Rwenzori Mountains National Park was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 1999, following the suspension of conservation activities and projects as a result of serious security concerns in the region where the park is located. Following a return of security, a World Heritage Centre / IUCN monitoring mission visited the property in 2003. The property was removed from the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2004. The World Heritage Committee has continued to follow up the state of conservation of the property in relation to some of the above mentioned threats. At its 31st session (Christchurch, 2007), the World Heritage Committee recognised the progress of the State Party in improving the integrity of the property and requested further information on the implementation of the management plan, and progress in addressing threats from poaching, illegal logging and mining. The Committee also requested the State Party to monitor the status of the melting glaciers.
On 30 January 2009, a comprehensive report on the state of conservation of the property was submitted by the State Party. The report provides an update on management activities, research and work with local communities and partners. The State Party also submitted a report on 04 January 2008. Information from both reports is presented.
The assessment of key conservation issues, including progress in implementing the requests of the World Heritage Committee and addressing the threats identified in previous reports, is as follows:
The World Heritage Committee has requested the State Party to report on progress made on the implementation of the management plan and to resolve staffing issues. While important progress on improving park infrastructure was made in recent years, lack of sufficient funding is hampering the completion of the programme. The MacArthur Foundation has funded improvements to residences for staff and the office of the Rwenzori Mountains Conservation and Environmental Management Project funded by WWF. There are six senior staff and 12 rangers housed in the recently renovated staff residences. The property has 74 staff including nine wardens and 60 rangers.
The State Party has progressively increased funding to the property. However Government funding is currently covering only 50 % of recurrent park costs. A financial gap analysis is currently being conducted with support from WWF in view of establishing a sustainable funding strategy. Innovative financing options such as payments for the conservation of water catchment are also being explored. Important investment costs are covered through donor funding, in particular the the Protected Areas Management and Sustainable Use (PAMSU) project with funding from the World Bank and GEF. However the project is ending in June 2009 and it is unclear if further funding is available.
b) Community collaboration
The communities neighbouring the property are participating in boundary maintenance under a collaborative boundary management initiative. Boundary demarcation activities are almost completed. The State Party reports that community groups involved in this initiative are also taking part in natural resource management projects such as forest landscape restoration initiatives adjacent to the park. To reduce the illegal harvesting of resources, a pilot project is also underway with two communities to establish a system of controlled harvesting of some resources such as bamboo, certain vines, medicinal plants and honey in a limited area of the park (within 3km of the boundary). Memoranda of Understanding were signed with the communities and park authorities are monitoring the harvesting programme. If successful, the park management plans to roll out this programme to other communities. WWF’s Rwenzori Mountains Conservation and Environmental Management Project has further supported a comprehensive environmental strategy to inform communities of the natural values within the property.
c) Resource conservation and protection
The State Party reported that patrolling effort and coverage increased by 5%. As a result, incidences of illegal activities decreased by 5% compared to the previous year. Patrolling efforts are concentrated on the low altitude areas of the park, which are subject to the highest pressure. Main unlawful activities are illegal resource harvesting (bamboo, medicinal plants, honey), tree felling and poaching. IUCN notes that it would be valuable in future State party reports to refer to figures on arrests and prosecutions, and on the trends in species targetted by poachers.
The management of the property is also collaborating with the neighbouring Virunga National Park World Heritage property in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The two properties have engaged in coordinated patrols under transboundary collaboration initiatives with support of the Wildllife Conservation Society. The property has also conducted training of customs and immigration officals on animals prohibited to be traded to help control wildlife trafficking.
The State party reports that Kilembe Mines Limited has suspended surveying and prospecting activities within their lease in the park pending further consultation with UWA (Uganda Wildlife Authority) on the land use options for their lease. The consultations are not yet concluded..
e) Managing the impact of tourism
The State Party has developed a waste management plan to manage waste from tourism operations and other activities. Although sufficient funding is not available at this time to fully implement the strategy some progress is being made to manage tourism waste.
The State Party notes that it monitors the values of the property and is involved in research on elephants, chimpanzee, resource use, and several other topics in collaboration with individuals and institutions. IUCN would welcome details of the findings of these reports. The State Party is also developing an ecological monitoring plan focussing on the values and threats of the property. This plan is reported to be at an advanced stage.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN welcome the development of an ecological monitoring plan for the Outstanding Universal Value and integrity of the property, which will lead to an adaptive management response to the threats.
The 2007 Environmental Change Research Centre Report 113 on ‘Climate Change and the Aquatic Ecosystems of the Rwenzori Mountains, Uganda’ reported on findings from field measurements and satellite mapping. The results identified a continuous trend of recession of the glaciers. At the current rate of loss of 0.7 km3 per decade the glaciers will disappear by 2030. The property managers monitor snow and glacial extent, and climate and water-quality within the property and in rivers outside.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that the Outstanding Universal Value of this property is affected by climate change and encourage the State Party to discuss approaches to climate change adaptation with other State Parties which also have Mountain World Heritage properties affected by melting glaciers and changing mountain vegetation zones.
An important point of concern remains the funding of the management activities and the State Party is strongly encouraged to continue its efforts to establish a sustainable financing strategy.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN are satisfied by the progress made by the State Party in addressing threats and management issues in the property since its removal from the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2004. However it is of concern that mining leases still remain within the property and the necessary steps are now needed to ensure that these are surrendered. Given the substantial progress achieved it is proposed to not request a further state of conservation report until 2012, although progress should be carefully reviewed in the report on this property in the Periodic Reporting exercise for Africa in 2009-2010, with a view to considering the need for further consideration within Reactive monitoring.