On 1 February 2011, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property. Additional documents were annexed or submitted alongside this report including; i) the terms of reference for the development of a management plan for the property; ii) a copy of Law n° 2002-102 on the creation, management and financing of national parks and nature reserves; iii) the actual and projected budgets for the property (2010-2013); and iv) a report on the results of the March 2010 aerial wildlife survey undertaken by the Wild Chimpanzee Foundation (WCF) and OIPR (Office Ivoirien des Parcs et Réserves), with support from the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ).
The State Party report notes the progress achieved in implementing the corrective measures adopted by the Committee at its 30th session (Vilnius, 2006). The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recall that the implementation of these measures is supported by the World Bank/ Global Environment Faciltiy (GEF) protected areas project for Côte d’Ivoire called PARC-CI (Projet d’Appui à la Relance de la Conservation des Parcs et Réserves - USD 2.54 million, 2010-2014). The State Party reports that this project was put on hold following the post-election crisis in Côte d’Ivoire, which has considerably slowed down the implementation of the corrective measures, and also pushed back the timeframe for their implementation.
a) Establish, as a matter of urgency, an effective system of control and patrolling for the whole property, in close collaboration with the armed forces, and giving priority to the development and rehabilitation of necessary infrastructures
The State Party reports that 70 rangers are deployed within the property and notes that the level of staffing has increased considerably since 2007. The State Party notes that a new surveillance strategy has been developed, which foresees a progressive expansion of surveillance based on the available resources, stationing patrolling units in a central location from which two sector stations will be manned on a rotational basis. All 5 sectors will be patrolled from the two aforementioned localities. The State Party notes that in parallel to the above surveillance strategy, it is providing 200 million CFA (approximately 431,871 USD) to an emergency action plan to reduce poaching by deploying mixed patrols composed of both OIPR patrol units and members of the Forces Nouvelles (armed forces): to date 35 OIPR rangers and 22 members of the Forces Nouvelles have been trained and equipped to combat poaching. This initiative was supported by Fauna and Flora International (FFI), IUCN and the World Heritage Centre through the Rapid Response Mechanism. Eight four-wheel drive vehicles and 10 motorbikes have been acquired to support law enforcement activities.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN welcome the efforts to develop a surveillance strategy and emergency action plan to address poaching, which unfortunately were not submitted with the report, but note that as a result of the political crisis, only a few mixed ranger patrols have been deployed resulting in little effective control and patrolling of the property. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that given the dramatic decline in wildlife populations (see below) the establishment of an effective system of control and patrolling for the whole property is a priority to rehabilitate the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property.
b) Develop and initiate the implementation of a management plan for the property based on the management plan framework developed for the national system of protected areas
The State Party reports that a draft management plan is under preparation and will be finalized by a consultant. A 3-year priority action plan will be developed on the basis of the management plan. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN welcome progress in the development of the management plan Terms of Reference and recall that the Committee requested the State Party to establish a revised zoning system for the property that fully considers the status of the property as a World Heritage property and Biosphere Reserve, and to establish participatory management arrangements with local communities.
c) Enlarge the activities of the management structure to encompass the entire property
As noted above under point a), the State Party reports that it intends to progressively extend patrolling within the entire Park and regain control of the area. However, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN are concerned that the recent deterioration in political and security situation in Côte d’Ivoire has further slowed down the implementation of this corrective measure.
d) Results of the March 2010 aerial wildlife survey
The State Party submitted a report on the results of the March 2010 aerial wildlife survey undertaken by the Wild Chimpanzee Foundation and OIPR, with support from GIZ, and notes that additional aerial and terrestrial surveys may be undertaken in 2011. The March 2010 survey covered Comoé National Park and the surrounding zone and shows that large mammals have decreased by 80% over the last 30 years. The density of large mammals within the property is very low. No elephants or lions were observed, and only two elephant tracks were noted during the survey. The survey estimated that 8,800 hartebeest, 900 buffalo and 950 cobs remain, with 90% of their populations located within the property. IUCN notes that the late 1970’s estimates for these species were about 13,000 hartebeest, 5,000 buffalo and 50,000 cobs while its elephant population was estimated at 1,500 in 1978.
With regards to human activities within the park, the survey found that 90% of all the mammals within the property are domestic animals and that high levels of cattle grazing are seriously degrading the property’s ecosystem. The survey noted that cattle grazing are concentrated in the north and east of the park, that agricultural encroachment is widespread in the west, and that bushfires are concentrated within a central band running north-south through the property. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recall that an earlier survey by WCF in June 2009 (which did not make population estimates due to its small sample size) had found that populations of large mammals were still present in the south-west of the property and the adjacent zone, including chimpanzees and elephants, thus confirming their presence within the property. The March 2010 survey report concludes that based on the available data there is a high risk that the elephant and chimpanzee populations of the property are now too small to be viable, and that these are likely to disappear from the park unless urgent action is taken.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN are gravely concerned by the results of the March 2010 aerial survey which clearly demonstrates that the OUV of the property is severely and increasingly degraded and, if existing threats and pressures continue, may soon be lost. They are particularly concerned by the fact that some species like elephant might be on the verge of extinction in the property. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN concur with the survey’s conclusion that there is still some potential for the recovery of wildlife populations within the property if urgent action is taken, and consider that the clear priority is to i) immediately restore the integrity of the property by removing grazing cattle and addressing agricultural encroachment, and ii) rapidly implement an effective surveillance system for the property in order to slow the intensification of cattle grazing, agricultural encroachment, poaching and bushfires. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recommend that the State Party and its conservation partners adopt all the recommendations made by the March 2010 wildlife aerial survey report and consider that the survey results should be used as a baseline to monitor the recovery of the property’s wildlife populations over time.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that at the time of preparation of this report, political instability was still affecting Côte d’Ivoire. It is therefore likely that the status of the property might have further degraded and that the implementation of corrective measures might be impacted.
Concerning previous reports on the granting of mineral exploration licences, the State Party notes that any geological exploration within the property would be aimed at evaluating the property’s potential mineral resources, and considers that this does not constitute intent to mine. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recall that the 2008 State Party report had indicated that three mining exploration licenses had been granted covering part of the property, and that the World Heritage Committee in its Decision 33 COM 7A.2 urged the State Party to withdraw these licenses, in line with the Committee’s clear position that mining is incompatible with World Heritage status. It notes that at the 34th session, the representative of Côte d’Ivoire stated that no mining exploration licences existed in the property and that this had been an error in previous reports.