1.         Okapi Wildlife Reserve (Democratic Republic of the Congo) (N 718)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1996

Criteria  (x)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger   1997-present

Threats for which the property was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger

Previous Committee Decisions  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/718/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1993-2000)
Total amount approved: USD 28,400
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/718/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount provided to the property: substantial support through the United Nations Foundation and the Government of Belgium funded programme for the Conservation of the DRC World Heritage properties. First phase (2001–2005), approximately USD 250,000 was disbursed for staff allowances, community conservation, monitoring and training activities and efforts to address the management of the agricultural zone. Second phase (2005-2008) a substantial contribution is planned towards the emergency action plan (USD 300,000) with funding from the Government of Belgium.

Previous monitoring missions

UNESCO mission in 1996. Several UNESCO missions in the framework of the project.

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

a) Armed conflict and political instability;

b) Poaching by military and armed groups;

c) Mining;

d) Expansion of local settlements and agricultural activities.

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/718/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2006

On 30 January 2006, an updated report on the state of conservation of the five DRC World Heritage properties was submitted by the State Party, including information on the Okapi Wildlife Reserve. The report recalls the major threats to the property, in particular armed poaching targeting in particular elephants and other large mammals and illegal mining. The report describes a number of activities initiated by the State Party, in cooperation with its conservation partners, Gilman International Conservation (GIC) and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), to respond to these threats as well as perspectives for the future. It needs also to be noted that guard payments after the end of the first phase of the UNESCO programme for World Heritage properties in DRC have been taken over by GIC.

Due to the logistical challenges of organising monitoring missions to DRC, the World Heritage Centre and the IUCN, at the time of preparation of this report, were not yet able to conduct the monitoring mission requested by the Committee at its 29th session. The mission is currently planned for May 2006.

At the 29th session, the World Heritage Centre reported that to counter the serious threat presented by poaching and mining, the reserve authority, the ICCN and its conservation partners discussed the possibility of organising a new operation in cooperation with the DRC army (FARDC) to neutralize large-scale commercial poaching in the Reserve and close down the remaining mining sites. A similar operation in 2001 had very positive results. Following a request from the State Party received on 2 August 2005 to participate in funding the preparation, development and implementation of this operation, the World Heritage Centre approved USD 40,000 from the special budget line of the World Heritage Funds for properties inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger. As part of the operation, the World Heritage Centre, in November 2005, received a detailed report prepared by authorities of the Reserve and its conservation partners, detailing the networks involved in the poaching, including groups and individuals involved, their bases and mode of operation, the implication of local communities as well as an inventory of the remaining mining sites and the people involved in their exploitation.

The report demonstrates that poaching is in particular targeting elephants, due to their value in terms of ivory and meat, and to a lesser extent, primates. The report identifies 4 zones of high poaching pressure and notes that the individuals involved are members of the armed forces and police, army deserters and armed groups formerly belonging to certain rebel armies as well as certain professional civilian poachers. Local communities are engaged by the poachers as trackers and porters or provide lodging, sometimes by force, and sometimes on a voluntary basis in exchange for part of the meat. The arms used are war-grade, in particular AK47 and FAL and there is a flourishing market in both weapons and ammunition. Ivory is marketed in all major urban centres and prices for ivory vary between USD 10 per kg in the villages around the reserve, USD 15-17 in the regional urban centres of Beni, Bunia and Isiro to USD 22 per kg in centres close to the international border such as Ariwara (on the border with Uganda). Poaching provides the basis for a complex bushmeat and ivory economy and is having serious impacts on the elephant and other large mammal populations of the property. A previous report on the ivory trade in and around the reserve concluded that between June and December 2004, an estimated 17 tons of ivory were taken out of the Ituri forest, accounting for between 750 and 1000 elephants.

Recent data from surveys work in the property show that elephants are only encountered in high densities in the centre and south of the Reserve, whilst in the western and eastern sector, densities are very low. The report also presents an inventory of the mining sites remaining in the property. An important number of sites may have been closed down in 2000-2001, during the previous operation. Four mining sites were identified in the south-eastern part of the property, and 12 sites in the eastern part, totalling at the time of the inventory approximately 700 artisanal miners. Minerals mined are gold and coltan (niobium/tantalum). Mining sites are often owned or co-owned by local authorities. There is also an implication on the part of government services (department of interior, department of mines, security services), which are providing illegal licences and are perceiving taxes. The military are also reported to be levying taxes in certain sites.

The State Party report notes that Park staff was able to increase the part of the reserve that is covered by law enforcement activities from 50% to 75% and that 10 civilian poachers and 6 military poachers were arrested and ten camps of gold miners destroyed. However, it is clear that the limited guard force is unable to counter the current poaching pressure. Therefore The ICCN presented the results of the report to the Ministry of Defence and the military authorities in Kinshasa and at the regional headquarters in Kisangani and is preparing with them a large scale joint operation similar to the one in 2001. To make the results of the operation more sustainable, it is planned that the areas cleared by the mixed operation will be followed up by increased guard patrols. As part of the project, guards will also receive additional training and ten additional guards will be recruited. The monitoring mission will discuss the operation with the ICCN authorities and an update will be presented at the 30th session of the World Heritage Committee.

As mentioned in the previous report, a longer term threat to the integrity is the increased human population in the Reserve. At the creation of the protected area, it was decided that local communities living along the Mambassa road would be allowed to stay. However, with continued immigration into the area from the densely populated highlands in the east of the country, the human settlements along the road could become a major threat and could result in serious deforestation through slash and burn agriculture. For example, the area used for agriculture in the Epulu village, where the headquarters of the Reserve is located, has increased from 359ha in 1996 to 1206ha at present.

The ICCN together with its conservation partner WCS have in the framework of the first phase of the UNESCO programme for the conservation of the DRC World Heritage properties, developed a pilot programme to establish agricultural zones around the villages in the Reserve and establish a system to control immigration. Under this system, that so far was introduced in two pilot localities, Epulu and Epini/Molokay, resident populations are registered and given a residence permit. People entering the Reserve can receive a transit permit or a permit for temporary residence for a limited period of time. The scheme was developed by ICCN in close cooperation with the local and traditional authorities and was approved by provincial administrative authorities. A small financial contribution is requested for the transit and temporary permits, allowing not only the system to finance itself but also the local communities to benefit as the money is invested in local development initiatives. After the current pilot phase, it is planned to extend the scheme to the rest of the property. This extension should happen before the work on the rehabilitation of the Kisangani-Bunia road that is currently being undertaken is finalized, as the road could significantly increase pressure.

As mentioned above, the monitoring mission to the property, as requested by the World Heritage Committee at its 29th session, is scheduled to take place in May 2006. It is planned to present the results of the mission during the 30th session. A revised draft Decision to take into account the recommendations of the mission will also be presented. The mission will also develop together with ICCN and the conservation NGO working in the property an emergency action plan that will be implemented in the framework of the second phase of the UNESCO DRC World Heritage programme, with funding from Belgium. The action plan will support recommendations made by the monitoring mission.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN


Decision Adopted: 30 COM 7A.8

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-06/30.COM/7A,

2. Recalling Decision 29 COM 7A.4, adopted at its 29th session (Durban, 2005),

3. Expresses its utmost concern over the continued serious threats to the values and integrity of the property, as identified during the May 2006 UNESCO monitoring mission to the property: these included extensive poaching of large mammals and in particular elephants, mining activities inside the property, documented to involve members of both the armed forces and police as well as certain traditional chiefs and dignitaries, as well as uncontrolled migration into the villages situated inside the property;

4. Further expresses concern over the increased illegal timber exploitation in the Ituri region which might affect in the near future the Reserve, as well as over the planned rehabilitation of the National Road RN4, with funding from the World Bank, which is crossing the property and for which no adequate Environmental Impact Assessment was conducted;

5. Commends the State Party, in particular the protected area authority ICCN and its conservation partners, for their joint efforts to address these urgent threats and improve the state of conservation of the property;

6. Urges the State Party to implement immediately the recommendations of the 2006 UNESCO monitoring mission which could constitute possible benchmarks in order to safeguard the outstanding universal value and integrity of the property, and in the interest of conservation, in particular:

a) Take necessary measures to ensure the immediate withdrawal of those military personnel of the DRC army (FARDC) who are involved in poaching, ivory trafficking and illegal mining;

b) Take measures to close down and prevent all illegal mining operations inside the property;

c) Suspend the rehabilitation works on the RN4 national road crossing the property, to allow for a proper Environmental Impact Assessment to be conducted and until proper measures to reduce its expected environmental impact are put in place;

d) Establish a trust fund for the rehabilitation of the DRC World Heritage properties, to which the Government of the DRC committed to contribute at the 2004 UNESCO conference on Heritage in Danger in DRC;

e) Establish permanent cooperation between the political and military authorities at provincial level, the United Nations Organisation Mission to DRC (MONUC) and the management authority of the property ICCN to support the latter's efforts to eliminate illegal activities in and around the property;

f) Take necessary measures, in cooperation with the Government of Uganda, to stop the illegal trafficking of timber, minerals and ivory across the DRC/Uganda border in north-eastern DRC;

g) Prepare a forest zoning plan for the forest areas adjacent to the property to protect the property from negative impacts resulting from unsustainable forest exploitation;

h) Legalize and scale up the pilot system put in place by ICCN to regulate and monitor immigration as well as traffic on the RN4 road, including the establishment of a permit system with transit charges;

i) Take measures to reinforce and reinvigorate the guard force and to improve their efficiency.

7. Recommends the World Heritage Centre and IUCN to contact the CITES Secretariat, in order to investigate the trading networks and countries of destination of the ivory poached in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve and other DRC World Heritage properties;

8. Thanks the conservation NGOs working at the property and their supporting donors for their financial support for the conservation and rehabilitation of the property, as well as the Belgian Government for funding the emergency action plan for the property planned in the framework of the second phase of the UNESCO programme for DRC World Heritage properties;

9. Calls on international donors to support the efforts of the State Party to rehabilitate the property;

10. Requests the State Party to provide the World Heritage Centre with an updated report before 1 February 2007 on the state of conservation of the property, in particular progress on the implementation of the recommendations of the 2006 UNESCO monitoring mission for examination by the Committee at its 31st session in 2007;

11. Decides to retain Okapi Wildlife Reserve (Democratic Republic of the Congo) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Decision Adopted: 30 COM 8C.2

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined the state of conservation reports of properties inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger (WHC-06/30.COM/7A and WHC-06/30.COM/7A.Add.Rev),

2. Maintains the following properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger:

   • Afghanistan, Minaret and Archaeological Remains of Jam (Decision 30 COM 7A.22)

   • Afghanistan, Cultural Landscape and Archaeological Remains of the Bamiyan Valley, (Decision 30 COM 7A.23)

   • Azerbaijan, Walled City of Baku with the Shirvanshah's Palace and Maiden Tower (Decision 30 COM 7A.29

   • Benin, Royal Palaces of Abomey (Decision 30 COM 7A.16)

   • Central African Republic, Manovo-Gounda St Floris National Park (Decision 30 COM 7A.1)

   • Chile, Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works (Decision 30 COM 7A.31)

   • Côte d'Ivoire, Comoé National Park (Decision 30 COM 7A.2)

   • Côte d'Ivoire / Guinea, Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve (Decision 30 COM 7A.3)

   • Democratic Rep. of the Congo, Okapi Wildlife Reserve (Decision 30 COM 7A.8)

   • Democratic Rep. of the Congo Kahuzi-Biega National Park (Decision 30 COM 7A.6)

   • Democratic Rep. of the Congo Virunga National Park (Decision 30 COM 7A.7)

   • Democratic Rep. of the Congo Garamba National Park (Decision 30 COM 7A.4)

   • Democratic Rep. of the Congo Salonga National Park (Decision 30 COM 7A.5)

   • Egypt, Abu Mena (Decision 30 COM 7A.19)

   • Ethiopia, Simien National Park (Decision 30 COM 7A.9)

   • Honduras, Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve (Decision 30 COM 7A.15)

   • India, Manas Wildlife Sanctuary (Decision 30 COM 7A.13)

   • Islamic Republic of Iran, Bam and its Cultural Landscape (Decision 30 COM 7A.25)

   • Iraq, Ashur (Qal'at Sherqat) (Decision 30 COM 7A.20)

   • Jerusalem, Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls (Decision 30 COM 7A.34)

   • Nepal, Kathmandu Valley (Decision 30 COM 7A.26)

   • Niger, Air and Ténéré Natural Reserves (Decision 30 COM 7A.10)

   • Pakistan, Fort and Shalamar Gardens in Lahore (Decision 30 COM 7A.27)

   • Peru, Chan Chan Archaelogical Zone (Decision 30 COM 7A.32)

   • Philippines, Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras (Decision 30 COM 7A.28)

   • United Republic of Tanzania, Ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani and Ruins of Songo Mnara (Decision 28 COM 7A.17)

   • United States of America, Everglades National Park (Decision 30 COM 7A.14)

   • Venezuela, Coro and its Port (Decision 30 COM 7A.33)

   • Yemen, Historic Town of Zabid (Decision 30 COM 7A.21)