Coastal forests candidates for world heritage list: report

Sunrise on Mount Kenya from Shipton Camp. UN has proposed the listing of some sites in Kenya as heritage ones. [File, Standard]

The United Nations has listed Kenyan and Tanzanian coastal forests as candidates for inclusion on the Unesco World Heritage List.

Unesco’s 2020 report on the status of World Heritage Sites in Africa has also proposed the extension of two other designated World Heritage Sites: Mt Kenya National Park and Kenya Lake Systems.

The progress report published in April this year notes that Arabuko Sokoke, the Tana Delta Forest Complex and Shimba Hills Forest are good candidates for the inscription of the UN designation.

The sites fall under East Africa Coastal Forests and the Eastern Arc Mountains that run from Kenya into Tanzania.

The Eastern Africa Coastal forests include Arabuko Sokoke and Shimba Hills (Kenya), the Tana Delta and Forests Complex (Kenya) and the Jozani-Chwaka Bay Conservation Area in Tanzania. The Eastern Arc Mountains include Taita Hills, Shimba Hills and several other mountains in Tanzania.

According to the report, the Eastern Arc Coastal Forests and the Eastern Arc Mountains are key candidates as they form complex ecosystems with high levels of endemism, with many species of plants and animals only restricted to the areas.

“Like the East African coastal forests, these moist mountain forests and montane grasslands have long been isolated from other tropical moist forest regions by expanses of drier lowland savannahs. The biodiversity of this ancient complex of mountain ranges is noted for very high levels of endemism, with many species of plants and animals restricted to single mountain ranges,” the report says.

Inscription into the world heritage listing means that the sites get branding as a globally recognised tourism destination, improving its protection and management.

The sites also get access to international networks of expertise and technical support, thereby helping build national and local capacity for natural heritage management, including the strengthening of national legislation, policies and governance systems among other benefits.

Universal value

In order to be inscribed on the World Heritage List, a site must be considered to have “outstanding universal value”, with exceptional importance that transcends national boundaries.

Kenya Lake System, which includes Lakes Nakuru, Bogoria and Elementaita, the report says, are candidates for inclusion as among saline lakes that are home and breeding ground for flamingos.

The flamingo lakes are saline-alkaline, with the environmental conditions of each changing cyclically.