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

Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger

See Decision 33 COM 7A.8 (Seville, 2009), http://whc.unesco.org/en/sessions/33COM/decisions/ 

Corrective measures identified

See Decision 33 COM 7A.8 (Seville, 2009), http://whc.unesco.org/en/sessions/33COM/decisions/ 

Timeframe for the implementation of the corrective measures

A three year time frame (2009 – 2012) was proposed by the 2009 monitoring mission.

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: Conservation Programme for DRC World Heritage properties (“DRC Programme”) funded by the UNF, Italy, Spain and Belgium. Phase I (2001–2005) : approximately USD 250,000, phase II (2005-2009): USD 300,000 , phase III (2010-2012): USD 300,000.

Previous monitoring missions

1996 and 2006: World Heritage Centre monitoring missions; several other World Heritage Centre missions in the framework of the DRC programme; 2009 World Heritage Centre/ IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

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

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2011

On 24 March 2010, the State Party submitted a concise report on the state of conservation of the property. This report contained limited information on progress achieved in the implementation of the corrective measures, which was complemented by additional information gathered by the World Heritage Centre:

a) Continue efforts to resolve problems concerning the Armed Forces of the DRC (FARDC) military involved in large-scale poaching in the south-west peripheral area of the property; 

Following reports at the 34th session on increasing commercial poaching by FARDC military and armed groups in particular in the south-western part of the Reserve, the report notes several mixed patrols have been organized with the army and that park staff has progressively re-taken control of the southern part of the Reserve since December. The report further notes that 3 notorious poachers were convicted to long prison sentences and that 7 AK47 and other weaponry had been confiscated. The State Party further mentions that in agreement with the military authorities in Bunia, joint patrols are continuing in the southern part, but acknowledges that there is a lack of cooperation from the army authorities in Kisangani, who command the military based in the western part of the Reserve near Nia-Nia, where poaching pressures remains high. The report further notes that prices for Ivory have significantly increased since the previous World Heritage Committee’s session.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN welcome the efforts of the State Party to address poaching in the southern part of the Reserve through joint patrolling with the army. They note that in December two park guards were killed in fire exchange with poachers. They further note that poaching pressure in the west of the Reserve continues, and that there is a lack of support from the military stationed in this area and hence recommend that the World Heritage Committee expresses its concern.

b) Officially cancel all the artisanal mining rights as well as those encroaching the property, granted by the mining cadastre;

According to the State Party report, all artisanal mining sites, which were closed by the management authority in 2008, remain closed in spite of several attempts by miners to re-open them.

The report further notes that discussion continues with the Mining cadastre of the Ministry of Mines to obtain the canceling of all mining exploration or exploitation licenses covering the property. The report notes however the lack of cooperation of the mining services to effectively cancel prospecting permits which are overlapping with the Reserve or situated on its boundary.

Following reports of the attribution of new mining exploration rights inside the property by the Government to the Kilo Goldmines company, the Director of the World Heritage Centre wrote on 29 November 2010, a letter to the Minister for Environment, Conservation of Nature and Tourism to request more information, and expressed his utmost concern about these reports. To date, no official reply was received but in a meeting in January 2011, with staff of the World Heritage Centre in Kinshasa, the Minister stated that only exploration permits had been granted for blocks outside the property. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that gold exploration at the Adumbi site is currently ongoing. They consider that while the Adumbi site might be outside the property, it is definitely very close to it and an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) should be conducted, which should identify the potential negative impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property. This EIA should be submitted to the World Heritage Centre, for review by IUCN, before activities are continued. They further note that the website of the company presents a map which shows other concession areas for which it has established joint ventures, two of which, the KGL Sihu joint venture and the KGL ERW joint venture, are clearly situated within the Property. The website further shows that the KGL ERW joint venture, which covers a huge area in the north of the Reserve, is active and that Kilo and Rio Tinto Mining and Exploration Ltd. entered into a long-term joint venture to explore for the iron ore assets on Kilo's KGL ERW properties.

c) Take measures to mitigate impacts linked to the increase in traffic in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve and in particular secure the necessary technical and financial means to contribute towards the implementation of the system to control immigration and strengthen the surveillance and anti-poaching mechanism;

and

d) Legalize and upscale the pilot system to regulate and monitor immigration and traffic on the RN4, and secure the right to close the RN4 to traffic at night and to establish a toll system;

The State Party report mentions that discussion with the political and administrative authorities of the Province to step up the control are on-going but have so far not yielded any results. It notes that the Provincial Gouvernment is not in favor of the proposed night closure of the road but that in response to the increasing traffic on the RN4, patrolling along the road has been reinforced, as well as around other roads crossing the Reserve.

The pilot system to regulate immigration continues to function based on controlling the movement of people and vehicles using the two main entrances to the Reserve on the RN4 and on the permanent monitoring of persons residing in the villages located alongside the road. However, the report notes that better equipment is needed to be able to conduct the vehicle checks and discover illegal objects.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN reiterate the need to instaure a night closure of the road, as well as an increase of the human and other resources made available for its control to cope with the estimated 25 fold increase in traffic on the RN4 following its rehabilitation.

e) Finalise and approve the management plan for the property, with the creation of an integrally protected zone with national park status;

The draft management plan prepared with support of the World Heritage Centre is currently being finalized before it will be sent to the Ministry for approval. The zoning wich is foreseen includes a large central integrally protected zone, comprising an estimated 25% of the property.

f) Integrate the activities of the Immigration Control Committees (CCI) and the Local Committee for Monitoring and Conservation of Nature (CLSCN) in the management activities of the subsistence areas, for which management modalities should be indicated in the management plan;

The CLSCN, created to ensure the management of the subsistence zones, is now the sole interlocutor for the Reserve authorities concerning all management issues related to the natural resources (agriculture and hunting). A guide for the management of the natural resource management areas was adopted by the local communities and traditional authorities.

g) Continue efforts to strengthen and reinvigorate the surveillance system and render it more effective;

The report notes that two new mobile guard posts were set up in areas with high poaching pressure in the south and the centre-west of the Reserve. As a result of regular patrols in the north east and south west of the Reserve, and continuous monitoring of the evacuated mining sites, poaching is also reported to have diminished in these areas. Approximately 55% of the Reserve is reported to have been patrolled in 2010. No new information is provided on efforts to retire old staff or guard numbers.

h) Request the State Party to halt illegal trafficking of timber, minerals and ivory across its north-eastern border;

The report notes that with support of the World Bank, the Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservation and Tourism (MECNT)is putting in place a system of checks at the north eastern border to strictly control the trafficking of natural resources. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN welcome this important development.

i) Prepare and implement a zoning plan for forest areas adjacent to the property in order to protect it from the negative impact of unsustainable exploitation of the forest;

The report notes that three community based natural resource managed areas have been set up in the wider Ituri landscape outside the Reserve, which could positively impact the deforestation problem.

j) Wildlife Survey;

The report notes that a new survey was conducted in the property and that the data gathered during this survey are currently being analyzed. However, the World Heritage Centre was informed that a preliminary analysis of the data indicated that compared to the 2006 survey, numbers of certain wildlife species have decreased further, in spite of all efforts to increase the area of the property under control of the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN) and to control poaching.  Preliminary results indicate that especially ungulate species have continued to decrease, with the exception of okapi. Elephant numbers are not yet recovering and have remained stable but the area of the reserve where elephants were found was further reduced. Moreover, signs of human activities were found throughout the Reserve. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that these preliminary findings would have a negative impact on the OUV of the property and hence, recommend that the Committee expresses its concern. If confirmed, it will be important to identify the causes of the continuing decline and if necessary revise the strategy for law enforcement in the Reserve.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN are of the view that the continued efforts to implement the corrective measures and in particular the preparation of the management plan and efforts to curb poaching should be welcomed. While the renewed cooperation with the military to address poaching in the southern part of the Reserve is very positive, problems remain in the Bafwasenda axe in the west. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note however the worrying preliminary results of the 2011 wildlife survey, which seem to indicate that contrary to expectations, the recovery of wildlife populations has not yet started but that populations of certain wildlife species continue to decline. This seems to indicate that poaching is not yet under control and that effort to control it needs to be further intensified.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN also recall that the 2009 monitoring mission developed eight indicators defining the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger. Once the final results of the current survey are available, it will be important to asses the trends on the indicators and if necessary review the corrective measures and the expected timeframe for the restoration of the OUV to reach the Desired state of conservation for a removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger. They consider that the World Heritage Committee should maintain this property on the List of World Heritage in Danger. 

Decision Adopted: 35 COM 7A.35

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-11/35.COM/7A,

2. Recalling Decision 34 COM 7A.32, adopted at its 34th session (Brasilia, 2010),

3. Commends the State Party for the organization of the high-level meeting on the Conservation of the World Heritage properties in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as requested by the World Heritage Committee at its 31st session (Christchurch, 2007);

4. Welcomes the Kinshasa Declaration in which the Prime Minister on behalf of the State Party makes the commitment to implement all the corrective measures adopted by the World Heritage Committee to rehabilitate the Outstanding Universal Value of the five World Heritage properties in Democratic Republic of the Congo, and to create the necessary conditions to allow for the implementation of the Strategic Action Plan proposed by the Congolese Park Authority ICCN;

5. Urges the State Party to ensure a full implementation of these commitments, in particular securing the properties, reinforcing the operational capacity of the Congolese Park Authority, reducing commercial poaching, stopping the illicit exploitation of natural resources, strengthening the efforts of peaceful evacuation of illegal occupants of protected areas as well as respecting the requirements of the World Heritage Convention, the national nature conservation law and the mining code;

6. Also urges the State Party to address a number of important threats to properties through a comprehensive approach involving the different relevant Ministries, in particular mining exploration and exploitation concessions attributed by the Ministry of Mines, the oil exploration concession granted by the Ministry for Hydrocarbons in Virunga National Park. The State Party must also address the issue of the illegal settlements in the corridor of Kahuzi-Biega, the relocation of the Nyaleke army training camp in Virunga National Park and the issue of the continued involvement of elements of the Congolese Army in illegal exploitation of the natural resources of the properties;

7. Calls upon the international community to continue its support for the efforts in securing and rehabilitating the World Heritage properties of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Decision Adopted: 35 COM 7A.8

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-11/35.COM/7A.Add,

2. Recalling Decision 34 COM 7A.8, adopted at its 34th session (Brasilia, 2010),

3. Expresses its sincere condolences to the families of the guards who were killed during protection operations at the property since its previous session;

4. Welcomes the continued efforts to implement the corrective measures, and in particular the preparation of the management plan and efforts to curb poaching;

5. Expresses its concern about the preliminary results of the 2011 wildlife survey, which seem to indicate that contrary to expectations, the recovery of wildlife populations has not yet started but that populations of certain wildlife species continue to decline and requests the State Party once the final results are available to assess the current status of the Outstanding Universal Value in relation to the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger in order to review the need to update the corrective measures and the timeline for their implementation;

6. Reiterates the need to put in place appropriate actions to facilitate the control of traffic on the RN4 road crossing the Reserve by the management authority of the property, the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN), in particular the closure of the road for traffic during the night and the installation of a toll system;

7. Urges the State Party to continue to implement the updated corrective measures adopted by the World Heritage Committee at its 33rd session (Sevilla, 2009);

8. Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2012, a report on the state of conservation of the property, in particular on the status of the Outstanding Universal Value based on the final results of the 2011 survey, on progress accomplished in the implementation of the corrective measures as well as the other recommendations of the 2009 mission, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 36th session in 2012;

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

Decision Adopted: 35 COM 8C.2

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Following the examination of the state of conservation reports of properties inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger (WHC-11/35.COM/7A, WHC-11/35.COM/7A.Add and WHC-11/35.COM/7A.Add.Corr),

2. Decides to maintain the following properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger: