Timbuktu and 9 Other Threatened UNESCO Heritage Sites

November 15, 2012 Updated: February 1, 2013
Residents inspect the remains of the destroyed steel roof of Kasubi tombs on March 18, 2010 following a fire that ravaged the site. (Grace Matsiko/AFP/Getty Images)
Concern is growing about the safety of the many of the world's UNESCO heritage sties. Residents inspect the remains of the destroyed steel roof of Kasubi tombs following a fire that ravaged the site in Uganda on March 18, 2010. (Grace Matsiko/AFP/Getty Images)

A growing number of world heritage sites have come under attack in the last few years, with the most recent being militant Islamists’ destruction of cultural treasures in Timbuktu, Mali. 

The city, once a thriving commercial center and important locale for Islam and science, was in a sense the center of the African-Islamic world.  

Here is a list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites that have recently come under threat. 

UGANDA: Tombs of Buganda Kings at Kasubi (see above)

The main structure of the Tombs of Buganda Kings was almost destroyed by fire in March 2010. Subsequently, this major spiritual center originaly built in the 13th century, was to be reconstructed. 

MALI: Timbuktu 

 

A still from a video shows Islamist militants destroying an ancient shrine in Timbuktu on July 1, 2012. (STR/AFP/GettyImages)
A still from a video shows Islamist militants destroying an ancient shrine in Timbuktu on July 1, 2012. (STR/AFP/GettyImages)

Due to the city not only serving as a commercial center but also as an important location for Islam and science, it was in a sense the center of the African-Islamic world. Timbuktu has been put on the radar after being partially destroyed by the local branch of Al Qaeda.

 

 

 

PALESTINE: Bethlehem – Birthplace of Jesus: Church of the Nativity 

A woman stands by one of the ancient columns in the Church of the Nativity on Dec. 22, 2011 in Bethlehem, West Bank. (Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)
A woman stands by one of the ancient columns in the Church of the Nativity on Dec. 22, 2011 in Bethlehem, West Bank. (Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

This center of Christmas celebration and major Christian pilgrimage destination was only included as a world heritage site this June, and is already starting under threat. The Palestinians, who submitted the application, cited its lack of regular restoration of the church due to political complications since the 1960s after Israel occupied the region as well as lack of freedom to move equipment due to obstruction by Israeli forces. 

UNITED KINGDOM: Liverpool – Maritime Mercantile City

The Royal Liver Building (L) stands on the waterfront in Liverpool, north-west England on Feb. 8, 2010. (Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images)
The Royal Liver Building (L) stands on the waterfront in Liverpool, north-west England, on Feb. 8, 2010. (Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images)

“Liverpool – Maritime Mercantile City” is composed of six areas that are closely associated with the Liverpool’s historical commercial port. These six sections contributed to the building of the British Empire. The six areas, Pier Head, Albert Dock Conservation Area, Stanley Dock Conservation Area, Castle/Dale/Old Hall Street Commercial Center, William Brown Street Cultural Quarter, and Lower Duke Street, are now threatened by the proposed construction of a massive redevelopment project called Liverpool Waters. 

PANAMA: Fortifications of Portobelo-San Lorenzo 

Panama Fortifications
Fortifications on the Caribbean Side of Panama, Portobelo-San Lorenzo (2012). (UNESCO/Frédéric Letullier)

The castles, forts, barracks, and batteries of Portobelo together formed a defensive line to protect the harbor back in the 17th and 18th centuries. The fortifications were listed on the endangered list because the rate of deterioration “could undermine the outstanding universal value for which it was inscribed.”

INDONESIA: Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra 

An aerial view of rainforest in Merang in South Sumatra in Dec. 2010. (Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
An aerial view of rainforest in Merang in South Sumatra in Dec. 2010. (Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)

A mountainous range of breathtaking beauty and home to numerous endangered species including the Sumatran orang-utan, the Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra is now endangered by the proposed construction of four roads, poaching, illegal logging, and “ongoing encroachment.” 

HONDURAS: Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve 

(UNESCO/Marc Patry)
(UNESCO/Marc Patry)

This mountainous and lowland tropical rainforest was the very first of more than 900 World Heritage Sites identified by UNESCO. This largest surviving area of what became known as Honduras’s “undisturbed tropical rainforest” became the site of an ongoing inflow of refugees, development within and around the reserve, and logging. 

UNITED STATES: Everglades National Park

A hawk is seen resting in a tree in the Florida Everglades on Aug. 11, 2011. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
A hawk is seen resting in a tree in the Florida Everglades on Aug. 11, 2011. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The U.S. government requested this vast subtropical wetland in Florida be added to the danger list following “serious and continuing” degradation of its aquatic ecosystem. The park, centered in a fresh water river, is the home of about 14 threatened species, including the alligator, crocodile, and Florida panther. 

MADAGASCAR: Rainforests of the Atsinanana 

(Wildlife Conservation Society via UNESCO)
(Wildlife Conservation Society via UNESCO)

Known for its many rare and endangered animal species, the Rainforest of the Atsinanana has been a site of exploitation and export of rosewood and ebony, which is slowly destroying the habitat. The World Heritage Committee has issued a decree outlawing such exports, but Madagascar continues to issue export permits for illegally logged timber. 

GEORGIA: Bagrati Cathedral and Gelati Monastery

Georgia's Patriarch Ilia II (R) blesses Georgia's re-elected President Mikhail Saakashvili (C) in the Bagrati Cathedral on Jan. 21, 2008. (Irakli Gedenidze/AFP/Getty Images)
Georgia's Patriarch Ilia II (R) blesses Georgia's re-elected President Mikhail Saakashvili (C) in the Bagrati Cathedral on Jan. 21, 2008. (Irakli Gedenidze/AFP/Getty Images)

A representation of the blossoming of medieval architecture in Georgia, the Bagrati Cathedral and Gelati Monastery were founded in the 11th and 12th centuries respectively. The cathedral and the monastery made it on the endangered list after the launch of a major reconstruction project that the World Heritage Committee believes will “undermine the integrity and authenticity” of the site.