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Banc dArguin - Mauritania

Map showing the location of the Banc d'Arguin National Park UNESCO world heritage site on the Atlantic coast of Mauritania, West AfricaArea: 12,000 km2

Inscribed: 1989


Criteria: (ix) ecological processes (x) biodiversity

Values: The Banc d'Arguin National Park is divided equally between marine and terrestrial environments, but it is the extensive coastal shallows that give the area the unique qualities that justify its status as a world heritage site. These shallows (the remnants of a vast river delta from a bye-gone era when waters flowed from what is now the Sahara desert) support huge numbers of Palaearctic migrant waders, which converge on the area from northern Europe, Siberia and Greenland. An estimated 2.2 million waders over-winter in the Banc d'Arguin, including 2 million individual birds of just five species: Dunlin (818,000); Bar-tailed godwit (543,000); Knot (367,000), Curlew sandpiper (174,000), and ringed plover (98,000). This concentration of birds represents 30-70% of the entire population of the ‘East Atlantic flyway'.


Slideshow of the Banc d'Arguin National Park/world heritage site.


Impressions (based on a visit in March 2006)The great flocks of birds, swirling like mist over the mudflats, are an impressive sight, but it is difficult to get an impression of the magnitude of this unparalleled concentration of birds, even by visiting the area. Motorised boats are not allowed in the park, so the only access to the islands, mudflats and marine environment is by hiring a traditional sailing launch from one of the local Imragen fishermen. This is slow going, and the relatively deep draft of the boat makes it impossible to get into shallow water where the birds are concentrated. From the landward side, an approach to the shoreline can be made by vehicle or on foot, but the birds tend to be extremely wary and fly off readily. Efforts are being made to develop community-run camp sites to stimulate visitor interest, but facilities are extremely limited (visitors must bring their own food and fresh water), and access is by 4x4 only, across the desert sands.

Management challenges: There seems to be tight control of the park, and the major threats probably emanate off-shore, where oil exploration is underway, and there is a risk of spillage which would have a devastating impact on the birds. Longer-term, if sea levels rise as a result of global warming, the vast areas of mudflats would be totally submerged and the site would lose its unique qualities. The terrestrial portion of the reserve, though very extensive (6,000 km2), has lost any large mammal fauna it might have had, and its conservation value probably lies mostly as a ‘buffer zone' for the shoreline and marine environment. The park is quite well supported through its own Foundation and an assortment of other donors - though of course more could be done (such as provision of visitor interpretation facilities and bird viewing hides, restoration of the terrestrial fauna and environment).


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Links:  Google Earth | UNEP-WCMC Site Description | Official UNESCO Site Details |FIBA Foundation | Birdlife IBA


A colony of royal terns shares its home with more than 2.2million Palaearctic migrant wading birds which converge on the Banc D'Arguin National Park world heritage site during winterThe extensive mud flats at Banc D'Arguin National Park world hertiage site on the Mauritanian coast are the remnants of a huge river delta draining from what is now the Sahara Desert in ancient times. The mud flats are inhabited by many species of crabs, as well as overwintering wading birds of the East Atlantic FlywayAn Imragen fisherman carries supplies by camel through a desert sandstorm in the Banc D'Arguin National Park world heritage site in MauritaniaAlthough the Banc D'Arguin National Park (Mauritania) gained world heritage status on account of the overwintering migrant waders than use its extensive coastal mudflats, half the park is on the dry desert land



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