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Maputo National Park (formerly Ponto d’ Ouro Partial Marine Reserve - POPMR)

Date of Submission: 31/03/2022
Criteria: (vii)(ix)(x)
Category: Natural
Submitted by:
Ministry of Culture and Tourism
State, Province or Region:
Maputo Province
Coordinates: N26 15 58 E32 49 43
Ref.: 6608

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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party


The site: Maputo National Park (MNP) is located on the south-eastern coast of Maputo Province in the Matutuíne District of southern Mozambique. The MNP was established on 31 December 2021, consolidating the existing Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve and the Maputo Special Reserve. The MNP is being put forward for inclusion on the Tentative List as an extension to the iSimangaliso Wetland Park in South Africa, which was declared a World Heritage site in 1999. This submission replaces the prior one made by the Mozambique government in August 2008 to include the Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve.

The MNP extends from Ponta do Ouro in the south, at the border with the iSimangaliso Wetland Park (a World Heritage Site) in South Africa, around the northern tip of Inhaca Island to the Maputo River mouth in Maputo Bay. The park extends from the high-water mark to three nautical miles into the Indian Ocean and one nautical mile into the interior of Maputo Bay, including the surrounding waters of Inhaca and Portuguese Islands (DNAC, 2011). The terrestrial component of park (formerly the Maputo Special Reserve) is bordered by Maputo Bay in the north, the Indian Ocean in the east, the Maputo River, the Fúti River and a line two km east of the Salamanga – Ponta do Ouro road in the west, and the southern tips of Lake Xingute and Lake Piti (DNAC, 2009).

The site falls within the Maputaland Coastal Plain, with its coastal cordon of high, forested parabolic dunes and extensive sandy beaches. A series of permanent and semi-permanent coastal lakes, the largest being Lake Piti, lie behind the dunes. The coastal cordon’s major ecosystems include rocky shores, extensive intertidal areas of seagrass, mangrove forests and coral reefs. Extensive coastal grasslands contain forests, thickets and wetlands.  The property falls within the Maputaland Centre of Plant Endemism (Van Wyk, 1996; Van Wyk & Smith, 2001; Matimele, 2016), which is globally recognised for the rich biodiversity of its terrestrial, coastal and marine ecosystems and its high levels of endemism. With its distinctive flora and fauna and exceptional species richness. The MNP is considered a biodiversity hotspot of regional and global importance and as such, a global priority for conservation.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

In 1999, the World Heritage Committee (WHC) proposed the potential extension of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park (then known as the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park) (WHC, 1999). The Mozambican and South African governments, recognising the area as important for conservation, subsequently signed conservation protocols.

The MNP and iSimangaliso are adjacent properties. The advantages of a greater range for protected species and of collaborative research and management for the governments of Mozambique and South Africa are striking. iSimangaliso is already a World Heritage Site, inscribed for criteria (vii), (ix) and (x). At the 2002 World Heritage Site Commission Workshop in Hanoi, the site (the region from Maputo Bay to Ponta do Ouro, including Inhaca Island ) was ranked as the 4th most important priority site for protection and World Heritage Site nomination (Hillary et al., 2003).

The site enhances and protects the values of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park contributing to the ecological connectivity between ecosystems and species and increasing the ranges of protected and vulnerable fauna, thus also increasing species resilience. More specifically, the MNP has several unique attributes that enhance the system as a whole. These include the barrier island system that forms the highly productive Maputo Bay, with its extensive intertidal seagrass beds, tidal flats, mangrove forests and rich shallow-water coral reef communities, the magnificent Barreira Vermelha and Ponta Torres reefs.

Criterion (vii): The site contains superlative natural phenomena including the southernmost nesting population of leatherback (D. coriacea) and loggerhead (C. caretta) marine turtles in the world. The largest aggregation of the giant trevally (Caranx ignobilis) in the world occurs in summer, and it is the southernmost point of the flyway for migratory birds of the east coast of Africa, representing 33% of all bird species in southern Africa.

The property contains landscapes of exceptional natural beauty comprising terrestrial, coastal and marine ecosystems and their associated fauna and flora. These include extensive longshore barrier coastal dunes and barrier island system, coastal lakes, tidal mangrove forests of Maputo Bay, and high-latitudinal coral reef communities that provide a spectacular underwater setting, rich with an extraordinary array of species.

Criterion (ix): The site is located in the Maputaland Coastal Plain, the narrow southern limit of the East African coastal lowland. The Maputaland Coastal Plain (from the sea to 50 km inland) comprises a combination of climate, geology, oceanography and soils that contribute to the environmental heterogeneity and variability of the region, and the diversity of its terrestrial, wetland, estuarine, coastal and marine ecosystems with their high species richness. Little climate fluctuation through the Pleistocene period – unlike in much of the rest of continental Africa – has enabled species to evolve over a long period without local extinction or excessive competition, resulting in the occurrence of high levels of endemism along the coast from Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth) in South Africa to southern Somalia. As reflected in its flora, the area demonstrates 500 000 years of coastal geomorphological and ecological processes.

Criterion (x): The site contains an array of important natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including threatened species of outstanding universal value for science and conservation. The following merit further highlighting:

  1. The leatherback (coriacea) and the loggerhead (C. caretta) use the coastal dunes and sandy beaches as critical inter-nesting, mating and nesting grounds. These nesting populations are considered the second most important nesting population in terms of population size in the Indian Ocean and listed as ‘Near Threatened’ on the IUCN Red List.
  2. The waters of the western shores of Inhaca Island possess the last remnant individuals of the dugong ( dugon) population of Maputo Bay.
  3. The resilient coral communities of Barreira Vermelha and Ponta Torres occur on the western shores of Inhaca Island and grow under extreme environmental conditions (high turbidity and periodic fluctuations in salinity from discharges from Maputo Bay’s rivers and estuaries). These coral communities have become isolated from others along the East African coastline and are unique within the Western Indian Ocean region.
  4. Inhaca Island has the largest coverage of seagrass (Zostera capensis) in the world. The species is categorised as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List because of its decline in Maputo Bay and in its range of distribution, from Kenya to Cape Town in South Africa.
  5. Remarkable fauna and flora species richness: the checklist of species within the site contains approximately 4 935 species. This demonstrates the outstanding universal value of the site. 104 species of international conservation significance, and 184 species endemic or near endemic to Mozambique (5), Southern Africa (95) and the WIO (135) have been identified.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The site, with its wide range of terrestrial, coastal and marine habitats has been minimally modified by development. The Matutuíne district is one of the least populated in the country and there is little to no large-scale development or infrastructure. Recent efforts to strengthen the integrity and conservation of the area through the proclamation of the Maputo Environmental Protection Area (covering 623 355 ha, including the site in its entirety) enables the formal protection of sufficient space to enable genetic diversity and maintain migratory corridors and ecological processes. This wider, formally protected area will, therefore, buffer the site from large-scale natural impacts and regulate human use.

Comparison with other similar properties

The site shares, complements and consolidates many of the outstanding natural featuresand biodiversity importance that constituted the basis for the listing of the adjacent iSimangaliso Wetland Park as a World Heritage Site. From a biodiversity perspective there is substantial value in listing the MNP as a transboundary serial site with iSimangaliso. It would also facilitate co-management of a mutually beneficial protected area.

There are more than 90 world heritage sites that protect wetlands, and 50 marine world heritage sites. In Africa, the only World Heritage site comparable to the site and its serial site, iSimangaliso, is Banc d’ Arguin in Mauritania which contains sandy marine and estuarine waters but is an arid system that does not have freshwater habitats and coral reefs. The same is true of Shark Bay in Australia and El Vizcaino in Mexico. None of these have the same terrestrial species component as the MNP and iSimangaliso, especially the megaherbivores such as elephant and hippopotamus, and predators such as leopard. The site shares some features with Fraser Island World Heritage Site in Australia, which has coastal and dune features and diverse marine life including turtles, dolphins, whales, fish and invertebrates. The MNP and iSimangaliso sites are distinct due to their estuaries and freshwater lakes, floodplains and savannah (IUCN 1999).