VII.10 Air and Ténéré Natural Reserves (Niger)
The Committee at its twentieth (Merida, 1996) and twenty-first (Naples, 1997) sessions had called for a site visit to evaluate the state of conservation in order to determine whether the site could be removed from the List of World Heritage in Danger.
The Committee was pleased to note that the findings of the Centre/State Party/IUCN mission to the site, undertaken from 21 September to 3 October 1998, and those of previous exploratory field missions of the IUCN Office in Niger undertaken with the assistance of the Swiss Development Co-operation (SDC), have indicated that the numbers of most wildlife species are recovering. The flora appears to be intact in most parts, except in some valleys where over-use by local people was noted. Some wildlife species like the ostrich however, continue to be seriously threatened by poaching and international trade in live animals and its by-products. Population size of ostrich in the Reserves has been found to be less than 10% of the 1990-91 estimates. IUCN Niger has progressed in the preparation of a new programme, in co-operation with SDC and DANIDA, for the conservation of the area, with the aim of establishing conditions for conservation of the Reserves and decentralized sustainable use initiatives. The programme will attempt to increase the economic value of the Reserves to local communities through eco-tourism, agriculture and animal husbandry.
The Committee noted with satisfaction that the Peace Agreement signed between the Government and rebels has been effectively implemented. Impact of rebel activities in the area on the integrity of the site has been less severe than expected. Furthermore, the Committee was informed that the State Party has submitted an emergency programme for the rehabilitation of the site which foresees the implementation of the following activities: (i) restoration of sites which were used as bases by the rebels in the past; (ii) strengthening surveillance and protection capacity; (iii) ostrich breeding in partially enclosed areas; (iv) rapid evaluation of impacts on populations of key faunal species; (v) establishment of a Committee for development and management of the site; and (vi) training workshops for selected target groups like border police, customs officers etc., on threats to natural heritage. The Committee noted that detailed proposals for each of these activities need to be elaborated in consultation with possible donors, such as UNDP so as to ensure their rapid implementation.
The Committee commended the State Party for ensuring the protection of this site in spite of rebel activity and uncertain security conditions and welcomed the interest of SDC, DANIDA, UNDP and other donors to contribute to the conservation of this site. The Committee requested the Centre and IUCN to cooperate with the State Party and all other stakeholders to explore modalities for financing the implementation of the emergency rehabilitation plan and to identify priority activities for consideration of support from the World Heritage Fund. The Committee requested the Centre and IUCN to co-operate with the State Party to submit to the twenty-third session of the Bureau, a plan of action for implementing the emergency rehabilitation programme and a recommendation as to whether the Aïr and Ténéré Natural Reserves could be removed from the List of World Heritage in Danger at its twenty-third session in 1999.