Fishing and shellfish gathering have sustained human life in the 5,000 km2 property, which is formed by the arms of three rivers. The site comprises brackish channels encompassing over 200 islands and islets, mangrove forest, an Atlantic marine environment, and dry forest.
The site is marked by 218 shellfish mounds, some of them several hundreds metres long, produced by its human inhabitants over the ages. Burial sites on 28 of the mounds take the form of tumuli where remarkable artefacts have been found. They are important for our understanding of cultures from the various periods of the delta's occupation and testify to the history of human settlement along the coast of West Africa.
Vue aérienne de la mangrove
© Jean Goepp, Oceanium de Dakar
Outstanding Universal Value
The region of the Saloum Delta is a remarkable testimony to the synergy between a natural environment with extensive biodiversity and a style of human development that is still present albeit fragile. Sustainable shellfish gathering and fishing practices in brackish water, and the processing of the harvest for its preservation and export was developed here. The shell mounds and the tumulus mounds form specific and exceptional cultural landscapes.
The numerous shell mounds in the Saloum Delta are generally well-preserved and they sometimes have imposing dimensions. They are direct testimony of sustainable and very ancient socio-economic practices. Over the centuries, they have led to the formation of numerous man-made islets contributing to the stabilisation of the delta's land and channels. With their characteristic vegetation within the delta's natural environment, the shell mounds form typical cultural landscapes. Some mounds include tumuli; they form, with their baobab vegetation and their undulating forms, funerary sites with specific landscape features.
Criterion (iii): With its numerous shell mounds, associated landscapes and the presence of a rare and well-preserved ensemble of funerary tumulus mounds, the Saloum Delta provides exceptional testimony to a coastal lifestyle, in a Sahelian subtropical environment, with brackish water rich in shellfish and fish.
Criterion (iv): All the shell mounds built up over a 2,000 year-long cultural process have formed a physical structure of stable islets and reclaimed land within the Saloum Delta. The resultant cultural landscapes are exceptional and illustrate a long period of the history of human settlement along the West African coast.
Criterion (v): The Saloum Delta is an eminent example of traditional human settlement. It represents a lifestyle and sustainable development based on the gathering of shellfish and fishing, in a considered interaction with a natural environment of extensive but fragile biodiversity.
The conditions of cultural integrity of the Saloum Delta are in theory very adequate, even if some shell mounds have been damaged, but the integrity remains fragile. The shell mounds and the cultural landscapes and the biodiversity of the natural environment may be threatened by poorly controlled socio-economic behaviour.
The conditions of authenticity of the mounds, tumulus mounds and their landscapes are generally adequate. They are complemented by the anthropological authenticity of the shellfish gathering practices and to a lesser degree of the fishing practices.
Protection and Management requirements
The protection of the shell mounds and the tumuli mounds is ensured by adequate regulatory measures. However, the active protection of the cultural sites in the field is recent and must be extended to the property as a whole, and not just concern the National Park. Additionally, the general policy for the property's conservation is closely tied to the conservation of the natural environment and the sustainable development programmes for the delta as a whole.
The property's management relies on numerous individuals in the field. Together they form an adequate management system for the property, with the key stakeholders and those in charge clearly identified, notably the National Park, the rural communities and the United Nations MDG-Fund. However, this management system is evolving and the multiplicity of programmes and stakeholders tends to make some situations somewhat confused. The overall management committee still has to be set up (2011), its resources confirmed, and the homogeneous handling of management and conservation for the entire property needs to be improved.