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

Adopted, See page http://whc.unesco.org/en/sessions/33COM/decisions/

Corrective measures identified

Adopted, See page 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 1993-2012)
Total amount approved: USD 103,400
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 the DRC World Heritage properties (“DCR 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 350,000.

 

Previous monitoring missions

1996 and 2006: World Heritage monitoring missions; several other World Heritage Centre missions in the framework of the DCR Programme; 2009: World Heritage Centre/IUCN reactive monitoring mission. 

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

a) Extensive poaching of large mammals, in particular elephants;

b) Mining activities inside the property;

c) Uncontrolled migration into the villages located within the property;

d) Illegal timber exploitation in the Ituri Forest, which might affect the property in the near future;

e) Planned rehabilitation of the National Road RN4 crossing the property, for which no proper Environmental Impact Assessment was conducted.

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

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2012

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

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 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.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider the deterioration of the security situation in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve, at the time of preparing this report, to be extremely worrying. The total loss of control of all the south-eastern and south-western parts of the Reserve, the invasion by the Simba rebels, the increase in organized and commercial poaching of elephants and the reopening of the artisanal mines in this part risks cancelling out any progress achieved over the last five years. They note the refusal of the military authorities of Kisangani to halt poaching activities, as indicated in the State Party report. These reports also demonstrate the involvement of certain military authorities in poaching and artisanal mining activities.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN are concerned by the absence of progress in the cancellation of the artisanal mining rights encroaching on the property, granted by the Mining Cadastre, despite national legislation. They recall the position of the World Heritage Committee that mining exploration and exploitation are contrary to World Heritage statutes. They further consider that an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) should be carried out for all mining projects adjacent to the property, to define the impact on its Outstanding Universal Value. This EIE should be transmitted to the World Heritage Centre for examination by IUCN before any activities are begun.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recommend that the World Heritage Committee request the State Party to initiate a dialogue/cooperation at the political level with the State services, namely the Ministries of Defence, Interior, the Cadastre Mining Services and the provincial authorities for the successful implementation of the corrective measures, in accordance with the commitments undertaken in the Kinshasa Declaration of January 2011.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recall that the final results of the wildlife inventory are indispensable to assess the tendencies of the eight indicators defined for the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger. In the absence of this information, and in the light of the current situation of the property, they recommend to the Committee to retain the Okapi Wildlife Reserve on the List of World Heritage in Danger. They also recommend a reactive monitoring mission to evaluate the Desired state of conservation for removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger and if necessary to revise the corrective measures and consequently their timetable for application, taking into account the evolution of the situation in the field. 

Decision Adopted: 36 COM 7A.36

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-12/36.COM/7A.Add,

2. Recalling Decision 35 COM 7A.35, adopted at its 35th session (UNESCO, 2011),

3. Expresses its concern that signature of the January 2011 Kinshasa Declaration has not yet resulted in a concerted action between the different Ministries, the army and different technical agencies which is necessary to resolve some urgent conservation issues in the sites and create the conditions for their rehabilitation;

4. Notes with concern the consistent reports from different properties about continued involvement of elements of the Congolese Army in illegal exploitation of the natural resources;

5. Considers that the recent permit which has been granted to the international oil and gas company SOCO to start oil exploration activities in Virunga National Park is not in conformity with commitments made by the State Party in the Kinshasa Declaration;

6. Urges the State Party to ensure a full implementation of the commitments made in the Kinshasa Declaration and ensure the implementation of the Strategic Action Plan and in particular to urgently set up the inter-ministerial committee to ensure that specific activities of the action plan which need political decisions or the cooperation and commitment from other Ministries and state entities are implemented;

7. Welcomes the continued support from donor countries for the conservation of the five properties of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the on-going efforts to set up a sustainable financing mechanism;

8. Requests the State Party in close cooperation with the World Heritage Centre and IUCN to organize an evaluation of the implementation of the action plan, identify obstacles to its implementation and ways to address these with the concerned Ministries and present a report on this evaluation to the World Heritage Centre, for consideration by the World Heritage Committee at its 37th session in 2013.

Decision Adopted: 36 COM 7A.8

The World Heritage Committee,

1.   Having examined Document WHC-12/36.COM/7A,

2.   Recalls Decision 35 COM 7A.8 adopted at its 35th session (UNESCO, 2011),

3.   Extends its deepest condolences to the families of guards killed during operations conducted to protect the property, since its last session;

4.   Warmly welcomes the efforts of the State Party and in particular the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation, in implementing the corrective measures;

5.   Expresses its strong concern with regard to the reports indicating an extremely serious deterioration of the security situation in the property, the total loss of control of all the south-eastern and south-western parts of the Reserve, the invasion by the Simba rebels, the increase in organized and commercial poaching of elephants, the reopening of the artisanal mines and the lack of collaboration of the military authorities based in Kisangani to assist in dealing with this situation and considers that these developments risk to cancel all progress achieved in the last five years;

6.   Notes the lack of progress in the cancellation of mining rights encroaching on the property granted by the Mining Cadastre, despite national legislation and recalls that the mining exploration and exploitation are contrary to the World Heritage status, in accordance with the position of the International Council on Minerals and Metals, and that an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) including a clear conclusion on the potential impacts of the projects on the Outstanding Universal Value and integrity of the property, should be carried out and transmitted to the World Heritage Centre for all mining projects adjacent to the property, in conformity with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;

7.   Strongly urges the State Party to initiate a dialogue/cooperation at the political level with the State services (Ministry of Defense, Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Mines, Provincial authorities,…) to strengthen the efforts in the implementation of the current corrective measures adopted by the World Heritage Committee at its 33rd session (Seville, 2009), and more specifically to undertake immediate measures to halt the involvement of the FARDC military in poaching activities, regain control of the zones occupied by the Simba rebels and the immediate cancellation of the mining rights encroaching on the property, in conformity with the commitments undertaken in the Kinshasa Declaration;

8.   Requests the State Party to submit the final results of the wildlife inventory as soon as they are available and also recalls that the results are indispensable for the evaluation of the tendencies of the eight indicators defined for the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger;

9.   Also requests the State Party to invite a World Heritage Centre/IUCN reactive monitoring mission to assess the state of conservation of the property and the progress achieved in the implementation of the corrective measures, evaluate the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger, and if necessary to revise the corrective measures and consequently their timetable for application, taking into account the situation in the field;

10. Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre by 1 February 2013, a report on the state of conservation of the property, in particular the state of the Outstanding Universal Value of the property based on the final results of the 2011 survey, the progress accomplished in the implementation of the corrective measures and the other recommendations of the 2009 mission, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 37th session in 2013.

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

Decision Adopted: 36 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-12/36.COM/7A and WHC-12/36.COM/7A.Add),

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