Wadi Al-Hitan (Whale Valley)
Wadi Al-Hitan, Whale Valley, in the Western Desert of Egypt, contains invaluable fossil remains of the earliest, and now extinct, suborder of whales, Archaeoceti. These fossils represent one of the major stories of evolution: the emergence of the whale as an ocean-going mammal from a previous life as a land-based animal. This is the most important site in the world for the demonstration of this stage of evolution. It portrays vividly the form and life of these whales during their transition. The number, concentration and quality of such fossils here is unique, as is their accessibility and setting in an attractive and protected landscape. The fossils of Al-Hitan show the youngest archaeocetes, in the last stages of losing their hind limbs. Other fossil material in the site makes it possible to reconstruct the surrounding environmental and ecological conditions of the time.
2017 Conservation Outlook
Wadi Al-Hitan comprises exceptionally rich values related to the record of life, in a generally very good state of conservation. An appropriate management framework is in place and could be further strengthened (e.g. update of the management plan, control of vehicle access, financial resources). An as yet unresolved issue is the possible inclusion of the Gebel Qatrani site (its inclusion in a boundary extension has been in preparation since 2011) which would considerably complement the values already comprised by Wadi Al-Hitan. Wadi Al-Hitan is close to the requirements for the highest assessment rating in relation to its management, and this would be achieved if the key issues of the management plan update and sustainable finance were resolved.
Current state and trend of VALUES
Overall PROTECTION and MANAGEMENT
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Description of values
> 400 skeletons of a wide variety of fossilized Eocene whales and other marine fossils
tourists. Economic development of local communities has been another outcome of well-planned tourism at Wadi Al Hitan (Borges et al, 2011).
Members of the local community have also been trained on restoration and conservation of the site's fossils, and are hired as rangers and guards.
|№||Organization/ individuals||Project duration||Brief description of Active Projects|
|1||Egyptian Italian Environmental Cooperation Program (EIECP)||
|Phase III of the Egyptian Italian Environmental Cooperation Program (EIECP) was to begin at the end of 2016 and continue for three years. The EIECP consists of seven projects, one of which is the Wadi El-Rayan and Wadi Al-Hitan Protected Area (El-Kholei, 2013).|
|№||Site need title||Brief description of potential site needs||Support needed for following years|
|1||Long-term funding||No visitor income retention to support sustainable financing by 2010, and funding from other sources in unclear (Debonnet, 2007). There is a need to establish long-term funding (IUCN, 2010). A financing strategy should be prepared, sources of funding could be further diversified, and alternative mechanisms for retaining funding at sustainable levels should be found (Paleczny et al, 2007).|
|2||Case study prepared on engaging local stakeholders||A detailed case study (nationally led) needs to be prepared highlighting the lessons learned from engaging local stakeholders in World Heritage Site conservation. This could include a regional activity held on-site aimed at sharing regional knowledge and facilitating peer coaching and shared learning (Abulhawa et al, 2014)|
|3||Expansion of research of site values||There is a need to support the expansion of scientific research related to the site values, including the provision of formal and informal training of local human resources (Abulhawa et al, 2014).|
|4||Buffer zone advice and backstopping||Technical advice and backstopping needs to be provided for establishment of the Site buffer zone. This could be done including the involvement of other regional experts and practitioners (Abulhawa et al, 2014).|
|5||Effective visitor managment||Visitor management is crucial to both a positive experience of visitors and the minimization of damage to the property. While significant improvements have been made in this regard, further efforts are needed to maintain and increase standards (IUCN, 2014)|
|6||Up-to-date information on ongoing projects||Specific information needs to be provided regarding the finalization of the management plan, and there should be up-to-date survey information (IUCN, 2010)|
|7||Monitoring of management and protection programs||A suite of indicators should be established to enable focused monitoring in support of management and protection programs. This will support decision making (Paleczny et al, 2007).|
|8||Outreach to local communities||There is a possible need for an increase in outreach to local communities, as there is varying confirmation regarding level of involvement of local peoples. This could include the establishment of collaborative management forums for the PA, including community heads, and implementation of regular meetings with stakeholders (Paleczny et al, 2007).|
|9||Widespread promotion as a tourist destination||Most visitors are foreigners, and in light of a 50% drop in tourist numbers since 2011, there is a need for promotion of the site as a tourist destination for both Egyptians and foreigners (El-Kholei, 2013).|
|10||Well-maintained tourist amenities||Tourist amenities should be better maintained. For example, the 34km road from WRPA is not maintained, the visitor water tank cannot serve large numbers of people, the diesel generator powering the gift shop is disruptive, and fee signs are only written in Arabic (El-Kholei, 2013).|
|1||Abulhawa, T., Abdulhalim, H., Osipova, E., Cummings, T., (2014). TABE'A II Report - Enhancing Regional Capacities for World Heritage. Amman, Jordan: IUCN. ii + 74pp.|
Borges, M.A., Carbone, G., Bushell, R. and Jaeger, T. (2011) Sustainable Tourism
and natural World Heritage – Priorities for action. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN. 29pp.
|3||Debonnet, G. (2007). ’Mission report of field visit to Wadi Al-Hitan World Heritage Property (Egypt).’ Paris: World Heritage Centre.|
|4||El-Hennawy, M. T., Sameh Anter, M. (2010). ’State of World Heritage Site, Wadi El-Hitan, 1st 5 year report’. Wadi Al-Hitan, Wadi El-Rayan Protected Area, Nature Conservation Sector, EEAA, Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs.|
|5||El-Kholei, A. (2013). Evaluation of Egyptian Italian Environmental Cooperation Programme. UNDP-Egypt.|
|6||IUCN (2010). ‘State of Conservation Report: Wadi Al-Hitan (Egypt) (N1186)’. [Electronic reference] <http://whc.unesco.org/archive/2010/whc10-34com-7B.Adde.pdf&…;. Accessed 7 December 2016.|
|7||IUCN (2015). First intact fossil of prehistoric whale discovered in Wadi Al-Hitan. 10 Jun 2015. [Electronic reference] <https://www.iucn.org/content/first-intact-fossil-prehistori…;. Accessed 7 December 2016.|
|8||IUCN World Heritage Outlook(2014). Wadi Al-Hitan (Whale Valley). 7 February 2014. [Electronic reference] <http://www.worldheritageoutlook.iucn.org/search-sites/-/wdp…;. Accessed 7 December 2016.|
Paleczny, D., Allam, K., Talaat, M. (2007). The State of Wadi El-Rayan
Protected Area and Valley of the Whales World Heritage Site, An Evaluation of
Management Effectiveness. Egyptian-Italian Environmental Cooperation Programme, Nature Conservation Sector Capacity Building Project, Cario.
|10||Personal e-mail communication on the State of the Wadi Al-Hitan World Heritage property. Unpublished, 2011.|
|11||UNEP-WCMC (2011). ‘Wadi Al-Hitan (Whale Valley), Egypt.’ UNEP-WCMC World Heritage Information Sheets. [Electronic reference] <http://www.unep-wcmc.org/world-heritage-information-sheets_…; . Accessed 13 December 2016.|
|12||UNESCO World Heritage Committee (2010). Report on the 34the Session of the Committee. Paris.|