptional area of the Pamir mountain range. It was added to the list of world’s most precious places because of its spectacularly varied landscapes including stark deserts, massive alpine lakes and extensive glacial fields.


Mount Etna. Photo: IUCN Bastian BertzkyItaly’s Mount Etna is renowned for its exceptional level of volcanic activity and centuries of study. There have been 13 eruptions since the beginning of February this year. Today, it is one of the best studied and monitored volcanoes in the world, which continues to influence volcanology, geophysics and other earth science disciplines.


Mexico, El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve. Photo: IUCN Tilman JaegerThe extraordinary landscape variety of El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve in Mexico with its sweeping dunes, deep volcanic craters has led to extraordinary habitat and species diversity. The area also has a rich archaeological history and is considered sacred by the indigenous Tohono O'odham, today living on both sides of the international border.

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Borjana Pervan
IUCN Media Relations

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