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Committee Decisions

31 COM 8B.74

Nomination of natural, mixed and cultural properties to the world heritage list - Virunga National Park

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-07/31.COM/8B.Add,

2. Approves the following Statement of Significance for the Virunga National Park, Democratic Republic of the Congo:

Virunga National Park is notable for its chain of active volcanoes and the greatest diversity of habitats of any park in Africa: from steppes, savannas and lava plains, swamps, lowland and Afromontane forests, to the unique Afroalpine vegetation and icefields of the Ruwenzori mountains, which culminate in peaks above 5000m. The site includes the spectacular Ruwenzori and Virunga Massifs, including Africa's two most active volcanoes. The great diversity of habitats harbors an exceptional biodiversity, including endemic as well as rare and globally endangered species, such as the mountain gorilla.

Criterion (vii): Virunga National Park presents some of the most dramatic mountain scenery in Africa. The rugged Ruwenzori mountains with their snowcapped peaks and steep slopes and valleys and the volcanoes of the Virunga Massif, both with Afroalpine vegetation with giant heathers and Lobelias and densely forested slopes, are areas of exceptional natural beauty. The active volcanoes, which erupt every few years, form the dominant landforms of the exceptional scenery. The park contains several other spectacular landscapes such as the erosion valleys of the Sinda and Ishango areas. The park also contains great concentrations of wildlife, including elephants, buffalo and Uganda kob, and the highest concentration of hippopotamus in Africa, with 20,000 individuals on the shores of Lake Edward and along the Rwindi, Rutshuru and Semliki rivers.

Criterion (viii): Virunga National Park is situated at the heart of the Albertine Rift sector of the Great Rift Valley. In the southern section of the park, tectonic activity resulting from crustal extension of this area gave rise to the Virunga Massif, composed of eight volcanoes, of which seven are situated or partly situated in the park. These include Africa's two most active volcanoes, Nyamuragira and the neighbouring Nyiragongo, which alone account for two-fifths of the historical volcanic eruptions on the African continent. They are especially notable because of their highly fluid alkaline lavas. The activity of Nyiragongo is globally significant for its demonstration of lava lake volcanism, with a quasi-permanent lava lake at the bottom of its crater, periodic draining of which has been catastrophic to the local communities. The northern section of the park includes around 20% of the Rwenzori Massif, the largest glaciated area in Africa and the only truly alpine mountain range on the continent, and adjoins the Rwenzori National Park World Heritage Site in Uganda, with which it shares Mount Margherita, the third highest peak in Africa (5109m).

Criterion (x): Due to its variation in altitude (ranging between 680m and 5109m), rainfall and soils, Virunga National Park contains a very high diversity of plants and habitats, resulting in the highest biological diversity of any national park in Africa. More than 2000 higher plants have been identified, of which 10% are endemic to the Albertine Rift. Approximately 15% of the vegetation are Afromontane forests. The Albertine Rift has also more endemic vertebrate species than any other region of mainland Africa, an important number of which can be found in the park. The park harbors 218 mammal species, 706 bird species, 109 reptile species and 78 amphibian species. The park is home to 22 species of primates, including three great ape species (mountain gorilla Gorilla beringei beringei, eastern lowland gorilla Gorilla beringei graueri and eastern chimpanzee Pan troglodytes schweinfurthi), with one third of the remaining mountain gorilla population in the world. The savanna areas of the park are home to a diverse population of ungulates, with one of the highest biomass densities of wild mammals ever recorded on Earth (314 tonnes/km2). Ungulates include the rare Okapi (Okapi johnstoni), endemic to the DRC, and the Ruwenzori duiker (Cephalophus rubidus), endemic to the Ruwenzori mountains. The park contains significant wetland areas, particularly important as wintering grounds for Palearctic bird species.

Documents
PDF Original Decision Document
Context of Decision
PDF WHC-07/31.COM/8B
Themes: Inscriptions on the World Heritage List
Properties: Virunga National Park
Session: 31COM