Flamingos flock in the shallow, linked lakes of Kenya's Great Rift Valley in an undated picture. (Watch a video of Kenyan flamingos apparently endangered by pesticides.)
The Kenya Lake System, one of four new or expanded "natural properties" added to the UN's World Heritage List, is home to some of Earth's highest avian diversity, including 13 globally threatened species and familiar birds such as flamingos and great white pelicans. Many of Africa's iconic mammal species, including black rhinos, giraffes, lions, and cheetahs, are also found here in abundance.
"It is wonderful to see these spectacular lake sites in Kenya, and their rich bird life, achieving recognition as natural sites of the highest global importance," Tim Badman, director of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Heritage Programme, said in a statement.
As of the June 2011 updates, the World Heritage List now totals 936 natural, cultural, and "mixed" properties. What makes the designation—intended to encourage conservation—special, according to the UN, is that it implies "the sites belong to all the peoples of the world, irrespective of the territory on which they are located." (See the World Heritage site-selection criteria.)