Could Tanzania’s Selous lose its world heritage status?

Sunday July 18 2021
selous pi1
By The Citizen Reporter
By Agencies

Dar es Salaam. The status of Tanzania’s famed Selous Game Reserve in the list of World Heritage sites is waiting for ruling of the UN’s cultural agency committee which is discussing the sites.

According to AFP news agency, nearly 50 new sites could be added to the over 1,100 listed worldwide by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) as World Heritage, during two weeks of online meetings hosted by China.

The world heritage committee of the Unesco started the meeting on Friday and will be examining the state of conservation of around 250 sites, of which 53 are already on its “List of World Heritage in Danger” -- a move meant to prod officials into taking corrective action.

The at-risk list includes the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania - one of Africa’s biggest remaining wilderness expanses.

Unesco experts say rampant elephant poaching, as well as the sale of logging rights and a dam project on the Rufiji river, could cause “irreversible damage.”

Selous pic

Wild animals grazing in the Selous Game Reserve, a Unesco world heritage site since 1982, whose status is now in danger and could be reversed during on going deliberations by the relevant bodies. PHOTO | FILE

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What ruling means

The prestigious World Heritage label can be a boon for tourism while encouraging governments to protect cultural or environmental treasures, under the watchful eye of Unesco advisers.

But addition isn’t permanent, and sites can also be stripped of their status or be warned they are at risk. The agenda for this year is particularly heavy after last year’s meeting was cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Selous was established in 1922, and in 1982 it was declared a Unesco world heritage site thanks to its rich diversity of wildlife and uninterrupted nature.

Large numbers of elephants, black rhinoceroses, cheetahs, giraffes, hippopotamuses and crocodiles live in this immense sanctuary, which measures 50,000 square kilometres.

The Tanzanian National Park Authority (Tanapa) in 2019 proposed and declared a change of identity of the reserve to be known as The Nyerere National Park as a way of honoring the first president of Tanzania Julius Nyerere.

Tanzania is home to several Unesco heritage sites namely Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani and Ruins of Songo Mnara, Serengeti National Park, Selous Game Reserve, Kilimanjaro National Park, Stone Town of Zanzibar and Kondoa Rock-Art Sites.