On 8 February 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 FARDC military involved in large-scale poaching in the south-west peripheral area of the property;
Since the previous session, there have been numerous reports on increasing commercial poaching by FARDC military, especially around Nia-Nia and in the south-western part of the Reserve. The State Party report mentions several meetings which were organized with the military in response to this pressure, both at local and national level. A mixed patrol was also organized with the army in the southwestern part of the Reserve which resulted in confiscating two weapons, several hundred of kilos of elephant meat and the arrest of six poachers and their transfer to the military tribunal in Bunia. In spite of these efforts, the World Heritage Centre was informed by the management authority ICCN (Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature) end of March that a large bush meat market is operating in Nia-Nia, where elephant and monkey meat as well as ivory are openly traded and that ICCN guards are incapable of controlling the heavy poaching involving military from Bafwasende and Nia-Nia. The World Heritage Centre also received a copy of a letter written by ICCN to the Military Commander of the Ituri operational zone, providing details on the military involved in providing arms and ammunition to poachers and poaching incidents and requesting urgent action.
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. Irregular visits to some quarries by a small number of diggers generally working independently sporadically still happen. ICCN also requested the provincial authorities to officially cancel all artisanal mining rights granted illegally but unfortunately so far the provincial authorities have not yet responded to this demand. As long as these illegally attributed concessions are not cancelled by the authorities, pressure will remain high to re-open some of the mining sites.
The State Party did not provide any new information on the cancellation of mining concessions by the mining cadastre of the Ministry of Mines.
c) Take measures to mitigate impacts linked to the increase in traffic in RFO 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;
The State Party report mentions 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. In addition, ICCN started discussions with the control services of the Ministry of Environment at the provincial and district level to step up the control on lumber trafficking.
It is clear that the rehabilitation of the RN4, which has resulted in an estimated 25 fold increase in traffic has led to an increased pressure on the natural resources of the Reserve and that ICCN is lacking the finacial and human resources to deal with this issue. This was again demonstrated when the bridge in Epulu collapsed, resulting in large concentrations of trucks on both sides of the bridge in the middle of the Reserve. This led to an emergency situation in the site with a sharp increase in hunting of duikers in the RFO for sale to the drivers and passengers stranded in Epulu by the collapsed bridge. Fortuntately the bridge was repaired relatively quickly.
d) Finalise and approve the management plan for the property, with the creation of an integrally protected zone with national park status;
Work on the management plan is progressing well. A first consultant mission was organized by the World Heritage Centre in the framework of its DRC programme, which produced a draft by documenting the existing management strategies in place. The management plan foresees the zoning of the Reserve as a key conservation strategy, with the establishment of agricultural zones, hunting zones and integrally protected zones. The plan outlines how the zones are established, how its boundaries are defined and how resource offtake or use will be managed and controlled. Currently 17 agricultural zones and 10 hunting zones have been established in a participatory way. A large central area in the reserve, comprising an estimated 25% of the property is proposed as integrally protected zone. The 2005-2006 inventories showed that this area has the highest densities of mammals. In addition, several smaller integrally protected zones are foreseen, to protect key touristic features such as waterfalls, forest clearings or edos which are important areas for wildlife, the existing research zones as well as the green corridors that were established around the RN4 road and where no deforestation is allowed. A second mission is on-going which is expected to finalize the draft, which will be approved by the management authority before the end of this year.
e) 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 CCI were established to manage the immigration control mechanism set up to stabilize the population in the Reserve, while the CLSCN were created to ensure the management of the subsistence zones. The State Party report mentions that a guide for the management of the subsistence areas was adopted by the local communities and traditional authorities, which clarifies the tasks of the CCI and CLSCN. However, it is not clear in how far an integration of activities has already been achieved. This will have to be clarified in the final version of the management plan. The State Party report also mentions funding problems for the activities of both structures.
f) 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 pilot system to regulate immigration is in place, based partially on controlling the movement of people and vehicles using the two main entrances to the Reserve on the RN4 and on the permanent monitoring by the Immigration Control Committees (CCI), of persons residing in the villages located alongside the road. So far, the up-scaling of the system has been hampered by a lack of funding and the steep increase in traffic on the RN4 is making this even more challenging. Since the rehabilitation of the RN4, traffic has increased by a factor of 25. ICCN submitted a request to the provincial authorities to authorize the closure of the road at night but so far no reply was received. Without this, ICCN is obliged to maintain around-the-clock teams at the gates, putting additional strain on its limited resources. Similar closures are operated in other protected areas in DRC, such as the RN3 which crosses the Kahuzi-BiegaNational Park. The instauration of a toll system has also not yet been authorized. The toll system is important to cover the additional costs generated by the control system.
g) Continue efforts to strengthen and reinvigorate the surveillance system and render it more effective;
ICCN, as part of its institutional reform process and with support of the European Union, is organizing an overall assessment of its staff in its protected areas. Through this process, it will be possible to retire old staff and to balance staffing numbers between the different protected areas in DRC, in particular guard numbers, taking into account the area and level of threats of the different protected areas. This will be an important step to strengthen and reinvigorate the surveillance system.
Currently patrols have access to the entire property, and an efficient patrol monitoring system is established to combat local poaching. Unfortunately, the system is not able to control the current levels of poaching in the southwestern part of the Reserve and around Nia-Nia, where parts of the military are involved.
h) Request the State Party to halt illegal trafficking of timber, minerals and ivory across its north-eastern border;
The report of the State Party does not provide any information regarding this issue. However, the illegal trafficking of natural resources across the border with Uganda is well documented and again highlighted in different reports presented by the Group of Experts to the UN Security Council, including in the recent report submitted on 23 November 2009. This issue is of course outside the mandate of the protected area agency and must be addressed at a regional level. The increase of trafficking around the Reserve is directly linked to the rehabilitation of the RN4. Therefore, measures also need to be taken to control trafficking along this road, not only in the Reserve but in urban centers like Kisangani and Wamba.
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 of the State Party does not provide any information regarding this issue.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN are seriously concerned about the renewed poaching pressure and the evident implication of elements of the FARDC in both poaching and trafficking of bush meat and ivory. Similar problems also occur in the other World Heritage properties in DRC. A failure to address this issue could endanger the ongoing recovery of the property’s Outstanding Universal Value, which is finally progressing after years of continued degradation. The issue of poaching by the FARDC has to be addressed urgently at the highest levels. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN also reiterate the need to put in place appropriate control mechanisms to mitigate the impacts of the rehabilitation of the RN4 crossing the Reserve. The closure of the road for traffic during the night, and the instauration of a toll system to cover the additional management costs of ICCN are measures which could be introduced immediately, with the agreement of the provincial authorities.
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. As already indicated last year, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN suggest that before the end of 2010, a study should be carried out to develop the methodology to be used to monitor these indicators. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that the State Party could apply for international assistance to assist this process.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN express the hope that the current upsurge in poaching can be addressed quickly by the State Party and that the restoration of the Outstanding Universal Value can still be ensured, and the indicators set by the World Heritage Committee at its 33rd session reached within the planned three year time frame. They therefore consider that the property should be maintained on the List of World Heritage in Danger.