From 12 to 23 May 2006, a UNESCO monitoring mission visited the property. The results of the mission were presented orally to the 30th session of the Committee (Vilnius, 2006). The mission identified three immediate threats to values of the property:
a) the on-going large scale poaching of large mammals in particular elephants, with a clear implication of certain members of the armed forces and the police,
b) illegal mining sites for the extraction of gold, diamonds and colombo-tantalium, under the control of traditional chiefs and involving certain elements of the military,
c) the continued immigration from the densely populated highlands of Kivu, with increased settlement in the immediate vicinity of the property and around the road crossing the reserve.
In addition, the mission identified two issues that were expected to impact the property in the near future, in particular:
d) the on-going rehabilitation of the road RN4 crossing the reserve, with potential direct impacts (such as the disturbance of animals by vehicle traffic) and indirect impacts (such as an increase in bush meat and timber trafficking and an increased immigration into the area) and
e) illegal logging and deforestation to the east of the property, but steadily advancing towards the reserve.
f) The mission also developed a series of recommendations, which were endorsed by the Committee as corrective measures (mentioned above). The mission did not propose clear benchmarks and did not propose a time frame for the corrective measures.
During the 2006 monitoring mission, an emergency action plan was developed by ICCN and its conservation partners to support the implementation of certain recommendations of the mission. A 3 year budget of USD 300,000 is made available through the second phase of DRC programme. Main components of the plan are the reinforcement of the immigration control system put in place by the park authorities, sensitisation of local communities, political and military authorities, strengthening law enforcement and surveillance, finalisation of the post-war survey of large mammals and flagship species and regular aerial surveillance of the property and preparatory work for the development of an updated management plan.
On 12 February 2007,a report of the state of conservation of the five DRC World Heritage properties was submitted by the State Party. The report provides a brief overview of on-going park management activities, but unfortunately does not provide detailed information on the implementation of the corrective measures.
As explained in the Virunga report, the implementation of the corrective measures has been hampered by the organisation of the first multiparty elections in DRC. However, progress was achieved towards some of the set corrective measures:
g) Ensure the immediate withdrawal of military personnel of the DRC army involved in poaching, ivory trafficking and illegal mining
With financial assistance from the World Heritage Fund, a large scale joint operation with the military was organised in April-June 2006, to remove poachers from the insecure parts of the reserve. Through the operation, 6 commercial poaching gangs including 3 led by elements of the army were apprehended and their leaders transferred to the judiciary. So far, 2 of the military were condemned by the military tribunal to 3 years imprisonment. An agreement was also reached with the military, not to station any troops inside the Reserve after the operation. Currently, poaching is estimated to be down by 80% and approximately 90% of the Reserve is under control of ICCN.
h) Close down and prevent all illegal mining operations inside the property
During the 2006 operation, 20 mining sites with more than 1000 miners were closed down. A mission of the provincial authorities was conducted in August, confirming to the local authorities the illegality of mining in the property. However, there is a constant pressure from some military and civil authorities to re-open some of the mines. Therefore, it is important to reinforce sensitization on the need to close mines in the property by the newly instated provincial and national governments.
As mentioned in the report on Kahuzi-Biega, a recent map published by the mapping office of the ministry of mines showed that several exploitation permits were granted inside the reserve. Following an intervention by ICCN with the Minister, this issue is currently being studied by a working group set up between ICCN and the ministry.
i) Suspend the rehabilitation works on the RN4 national road crossing the property
During a mission in October 2006, UNESCO urged ICCN to officially request the Ministry of Public Works and the World Bank to suspend the rehabilitation works until a proper impact study was done. Unfortunately, this was only done early March 2007, when works on the section crossing the reserve had already started. UNESCO immediately contacted the World Bank, which dispatched a mission to the Reserve to look into the issue. This mission is on-going at the time of writing of this report. The potential impact of the road rehabilitation is huge. Since the inscription of the property on the World Heritage List, the road is in such a state of disrepair that traffic is very low. A rehabilitation of this major road will increase the extraction of resources from the reserve, including timber in the Ituri Forest and migration pressures within the property and of the Ituri Forest. Whilst the road clearly is important for the development of the region and the country, it is critically important that adequate mitigating measures are identified to reduce the impact on the property.
j) Establish a trust fund for the rehabilitation of the DRC World Heritage properties
See report Virunga National Park.
k) Establish permanent cooperation between the political and military authorities at provincial level, MONUC and ICCN to eliminate illegal activities in and around the property
No permanent cooperation could be set up so far during the election period. However, following the 2006 joint operation with the military, there exist good and sporadic contacts between the reserve authority and the military regional command in Kisangani.
l) In cooperation with the Government of Uganda, stop the illegal trafficking of timber, minerals and ivory across the DRC/Uganda border in north-eastern DRC
As this measure needs to be discussed on a bilateral basis between the Governments of DRC and Uganda, no progress could be made so far.
m) Prepare a forest zoning plan for the forest areas adjacent to the property to protect the property from negative impacts resulting from unsustainable forest exploitation
No progress made so far. Recent reports about the granting of a forest concession to the east of the Reserve demonstrates the urgency of this measure.
n) Legalize and scale up the pilot system put in place by ICCN to regulate and monitor immigration as well as traffic on the RN4 road.
No progress made so far. This measure will be critical to mitigate the impact of the on-going road rehabilitation. However, an adequate control of the road will be a logistical challenge as traffic on the road will increase manifold.
o) Take measures to reinforce and reinvigorate the guard force and to improve their efficiency.
ICCN recently recruited 15 additional guards to ensure surveillance of the areas cleared from poachers and mines by the 2006 operation. Guard training has also been reinforced through the emergency action plan.
As requested by the Committee, the World Heritage Centre contacted the CITES secretariat requesting their assistance in investigating the trading networks and countries of destination of ivory poached in the Reserve and other DRC properties. The secretariat replied that it did not believe it was appropriate for them to undertake an in-country investigation unless requested by the State Party. However, CITES proposed to highlight this issue during the 14th Conference of the Parties (COP14), which will take place in The Hague in June 2007 and suggested to develop a joint capacity building programme for the region.
So far no benchmarks or timeframe were established. UNESCO in cooperation with IUCN is currently discussing with ICCN the development of benchmarks. It is proposed that these benchmarks will be developed at a workshop in the reserve at the end of 2007, when the evaluation of the emergency action plan will be undertaken.
In relation to the mobilisation of funding for the property, Germany is planning to support conservation activities in RFO through a five year support programme for ICCN funded by the German development bank (KfW). The RFO component has a budget of 2.7 Million Euros.