UNESCO has decided to add an area of rich biological diversity found in Hubei province to its World Heritage List.
The 40th session of the World Heritage Committee held in Istanbul on Sunday decided to grant the prestigious honor to Shennongjia as a natural site, bringing the number of listed Chinese sites to 50.
“Shennongjia has been a place of significant scientific interest particularly for botanists and the mountains have featured prominently in the history of botanical inquiry,” read a report submitted in support of Shennonjia’s application.
In the words of the committee, Shennongjia is described as follows:
Located in Hubei Province, in central-eastern China, the site consists of two components: Shennongding/Badong to the west and Laojunshan to the east. It protects the largest primary forests remaining in Central China and provides habitat for many rare animal species, such as the Chinese Giant Salamander, the Golden or Snub-nosed Monkey, the Clouded Leopard, Common Leopard and the Asian Black Bear. Hubei Shennongjia is one of three centres of biodiversity in China. The site features prominently in the history of botanical research and was the object of international plant collecting expeditions in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Although Shennongjia was inscribed on the World Heritage List, those at the meeting voiced their concerns about the potential pressures of future tourism, with a new international airport recently opened in the area.
But Li Faping, mayor of the Shennongjia Forestry District, pledged to do his utmost to look after the site, saying that they would look after the area just like “caring for our own eyes.”
At the last UNESCO World Heritage Conference, delegates agreed to add three Tusi ruins located in the southwest of China to the list. China currently hosts the second greatest number of World Heritage Sites, just behind Italy who can boast 51.