Application of the Reinforced monitoring mechanism at the property since 2007 (31 COM 7A.32)
On 1 February 2008, a concise report on the state of conservation of the five World Heritage properties of the DRC was submitted by the State Party. The report contained some information on the situation of the fauna but little information on the implementation of the corrective measures.
On 17 and 18 September 2007, a workshop on Survival Strategies for Northern White Rhino was organized in Kinshasa by the management authority, in close cooperation with the African Parks Foundation (APF), the World Heritage Centre and the African Rhino Specialist Group (AfRSG) of IUCN. In preparing for the meeting, the AfRSG analysed the status and distribution of the northern white rhino as well as the viability of the existing population. The study was based on an estimate of the population of the last rhino – four individuals, comprising two males and two females – in Garamba National Park (GNP). The results of the scientific simulations show that the only chance of survival for the sub-species would be the guarantee of total protection for at least 50 years and that no additional individual is lost during this period, concluding that the Northern white rhino is in imminent danger of extinction. The loss of one single additional animal would be catastrophic. However, the chance of survival of the population would increase significantly if one or two additional females were to be introduced. The possibility of approaching the Czech Republic, the only country possessing two young females in captivity, has been evoked.
Based on data prepared by the AfRSG, the workshop experts discussed the different options to preserve the last rhinoceros of the property and concluded that only the capture and transfer to an appropriate and secure place, beyond the Congolese borders of the last rhinos presented sufficient guarantee to perpetuate this sub-species. The possibility of obtaining cross-breeding with the two females of the Dvur Kralove Zoo (Czech Republic) could much improve the chances of survival of the sub-species. This conclusion was supported by the experts and the ICCN General Directorate.
The recommendations of the workshop were communicated by ICCN to the Presidency of the Republic of the DRC in order to obtain authorization to relocate the rhinoceros beyond the borders of the DRC. In a letter dated February 2008, the Presidency acknowledged the need to deploy urgent safeguarding measures but indicated the wish for the relocation of the last rhino to be within the Congolese territory. The transfer beyond the national frontiers should only be envisaged in the event of a failure of all other alternatives. It requested ICCN to send a report substantiating the lack of serious alternatives to transfer beyond the Congolese frontiers. The report was transmitted to the Presidency last March.
The State Party has, furthermore, continued its efforts to implement an emergency plan to regain control of the property and implement the corrective measures. Unfortunately, security conditions continue to hinder these efforts. Occupation of the northern part of the Azande hunting area by Ugandan rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the presence of the Mbororo in its periphery, raise serious problems. Moreover, skirmishes between Park staff and armed groups are regularly reported. Nevertheless, the implementation of the corrective measures has progressed:
a) Ensure the protection of the border between the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Sudan within and adjacent to the property ;
Armed groups continue to circulate between Sudan and the DRC. The constant presence of Ugandan rebels of the LRA continues to render the region insecure. A peace agreement is still being negotiated between the LRA and Uganda, but these efforts have brought no results so far.
As was mentioned in the report on the Okapi Wildlife Reserve, the World Heritage Centre is in contact with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) concerning the organization, at the beginning of 2009, of a training programme on illicit traffic of fauna for the staff of some frontier posts.
b) Improve the efficiency of the military brigade posted around the property to secure the Park and adjacent hunting areas by replacing the current brigade by a brigade that went through the reunification and retraining programme and by ensuring they are adequately equipped ;
As was mentioned in the 2007 report, the military brigade stationed around the property was withdrawn following serious incidents involving some members of this brigade. ICCN has also contacted the military authorities for the evacuation of the military from the Park.
c) Undertake, in cooperation with the MONUC (United Nations Organization Mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo), a disarmament campaign within the communities living around the property, whilst at the same time improving the security situation in the region ;
Little progress has been accomplished in the implementation of this recommendation. However, the dismantlement of an artisanal arms manufacture in the hunting area of Gangala Na Bodio deserves mention.
A MONUC brigade is now stationed at Dungu. It will no doubt facilitate the disarmament campaigns. Just such a campaign was carried out on the occasion of the visit of the Governor to the property.
d) Reinforce cooperation with the Government of Sudan to better control incursions of armed groups into the DRC and the property ;
ICCN and the park authorities initiated discussions with their Sudanese counterparts with the objective of establishing a basis for transboundary cooperation between the two countries to strengthen the means of combating poaching originating from Sudan. Contacts with Sudan were facilitated by two NGOs : the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
e) Ensure that the ICCN guard force is properly equipped and, in particular, has adequate arms and ammunication ;
Since the last session of the Committee, equipment has been acquired for the Congolese army (FARDC). Moreover, APF has procured outfits and bivouac equipment that will allow the guards to work in optimal conditions for a period of at least three years.
f) Take urgent measures to reinforce and reinvigorate the Garamba Park guard force ; and
g) Continue and strengthen anti-poaching efforts, in particular in the southern sector of the Park where the presence of northern white rhino was confirmed by the 2006 survey ;
Despite a reduced number of men physically adapted to carry out patrols, a high level of presence was able to be maintained in the Park. An average of 1,500 man/day patrols per month was carried out. Following the retirement of 37 guards, a recruitment plan and a training programme were developed to strengthen the surveillance team, with an additional number of 50 to 60 guards. Recruitment began end-December 2007 and training began end-January 2008. Guards were also trained in intelligence techniques. Numerous intelligence missions are carried out regularly, including outside of the Park, to identify poaching threats. These missions assist in strengthening cooperation with the political and administrative authorities and in due course obtain information on poachers as well as other illegal activities. These missions have led to 27 arrests of poachers in 2007. The Park is also subject to constant aerial surveillance and a new ULM aircraft was purchased for surveillance purposes.
h) Strengthen efforts to improve relations with local communities surrounding the Park, particularly through developing and implementing a community conservation progamme ;
An updated agreement was signed between the custodian authorities and the Park authorities in July 2007, foreseeing financial support for the development of projects proposed by local associations in exchange for a commitment to support Park activities through awareness raising activities regarding conservation for the local population, and to provide monthly circumstantial reports on the state of the fauna, flora and anti-poaching activities in their respective areas.
The establishment of 17 Local Committees for Conservation and Development (LCCD) has also facilitated and strengthened cooperation between the Park and neighbouring populations. Thanks to this mechanism, the Park authorities manage to obtain crucial information on the movement of poachers.
The community conservation project prepared by the World Heritage Centre and the NGO Fauna and Flora International (FFI), with Italian funding, began to implement the conservation strategy developed for the property with UNESCO support, and which has already re-energized the work of the community conservation team present at the Park since 2006. Awareness raising missions were organised and the LCCD was trained to develop proposals for micro-projects to respond to the needs of the communities.
Local communities were also associated with the work in determining the Park boundaries and the hunting areas.
i) Reinstate detailed monitoring of the rhino population in the property through a specialized monitoring team, building on the know-how available in ICCN and AfRSG ;
The Research and Monitoring Unit presented a report on its activities during the September workshop. Despite important research efforts on the ground, with land and aerial inventories, no rhino were sighted since 2006. A new land and aerial inventory is ongoing with the participation of one of the best rhino trackers in the world. The results should be available before the 32nd session.
j) Establish a trust fund for the rehabilitation of the DRC World Heritage properties ;
A trust fund for the DRC protected areas is being established and is presented in the general report on the state of conservation of DRC properties (Document WHC-08/32.COM/7A).