At the last session, the World Heritage Centre noted that recent information had been received from the managers of the property concerning the poaching networks within the Reserve. This information indicated the status of the different armed groups operating from mining sites in the southern part of the Reserve, involving elements of the Armed Forces of the DRC (FARDC). The involvement of these elements was clearly demonstrated on 1 May 2011, when a lieutenant of the FARDC as well as two military spokespeople from Kisangani, were arrested with 60 pieces of ivory weighing a total of 137 kg.
On 2 February 2012, the State Party submitted a brief report on the state of conservation of the property. This report does not provide information on the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger.
The report confirms the armed poaching problems and increased insecurity in the adjacent southern sectors of the Reserve. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note the numerous reports showing an increase in poaching and insecurity, notably in the south-east part of the Reserve, located in the region under the control of the military authorities of Kisangani. In view of this situation, the World Heritage Centre sent a letter on 8 November 2011 to ICCN expressing its concern and requesting more information on the wildlife populations in the property. To date, no response to this letter has been received. According to information received recently by the World Heritage Centre, the situation has greatly deteriorated since the State Party report : all the south-eastern and south-western parts of the Reserve appear to be invaded by Simba rebels, in possession of heavy weapons, notably rocket launchers and machine guns. These groups are primarily interested in killing elephants and reopening the small-scale mines.
The State Party report provides the following indications on progress in the implementation of the corrective measures.
a) Continue efforts to resolve problems of large-scale poaching in the south-west peripheral area of the property, and involving the Armed Forces of the DRC (FARDC)
The State Party recalls the good cooperation with the FARDC military stationed in Bunia, and notes that numerous patrols have been carried out since last September. This enabled the stabilization of large wildlife mammals in certain parts of the Reserve, the seizing of 5 war weapons and 11 hunting rifles, about 200 kg of ivory and elephant meat. Thus, 12 poachers were arrested and transferred to the military courts of Bunia, as well as 5 illegal gold miners to the civil courts.
However, the State Party underlined the refusal of the Misangani military to halt armed poaching and increase insecurity in the southern peripheral sectors of the OWR. The World Heritage Centre received a copy of a letter from the Director General of the ICCN addressed to the Ministry of Defence, in which the activities of the militia in the south-west of the Reserve are described, notably the involvement of certain officers of the military region of Kisangani. In this letter, the Director General requests the support of the army to organize mixed patrols to combat this threat. The World Heritage Centre has not been informed of the action taken in respect of this letter. However, according to the most recent news, at the time of this report, the Simba rebels had taken control of a part of the Reserve and still enjoyed the support of some high-ranking military elements in Kisangani.
b) Officially cancel all the artisanal mining rights as well as those encroaching on the property, granted by the Mining Cadastre
The State Party informed that the artisanal mining sites have remained closed due to the repression of all reported violations. According to new information received by the World Heritage Centre, the situation has changed, as the Simba rebels are once again occupying all the mining sites in the southern part of the Reserve.
The report notes no progress achieved in respect to the cancellation of the rights granted by the Mining cadastre, notably the prospection permits already granted and contiguous to the OWR like the ones of Kilo Gold in the north, south and west, Richard Wynne in the north, Rio Tinto in the west and Congo United Mineral.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN received a map showing all the concessions and mining exploitations granted by the Mining cadastre in and around the property. This map clearly shows that certain concessions are contiguous to the boundary of the property, others are largely or even entirely located within the property. The World Heritage Centre also recalls that to date no response has been received to the correspondence addressed by the Director of the World Heritage Centre dated 29 November 2010 concerning the state of mining exploitation rights granted by the Government within the territory of the property.
c) Take measures to mitigate impacts linked to the increase in traffic in the OWR 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
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 informs of the establishment of a strategic guide for mobile patrols as well as training for specialized teams for road patrol. The report notes that the visit and passage control system has been extended with the opening up of two additional posts (one in the east and the other in the centre) and considers that these measures have had a positive impact. They have contributed towards a reduction in the circulation of prohibited products such as bush meat. However, the report indicates that the measure for the closure of the RN4 to night traffic within the property continues to be an issue of non-cooperation by the provincial government.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that the passage control toll system appears to be fairly effective and that unregistered passages have been reduced by about 50%. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN also note the efforts undertaken to monitor immigration. However, in certain localities the problem of illegal installations and unregistered visits persists. They recommend that measures be taken to reinforce the system and that it is extended to the north-east of the Reserve. They reiterate the importance of the closure of the RN4 to night traffic to make the control system more effective. They recall that immigration control in the property is primordial in reestablishing the integrity of the site.
e) Finalize and approve the Management Plan for the property, with the creation of an integral protection zone with the status of national park
The State Party notes that the draft Management Plan is currently being reviewed by a group of experts for comment and recommendations, before being submitted for approval by the ICCN Directorate General. The plan includes a proposal for an integral conservation zone in the centre and the south-west of the Reserve representing about 25% of the territory of the property. In addition, 27 agricultural areas are demarcated and 22 subsistence hunting areas have been mapped out with the participation of local communities. The report considers that zoning could be finalized in 2013. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note the progress achieved in the demarcation of hunting and agricultural areas compatible with the conservation of nature, notably around the RN4. They recommend to extend these efforts towards the north-eastern part of the OWR, where the economic activities (hunting, agriculture) are not yet egulated. They note that the monitoring of the forest survey by teledetection has enabled the assessment of the level of deforestation to 0.2% of the total surface of the property from 2005 to 2010.
f) Integrate the activities of the Immigration Control Committees (CCI) and the Local Monitoring and Conservation of Natural Resources Committees (CLSCN) in the management activities of the subsistence zones (agricultural and hunting areas), for which the management modalities must be indicated in the Management Plan
The report of the State Party submitted in 2010 already mentioned that the CLSCN, body created to ensure the management of the subsistence zones, was now the only contact point representing authority responsible for the management of the Reserve as regards resource management issues.
g) Continue the efforts to strengthen and revitalize the surveillance mechanism and make it more effective
The State Party indicates that the surveillance system is operational and was able to rebuff the invasion of the south-east sector by armed groups. The report also indicates the reestablishment of security in the western zone. Unfortunately, developments occurring since the reception of the report sent by the State Party indicate that all the south-eastern and south-western part of the Reserve is now in the hands of the Simba rebels.
h) Requests the State Party to halt the illegal traffic of timber, minerals and ivory across its north-eastern frontier
The State Party indicates in its report that the main problem involved in halting the illegal traffic of ivory is the continued increase in the price of ivory on the international market.
i) Prepare and implement a zoning plan of the forest areas that border the property to protect it from negative impacts of unsustainable forest exploitation
The State Party provides no information in its report concerning this measure.
j) Wildlife Survey
In its report, the State Party considers that there is a tendency towards the stabilization of large wildlife mammals, but it does not provide any quantitative data. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that the report makes no mention of the results of the wildlife inventory carried out in 2010 and 2011, the results of which were being analysed last year. As mentioned at the 35th session, the preliminary results indicate a reduction in the population of certain ongulate species, with the exception of the okapi. The number of elephants has not increased but has remained stable. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recall that it is important to submit the results as soon as possible to enable the evaluation of progress in the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger.