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Virunga National Park

Democratic Republic of the Congo
Factors affecting the property in 1994*
  • Civil unrest
  • Financial resources
  • Fishing/collecting aquatic resources
  • Identity, social cohesion, changes in local population and community
  • Illegal activities
  • Land conversion
  • Mining
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Political uncertainties,
  • New settlements in the Park,
  • Gold mining,
  • Livestock grazing,
  • Destruction of vegetation,
  • Poaching,
  • Agricultural encroachment,
  • Over-exploitation of fish populations,
  • Lack of financial resources
International Assistance: requests for the property until 1994
Requests approved: 7 (from 1980-1994)
Total amount approved : 177,160 USD
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 1994

Kahuzi Biega National Park, inscribed on the World Heritage List under criterion (iv) in 1980, and Virunga National Park, inscribed under criteria (ii)(iii)(iv) in 1979, both contain the last population of mountain gorillas.

Due to the tragic events in Rwanda, both parks are under threat given the massive arrival of refugees from Rwanda. On 31 August 1994 the World Heritage Centre was informed that a UNHCR refugees camp for 50,000 people was going to be established near a three-kilometre strip of the Kahuzi-Biega National Park near Ihembe. The World Heritage Centre contacted immediately the UNHCR (Geneva), the Director of IZCN, Mr. Mankoto Ma Mbaelele, (Kinshasa), who was carrying out monitoring missions at World Heritage sites in Zaire, and a bilateral project by the GTZ (Germany). The Centre obtained relocation of the camp near Uvira which took the pressure from the site.

However, in spite of the relocation of the camp, the entire region and particularly Virunga National Park, situated at the border between Rwanda and Uganda has been destabilized by the uncontrolled arrival of refugees causing deforestation and poaching at the sites. In order to assist Zaire in this critical state and to help stabilize the situation, the Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee approved a total of US$ 50,000 emergency assistance for both sites, Kahuzi-Biega National Park and Virunga National Park. With the relocation of the camp, the Kahuzi-Biega World Heritage site seems to be less threatened, whereas the situation at Virunga National Park remains very critical.

Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 1994

The Committee is requested to examine the report to be presented by IUCN and to consider then if any action should be taken.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 1994
SOC: Virunga National Park (Zaire)

Virunga National Park (Zaire)

The Committee recalled that at its last session it was deeply concerned about the civil unrest in Zaire which led to donors (EEC and USAID) suspending their support to this site. Many Park staff had not been remunerated for almost a year. Despite the fact the Bureau granted emergency assistance of US$ 20,000 to meet costs of field operations, poaching of wildlife has continued and the capability of staff to patrol the 650 km long boundary of the Park remains far below desirable levels. Human population in the fishing village near Lake Idi Amin has grown several fold and pose a serious threat to the integrity of the Park. Since July 1994, the threats to the Park have exacerbated several fold by the influx of almost 1 million refugees, fleeing the war in Rwanda, adjacent to the southern parts of the Park. The fuelwood demand of the refugees camped inside the Park, estimated at 600 metric tons/day, is leading to widespread depletion of forests in the lowlands; the Mountain Gorilla and its habitats at higher elevations, fortunately, have not been impacted so far.

The Committee was informed by the Representative of IUCN that the Director of the Zairois Institute for the Conservation of Nature has verbally indicated his agreement to IUCN's suggestion of placing this site in the List of World Heritage in Danger. Accordingly, the Committee included Virunga National Park in the List of World Heritage in Danger. The Committee recognized that a major effort over the next decade will be needed to rehabilitate and strengthen management of Virunga and obtain local support for its conservation. Furthermore, the Committee requested the Centre to communicate its decision to UNHCR and other agencies involved in the management of refugee camps in and around Virunga and express its concern over depletion of forest resources in the Park, stressing that utmost care be taken to avoid establishment of refugee camps in or near national parks. The Committee also asked the Centre to inform the Government of Zaire of its willingness to co-operate with IUCN as well as WWF, World Bank, UNDP, UNHCR and GTZ and provide technical cooperation and training assistance to address threats to the integrity of Virunga.

Inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger: Virunga National Park (Zaire)

Virunga National Park


During its examination of monitoring reports, the Committee noted the serious threats to Virunga National Park arising from the Rwandan refugee immigration. Accordingly, the Committee agreed to place Virunga National Park on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

No draft Decision

Report year: 1994
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Date of Inscription: 1979
Category: Natural
Criteria: (vii)(viii)(x)
Danger List (dates): 1994-present
Documents examined by the Committee
arrow_circle_right 18COM (1994)

* : The threats indicated are listed in alphabetical order; their order does not constitute a classification according to the importance of their impact on the property.
Furthermore, they are presented irrespective of the type of threat faced by the property, i.e. with specific and proven imminent danger (“ascertained danger”) or with threats which could have deleterious effects on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (“potential danger”).

** : All mission reports are not always available electronically.