Japan will soon get a fifth natural world heritage site, as the country’s southern islands, Amami Oshima, Iriomote and Tokunoshima, have been recommended for registration as natural properties by the UNESCO advisory committee.
The UNESCO Advisory Committee also recommended that the Yanbaru region in the north of Okinawa Island be placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Japan’s environment ministry said the recommendations were made by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
The UNESCO World Heritage Committee will likely formalize the inscription through an online meeting to be held July 16-31.
The areas considered cover 43,000 hectares and are located in the subtropical archipelago of Nansei which stretches between Kyushu and Taiwan and is part of the prefectures of Okinawa and Kagoshima.
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For millions of years, the southwestern archipelago has been separated from the mainland and other landmasses and is therefore home to a significant number of endemic and rare flora and fauna, including the Iriomote leopard cat.
The UNESCO advisory body considered the southwestern Japanese island chain with dense subtropical forests crucial for the preservation of biodiversity and sought conservative measures.
The islands are home to around 100 animal species on the IUCN Red List, including the Okinawa Rail, a flSmoke-free rail endemic to the Yambaru region, north of Okinawa Island. And the Amami rabbit, which are living fossils because they retain the primitive characteristics of the ancient rabbits that lived around 1 million years ago.
To help preserve this rather unique habitat and its people, UNESCO aims to prevent road accidents involving animals and limit the number of tourists to Iriomote Island.
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“We will engage in the development of a sustainable region that is worthy of the world’s natural heritage so that we can leave this precious natural environment to our descendants 100 and 1000 years from now,” Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki said in a statement.
There are currently 23 UNESCO World Heritage sites in Japan, including cultural properties, and the islands in southwestern Japan will become the country’s 24th.
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The southwestern regions of Japan have the most enchanting forests, beaches, and wildlife hidden deep within these islands, although traveling to these islands won’t be easy any time soon due to travel restrictions. Fortunately, Google has added a virtual tour app where you can visit all of the UNESCO World Heritage sites around the world sitting on your couch.
The new functionality of the Arts & Culture app will allow you to visit the destination you are planning to visit with your family and friends for your summer vacation. You can access Google’s UNESCO hub page, Arts & Culture app, or desktop site.
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