French Language Sacred Natural Sites Guidelines Launched

Mpathaleni Guidleines

This week at the Indigenous Forum of the International Congress of Ethnobiology the IUCN – UNESCO Sacred Natural Sites Guidelines – French Language Version were launched. They provide advice to protected area managers how to support the biological and cultural values of sacred natural sites. They also form an important help and incentive to communities around the world in support of their efforts to protect their sacred natural sites.

First launched in 2008 at the World Conservation Congress, the full guidelines have been translated into Russian, Spanish and Estonian with Japanese at advanced stage.

“Our Zwifho (sacred natural sites) are facing many threats, especially from tourism and mining”, said Mphatheleni Makaulule, from Dzomo la Mupo, a group of community members and site custodians that unites the custodian clans of sacred sites in the rural Venda region, northern South Africa. “The knowledge of how to protect Zwifho is held in the memory of the elders, especially the women custodians called VHOMakhadzi.

Mphatheleni Makaulule, from Dzomo la Mupo, Venda, South Africa shows he French language version of the IUCN UNESCO Sacred Natural Sites, Guidelines for protected Area Managers.

These IUCN-UNESCO guidelines have helped us by giving custodian clans of Zwifho, local communities, Venda elders and young children from custodians clans, confidence to stand up for defending the zwifho. They support our conviction that zwifhos are not just a local concern of outdated indigenous demonic ways, but an internationally recognized issue. It is pleasing to see them translated into other languages so other communities can benefit. We have confidence when we are confronted,and we the custodians we request recognitions to protect our Zwifho.‘’



As a response to the Guidelines, indigenous and local communities are developing their own principles for the conservation and use of their sites. This was one of the initiatives discussed by participants at the Indigenous Forum Day on Sacred Lands at the congress.

Ken Wilson, Executive Director of the Christensen Fund, said during the launch: “We feel these Guidelines can enable a productive partnership between indigenous guardians of nature and the conservation movement which has a great opportunity to face the challenges of cultural and biological erosion that concern us all”.

The short form of the guidelines (5 pages) will soon be from this website in Persian, Italian, Chinese and Czech, and we invite other communities to take up the challenge of translating them into their language as well.

For more information on translating the guidelines contact

Download the French Guidelines

Read the IUCN press release

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