On 24 March 2011 a report on the state of conservation of the property was submitted by the State Party containing information on progress achieved in the implementation of the corrective measures updated at the 34th session (Brasilia, 2010), following the 2009 monitoring mission.
a) Evacuate the armed groups in the property and extend the area of surveillance to the whole property
The State Party reports that following the Amani military operations to neutralise the armed groups operating in the Kivu region, the presence of armed groups in the property has diminished significantly. However, some pockets remain but the report notes that with the assistance of the UN Stabilisation Mission in the Congo (MONUSCO), these should be evacuated soon. As a result, the park authorities were able to enlarge the area covered by guard patrols. Following the establishment of a new station Lulingo and the establishment of a presence in the Punia/Kasese, patrols were conducted in these parts of the park, which had been abandoned for almost two decades. Some patrols were also conducted along the main footpaths crossing the lowland part of the park and the boundaries of the park. On the other hand, no patrols have taken place in the Nzovu area, which was abandoned in May 2009, following an attack by the Forces démocratiques de liberation du Rwanda (FDLR). Several aerial patrols were also conducted.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN welcome the progress made by the State Party but consider that these efforts should be increased by extending the area covered by the patrols and the patrol frequency to the lowland sector of the park.
b) Close down all the illegal mining extraction operations in the property and officially cancel all the mining concessions encroaching on the property
The report notes that following a Government decision to suspend all mining activities in the eastern part of the country, all artisanal mining sites inside the property have been closed down. The report contains a map of closed mining sites, mainly in the Itebero, Lulingo, Punia and Katasomwa areas. However the map indicates no closures in other known mining areas. As part of the stabilization effort, new trade posts for minerals will be opened soon, where the origin of the offered minerals will be traced. This should prevent minerals originating from the illegal mining sites in the park from being commercialised. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that if this mechanism is effective, it could address one of the major threats to the integrity of the property.
The park authorities were able to discuss with the Minister of Mines the issue of the mining concessions granted illegally in the property by the Ministry. One concession in the Itebero area could be closed as a result. Further consultations are ongoing with the mining divisions in the three provinces covered by the park. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN welcome the closure of the concession in Itebero but reiterate the need to cancel all concession delivered by the mining cadastre, which are overlapping with the property.
c) Evacuate the ecological corridor and initiate measures to restore plant species and connectivity
The report notes that no further progress was made on this issue following a change in the provincial government in May 2010. Discussions are ongoing with the new government. The report further notes the hope that the commitments made by the Prime Minister as part of the Kinshasa Declaration to evacuate all illegal occupants in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) properties is expected to give a new impetus to this process. So far, only one farm has been reclaimed by the park. For this area, a rehabilitation plan has been prepared and will be implemented in 2011.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note the lack of progress on this important issue especially as the 2009 mission noted the degradation is continuing and already affecting the highland sector of the park, including the slopes of Mount Biega.
d) Develop, in a participatory manner, and implement a zoning plan to resolve the issue of villages in the lowland sector, while maintaining the values and integrity of the property
With support from IUCN, a first study was carried out in June 2010 to look into the different options to address the problem of the villages included in the lowland sector of the park. The study proposes as the best solution, a zoning of the park with the internal relocation of certain villages inside the park, and the establishment of some zones with permanent human occupation, and zones of sustainable use without permanent occupation, inside the property. Seventy five percent of the park would remain strictly protected. Through the proposed zoning, the connectivity between the high altitude and low altitude sectors would be reinstated. The study notes that implementing the proposed zoning will require a long dialogue with the concerned communities. The report includes a proposal for a 5 year action plan to implement the proposal, with an estimated total budget of approximately 6.2 Million USD.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN welcome this first study and acknowledge the complexity of the issue. They stress the need to ensure that any proposed zonation should ensure that the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property can be maintained in the long term. It will therefore be crucial to develop clear arrangements on which activities can be allowed in the proposed sustainable use zones, and to decide how these arrangements will be enforced.
e) Continue the efforts to reactivate surveillance mechanisms, while ensuring control of the whole Park
As mentioned above, with the improving security, park staff has been able to increase the area of the park which has been visited by patrols. However, the report does not present information on the frequency of these patrols. The report also notes that as part of the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN) reform process, 26 additional guards were allocated to the property. Plans are underway to retire older staff and recruit and train new elements to replace them.
f) Complete and approve the management plan and ensure the means for its implementation
The report notes that the general management plan 2009-2019 was finalized and approved by the Ministry. The annual operational plan is based on the logical framework of the management plan and developped with all the partners working in the park.
g) Inventory of species
The report notes that a new inventory was conducted in the highland sector of the park. The results estimate the gorilla population in this sector between 171 and 181 animals, compared to 168 animals in the 2006 survey. Ten gorilla families continue to be followed on a regular basis. The survey confirmed earlier reports of a small remaining group of elephants in the sector. So far it has not been possible to conduct the survey of the lowland area but with the improving security situation, it is hoped that this can be done in the coming months.