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UNESCO Mission rallies support for the preservation of the mountain gorillas of the DRC

Thursday, 23 August 2007
access_time 2 min read

A mission of experts led by UNESCO has rallied the support of the authorities of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) and of local communities in the preservation of the endangered mountain gorillas of Virunga National Park.

The mission, comprising experts from UNESCO and the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and accompanied by a representative of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), was sent to the DRC, 11 to 22 August, to investigate the causes of the recent slaughter of nine gorillas in Virunga National Park and determine ways to help save the 370 odd endangered primates there. The outstanding universal value of the Park, which warranted its inscription on UNESCO's World Heritage List in 1979, is largely due to its rich biodiversity, notably the fact that it is home to the mountain gorilla.

Having heard all the stake holders concerned by the gorillas, both in situ and in the capital of the DRC, the mission will present its findings to the Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee, Christina Cameron (Canada).

In Kinshasa, the mission met the directors of the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN), William Lacy Swing, Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Environment Minister Didace Pembe.

Both Mr Swing and Mr Pembe pledged their support, recognizing the importance of preserving the mountain gorilla and other endangered wildlife because of their importance to biodiversity and because of their potential value for the local economy.

The mission then visited Rumangabo, the base station of the park rangers, and Bukima and its gorilla monitoring centre, and held talks with numerous personnel working with the gorillas and with local communities. The experts also visited the Rugendo gorilla family, in which the recent killings took place as well as the different locations where the dead gorillas were found.

In Goma, the members of the mission met representatives of the different NGOs active in the southern part of Virunga and interviewed them about their perception of recent events, about their cooperation with ICCN and with local communities. They also met military and judicial leaders in the area, as well as community and traditional leaders, including Mwami Ndeze, one of the most important traditional chiefs in the area.

The mission members further met the President of the National Assembly, Vital Kamerhe, who also pledged his support to the mission and quoted the Head of State, Joseph Kabila, who said he was determined to "champion conservation."

During their visits, the members of the mission observed the importance of including local communities in efforts to preserve the gorillas and to let them get their share from income generating activities linked to the presence of wildlife.