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Mexico acts to preserve natural World Heritage Sites: UNESCO prize winner
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20:17, June 23, 2009

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The Mexican government has taken active steps to protect the natural World Heritage Sites located in the Mexican territory, an environmentalist official told Xinhua on Monday.

"The Federal Environmental Protection Agency has been dismantling sawmills" in western central Mexican state of Michoacan where the Monarch Butterfly inhabits, said Dr. Ernesto Christian Enkerlin Hoeflich, director general of Mexico's National Protected Natural Areas Commission (CONANP).

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) added the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve to its list of World Heritage Sites in 2008, citing the uniqueness of the butterfly's migration to the forests in Michoacan's Oyamel region to survive the winter.

Besides the butterfly, up to a billion species of insects travel to the Michoacan forests from as far as Canada every year to spend the winter.

The focus of protection should be the prevention of illegal logging in the World Heritage Sites, said Enkerlin, who was awarded UNESCO's Sultan Qaboos prize for his work in preserving Mexico's environment. Paying local residents to help keep the forests intact has also been vital, he added.

"Until a few years ago communities living in the area would allow in the illegal loggers because they did not see the government as an ally," Enkerlin said. The government now is paying residents around 10 to 30 U. S. dollars per hectare to help protect the forests from illegal logging.

CONANP is also working to improve the condition of whales off the shores of Baja California, a project which was added to the world's heritage list in 1993.

The whales that come to Baja California shores to breed travel all over the north Pacific, visiting the waters of Russia, Canada, the United States and China. In the past five years, the population of whales has increased 30 percent, said the expert.

To better preserve the whales, CONANP has been helping the Baja California region to develop sustainable tourism, to make the whales and other wildlife a source of value for local residents.

"New increases in numbers have been an opportunity for nature tourism," Enkerlin said. "Whales are very curious animals. When they hear tourists they approach the boat and put their heads above the water," he said.

By developing well-planned tourism, local residents and wild animals can coexist in harmony in natural reserves, and benefit from each other, said the CONANP chief.

Source: Xinhua



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