The 19 lakes of Ounianga in the hyperarid desert of northeastern Chad are the Sahara's most important relic from her early- to mid-Holocene humid past. They constitute a unique hydrological system within an exceptional natural landscape of great beauty with striking colours and shapes.

Following an initiative raised by S. Kröpelin in 1999, they have eventually been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List July 1st, 2012 because of their Outstanding Universal Value. Chad – the fifth largest country on the African continent – now holds her first Heritage of Humanity that fills a regional gap the size of Western Europe. The local and national population are cheerful and proud about this new component of their cultural and national identity. The fragile ecology of the remote wetlands now enjoys national and international protection and attention.

The intention of the endeavours for conservation was to return something to the host country for the hospitality and excellent research opportunities in one of the least studied places on Earth by leaving more than scientific papers after the end of fieldwork in this outstanding area and to preserve it for future generations.

This success would not have been possible without the decade-long research and support by project A2 and its predecessors at the University of Cologne, all funded by the DFG, and the crucial cooperation and engagement of our counterpart institution, the Centre National d'Appui à la Recherche (CNAR) through its director Dr. Baba Mallaye.


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Location of the Ounianga Natural World Heritage site on the new UNESCO World Heritage Map.
  A2-Kroepelin-Fig2w-lhk 250pxLake Yoan, Ounianga Kebir.
Photo: Stefan Kröpelin

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Lake Uma, Ounianga Kebir.
Photo: Stefan Kröpelin

  A2-Kroepelin-Fig4w-lhk 250pxLakeTeli, Ounianga Serir.
Stefan Kröpelin



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