The State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property on 24 March 2011. Unfortunately, the report did not take into account the new updated corrective measures adopted by the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session, but contained only information on progress accomplished in the implementation of the corrective measures as adopted at its 30th session in 2006.
The report notes that while the security situation has improved substantially since early 2010, pockets of rebels of the Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) remain active in the region, both inside the park and in its southern periphery. The report further notes that the January 2009 attack on the park headquarters in Nagero is still negatively impacting the capacity of the park authorities to implement the corrective measures: as a result of the attack, part of the park staff resigned and a lot of equipment was lost (including an ultra light aircraft, vehicles and motor bikes). In addition more attention had to be given to ensure security of the 2 park stations, resulting in a reduction in anti-poaching efforts.
Despite these difficulties, efforts have been made to implement the corrective measures:
a) Urgently undertake at the highest level measures to halt the involvement in poaching activities of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC)
The report notes that some elements of the FARDC stationed around the park continue to be involved in poaching, in particular in the hunting areas surrounding the property. To address this issue, the General Directorate of the park authority, Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN), was able to ensure that 3 Army Intelligence Officers were posted at the park, in order to provide information to the military command on poaching issues. As a result, some elements of the army involved in poaching could be identified, arrested and punished. The report notes that the current cooperation with the army brigade stationned in Dungu, which has a specific mandate to protect the park, has improved considerably over the past six months.
b) Ensure that the equipment of the guards of the management authority (ICCN) is adequate and serviceable, in particular with appropriate weapons and ammunition
The report notes that guard staff have the necessary field equipment, but that the efforts of ICCN to obtain weapons and ammunition have not yet yielded results. It notes that the lack of adequate weapons and sufficent ammunition is not only hampering anti-poaching activities, but also posing a security threat to park staff.
c) Strengthen disarmament efforts within the communities living around the property and at the same time improve the security situation of the region, if possible in cooperation with the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO)
The report confirms that the widespread distribution of arms of war and ammunition in the villages around the property remains one of the main challenges for the park. It notes that while there is a MONUSCO brigade stationned in Dungu, they have not been involved in any disarmament efforts. However, as part of the anti-poaching efforts and with the assistance of the park’s intelligence network, park staff was able to confiscate some assault weapons as well as some locally made fire arms from the neighbouring communities.
d) Renew contacts with Sudan to strengthen transboundary cooperation with Lantoto National Park
The transboundary meeting with staff from Lantoto National Park in Sudan was postponed again till after the referendum on the independence of South Sudan, depending on political will and feasibility. However, the report notes that an in-principle agreement to cooperate exists between the two parties following the September 2008 meeting. The transboundary cooperation with the Lantoto park authorities in order to secure the northern area of the property is also included in the draft management plan.
e) Ensure a team of at least 200 operational guards through the rapid retirement of older guards and by the replacement of those not attaining the required level
The retirement of elderly staff is part of the national reform programme of ICCN. So far, retirements have not yet taken place in Garamba. However, to compensate for elderly staff that are no longer able to conduct the necessary field work, an additional 30 new guards have been recruited and trained in 2010, and the recruitment of a further 40 staff is foreseen in 2011. The new recruits continue to benefit from on-the-job training by a special instructor from Kenya. With this new recruitment, the number of operational staff in the property should reach 175 units by the end of 2011.
f) Gradually extend the area of surveillance to include the totality of the Park area, and at least 20% of the Hunting Reserves by 2015
The report notes that the intelligence and information network in the hunting areas and the locality of Faradfj was further strengthened and revealed different poaching networks. The report notes that 70 poachers were arrested in 2008 and 2009 but does not provide more recent figures. The report further notes that a new grader was bought to maintain the network of surveillance tracks in the property and the hunting areas. This will enable the park not only to increase its patrol coverage but also to intervene more rapidly. No information is provided about the extent of the area of the park or hunting areas covered by patrols. However, the report notes that anti-poaching activities slowed down as a result of the increased security needs to protect the park stations.
g) Establish a conservation strategy for the Hunting Reserves so that they may fully play their role of buffer zone and in view of their importance in the conservation of the Outstanding Universal Value of the property
The report does not provide information on the proposed conservation strategy. However, the draft management plan foresees the zoning of the park and the adjacent hunting areas, which should result in a stronger control of ICCN over the hunting areas, the development of a real partnership with the communities living in the hunting areas, the identification of priority areas for biodiverity and address the issue of illegal gold mining. To develop the zoning plan, it is planned to study the existing land use and inventory the biodiversity. The State Party report notes that studies are underway on the populations of chimpanzees in the hunting areas and as well as on the elephant movements between the property and the adjacent areas. As a result, anti-poaching patrols were organised in July – November, when many elephants are in the hunting areas. The report notes that the State Party is considering to propose an extension of the property to include part of the hunting areas in order to maintain the integrity of the property.
h) Strengthen the Community Conservation activities to improve relations with local communities
The report notes that relations with the local communities have improved significantly as a result of the ongoing Community Conservation programme, which receives support from Italy and Spain through UNESCO. In particular, the humanitarian aide which was provided to the neighbouring communities in 2010, following the LRA attacks in the region are reported to have been greatly appreciated by the communities. With this support, ICCN is rebuilding the school in Nagero which was destroyed after the rebels attack. In addition, the park authorities are undertaking several environmental educational campaigns for youth and local communities. The draft management plan also foresees a community conservation programme which includes expanding the participatory consultation network, strengthening awareness raising activities and supporting local development activities.
i) Complete and approve the management plan of the property and ensure the means for its implementation;
The draft management plan (2011-2015) has been finalized and submitted to the General Directorate of ICCN for further comment. It is expected that it will be validated before the end of this year. The World Heritage Centre received a copy of the draft management plan, which was prepared with support from IUCN and the World Heritage Centre.
j) Status of the northern white rhino and other wildlife populations
The wildlife survey, originally planned in May 2010 has been postponed as a result of lack of funding, but it is expected that the survey will take place in April this year. Results should be available by the end of May. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider the survey will not only provide a crucial input into finalizing the indicators which were developed by the 2010 monitoring mission for the Desired state of conservation for removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger, but will also show if wildlife populations have stabilised.
The State Party report further notes that an ecological monitoring study on elephants is currently underway with support from Spain through UNESCO: 5 elephants were fitted with radio collars and their position is tracked via satellite. Preliminary results show the importance of the hunting areas for the integrity of the property. A study on the Congo giraffe is also reported to be undertaken.
The report further provides information on the continued efforts to locate any remaining northern white rhino, following the 2008 expert meeting on the survival of the subspecies. In spite of the extensive terrestrial and aerial searches , not a single animal was sighted since 2007. As noted in previous reports, the subspecies is now feared to have gone extinct. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that the 2010 reactive monitoring mission recommended abandoning further search efforts if no rhinos were sighted by March 2011, and considers that the upcoming aerial survey could provide a final opportunity. They note that cross breeding the last remaining captive northern white rhino currently hosted in Kenya with southern white rhino, with a view to conserving part of the genetic material and a possible future reintroduction in the property, could be considered. However, such a reintroduction should only be envisaged if the property is totally secured.