Algeria wildfires burned UNESCO-listed park: Expert

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More than 10 percent of a UNESCO-listed biosphere reserve has been destroyed by fires that tore through northeastern Algeria, killing at least 38 people, an expert told AFP on Saturday.

The figure cited by Rafik Baba Ahmed, former director of the El-Kala Biosphere Reserve, means that the burned area of the park alone is almost double what the civil defense service said has been destroyed throughout Africa’s largest country since June.

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Algeria’s northeast was particularly hard-hit since Wednesday in blazes exacerbated by climate change but the fire service on Saturday said most of the fires there had been put out.

“The Wednesday fires damaged around 10,000 hectares (24,700 acres)” of the park, Baba Ahmed said.

According to UNESCO, the United Nations cultural agency, El-Kala Biosphere Reserve covers more than 76,000 hectares.

It is the last refuge of the Barbary Red Deer and “home to a very remarkable bird life, more than 60,000 migratory birds every winter,” UNESCO’s website says.

According to Baba Ahmed, forest covers 54,000 hectares of the park and most of the trees are cork oak.

“It is considered one of the main biodiversity reserves in the Mediterranean basin,” he said, “very pessimistic” about the area’s future.

Civil Defense Colonel Boualem Boughlef said on television Friday night that since June 1, 1,242 fires have destroyed 5,345 hectares of woodlands in Algeria.

Baba Ahmed said that figure is not realistic.

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