Mexican reserve El Pinacate nominated as World Heritage Site

Mexico City, Jun 15 (EFE).- The Mexican government has obtained the inclusion of El Pinacate Biosphere Reserve and Great Desert of Altar on the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Environment and Natural Resources Secretariat said.

"The process has taken more than eight years. In the year 2004 the Mexican government began taking the necessary steps to get El Pinacate Biosphere Reserve and Great Desert of Altar included on the list of tentative sites," the department said in a statement.

This protected natural area in the northwestern state of Sonora "provides habitat for more than 1,000 species of flora and fauna, so it is considered the desert with the greatest biodiversity in the world," the secretariat said.

The area has 40 species of mammals, 200 of birds, 40 of reptiles, a number of amphibians and two native species of freshwater fish, "as well as fragile ecosystems typical of desert areas, with vegetation on drifting and stabilized sand dunes that sustains a vast amount of wildlife."

According to protectors of the environment, some endemic species in the area are in danger of extinction, such as the Sonora antelope, desert bighorn sheep, Gila monster and desert tortoise.

The secretariat said that with its inclusion on the tentative list, the reserve could be declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, as early as this year.

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee will meet June 16-27 in Cambodia to study the nominations and determine which will be definitively included on the list of World Heritage Sites, it said.

Mexico already has four Natural World Heritage Sites: the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve (1987), the Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcaino (1993), Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California (2005), and the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (2008).