Unesco recognizes 20 new biosphere reserves in 21 countries

For the first time, the responsible coordination council included areas in Lesotho, Libya and Saudi Arabia in the list at its meeting in the Nigerian capital Abuja. Other protected areas approved this year are located in Canada, France, Italy, Russia and Spain, among others.

In Lesotho, the Matseng reserve, also known as the “Kingdom of Heaven” according to Unesco, is home to rare birds. In Libya, the Aschaafean reserve was added, where there are threatened hyenas and tortoises.

The Saudi Arabian Farasan Islands are home to rare gazelles as well as various sea birds, marine life and reptiles. The Mura-Drava-Danube Reserve, which is also recognized, extends over five countries: Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Serbia and Slovenia

New biosphere reserves are designated every year to promote sustainable development and support nature conservation. Biosphere reserves are nominated by the national governments. There are now 727 recognized reserves in 131 countries, which together cover almost five percent of the world.

However, five reserves in Gabon, Bulgaria, Romania and Russia have been removed from the list. According to Unesco, they either no longer met the criteria or the governments had asked for them to be deleted.

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