15 July 2005

Africa World Heritage sites named

Africa World Heritage sites named - Vredefort Dome has a radius of 190kmTwo natural wonders of Africa have been added to a list of protected World Heritage sites by the United Nations.

The world's largest and oldest meteorite crater, the Vredefort Dome, in South Africa was added for its scenic and scientific interest.

Egypt's Wadi al-Hitan, known as Whale Valley, was listed for its amazing fossil remains of now-extinct whales.

Six other world sites were also announced by Unesco, the UN's cultural body, at its meeting in South Africa.

Some 120km south-west of Johannesburg, Vredefort Dome - which has a radius of 190km - dates back more than 2m years.

It is crucial to our understanding of the planet's evolution, Unesco says, because meteorite impacts caused great global and evolutionary change.

"Vredefort Dome bears witness to the world's greatest known single energy release event, which caused devastating global change," Unesco says.

These [Whale Valley] fossils represent one of the major stories of evolutionThe Whale Valley fossils, in Egypt's western desert, show the evolution of the whale as an ocean-going mammal from a previous life as a land-based animal.

An extinct whale species' fossils are in the last stages of losing their hind limbs.

"The number, concentration and quality of such fossils here is unique, as is their accessibility and setting in an attractive and protected landscape," Unesco says.

The committee is due to add new cultural sites to its list in the coming days.

Source: BBC News


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