World Heritage Biodiversity Hot Spots to Get $15M

WASHINGTON, DC, November 20, 2002 (ENS) - Places that are the richest in their variety of unique animals and plants are often the places most jeopardized by development, even though they may be designated as World Heritage sites by the United Nations.

To protect and conserve these most threatened biodiversity hot spots, Conservation International and the United Nations Foundation have formed a new three year, $15 million partnership.


The southern muriqui Brachyteles arachnoides is one of the most threatened primates in Brazil's Atlantic Forest. (Photo by Haroldo Palo, Jr. courtesy Conservation International)
The partnership was announced Friday in Venice at an international congress entitled "World Heritage 2002: Shared Legacy, Common Responsibility" hosted by the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to marks its 30th anniversary.

As presented jointly by president of the UN Foundation, Timothy Wirth, and president of Conservation International, Russell Mittermeier, the partnership aims to enhance the impact of the 1972 UNESCO World Heritage Convention, which works with UN member countries to identify and protect sites of natural or cultural heritage.

Working with UNESCO, the UN Foundation and Conservation International (CI) seek to collaborate on the development of projects in proposed or existing natural World Heritage Sites. Of the 730 designated World Heritage Sites, 144 have been inscribed as natural sites.

UNESCO Director-General Ko´chiro Matsuura said, "By partnering with the World Heritage Centre, the UN Foundation has strengthened our capacities to reach our objectives and attract new partners for World Heritage conservation."

The principle aim of the World Heritage Congress was the development of just such targeted partnerships for site protection and preservation, Matsuura said.


UN Foundation president Timothy Wirth spent more than 20 years serving in the U.S. Congress, first as a Congressman and then as a Senator, representing Colorado. (Photo courtesy UN Foundation)
Wirth said, "These partnerships help sustain both communities and the future of humanity by preserving our world's most treasured resources."

Created to administer Ted Turner's $1 billion pledge in support of the United Nations, the UN Foundation promotes replicable conservation approaches, builds greater public awareness about the need to protect biodiversity, and creates effective partnerships to bring additional resources to World Heritage sites.

The UN Foundation has identified the conservation of biodiversity as one of its top priorities, and is supporting World Heritage sites through strategic grant making.


Primate scientist Russell Mittermeier is president of Conservation International. (Photo courtesy CI)
"With 16 out of 25 global biodiversity hotspots having World Heritage Sites, this partnership will be tremendously beneficial in providing the essential on-the-ground work to protect them," said CI's Mittermeier, a primatologist who chairs the Primate Specialist Group of the IUCN-World Conservation Union Species Survival Commission

CI's strategic focus emphasizes protection of the world's 25 global biodiversity hotspots, where more than 60 percent of all terrestrial species diversity is found within just 1.4 percent of the Earth's land surface.

"This is exactly the kind of important partnership Conservation International welcomes to successfully implement our global ecosystem approach of conserving biodiversity," said Mittermeier.

Nearly half the world's vascular plant species and one-third of terrestrial vertebrate species are endemic to 25 hotspots of biodiversity, but none of these hotspots has more than one-third of its habitat remaining intact, says CI. Once these hotspots covered 12 percent of the earth's land surface, but today they cover only 1.4 percent.


The Everglades National Park in the United States was inscribed on the List of UNESCO World Heritage in Danger in 1993. It has suffered extensive damage due to urban growth, pollution from fertilizers, mercury poisoning of fish and wildlife, and a fall in water levels caused by flood protection measures. (Photo courtesy UNESCO)
Up to $15 million will support initiatives developed collaboratively by the UN Foundation, Conservation International, and UNESCO's World Heritage Center. They will target regions where focus could generate significant conservation results.

A recent collaboration between the UN Foundation, CI, and Flora and Fauna International led to the Cambodian government's decision to designate a 1,000,000 acre (402,000 hectare) area in southwestern Cambodia's Central Cardamom Mountains as a protected area.

The Cardamoms, which Cambodia plans to nominate as a World Heritage site, are inhabited by most of Cambodia's large mammals and half of the country's birds, reptiles and amphibians.

Visit each of the 25 biodiversity hotspots at:

The UN Foundation is found online at:

UNESCO's World Heritage Sites are online at: