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Okapi Wildlife Reserve

Democratic Republic of the Congo
Factors affecting the property in 1997*
  • Illegal activities
  • Mining
  • War
International Assistance: requests for the property until 1997
Requests approved: 1 (from 1993-1993)
Total amount approved : 3,000 USD
Missions to the property until 1997**
Information presented to the Bureau of the World Heritage Committee in 1997
At its last session in June 1997, the Bureau, noted that equipment and facilities in this site had been looted and wildlife poached. Fortunately, the staff in this site did not suffer any harm, although they had not been receiving any salaries. The Bureau was informed by IUCN that recently an US based conservation foundation has come forward with financial assistance to pay staff salaries. There are reports of illegal gold mining in the Park occupied by militia, and the staff have neither facilities nor resources to manage the Park.

Action Required
In the light of the serious threats to the integrity of these two sites of the Democratic Republic of the Congo which have arisen as a consequence of armed conflict in the eastern parts of the country, the Bureau, at its twenty-first session in June 1997, recommended that the Committee include both Okapi and Kahuzi Biega in the List of World Heritage in Danger and requested UNESCO to undertake a high-level mission to the country. The Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Tourism has invited a high-level UNESCO mission to his country. UNESCO is intending to field such a mission as soon as the security conditions permit. Furthermore, the Minister has submitted an emergency assistance request to the consideration of the Committee for purchasing one field vehicle for each of the four endangered sites of the Democratic Republic of the Congo: i.e. the Okapi Faunal Reserve and the Kahuzi
Biega National Park and the other two sites of Virunga and Garamba National Parks, already included by the Committee in the List of World Heritage in Danger.

The Bureau recommended the Committee to adopt the following:

"Preoccupied by the serious threats and dangers affecting these sites and the urgent measures required, the Committee includes both Okapi Faunal Reserve and the Kahuzi Biega National Park in the List of World Heritage in Danger, and invites the Director-General of UNESCO to write to the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, calling for his direct intervention to enable UNESCO to undertake the proposed high-level mission and plan rehabilitation measures for all World Heritage sites in Danger. The Committee requests UNESCO to field a mission, and invites the Chairperson to lead the mission, to the capital city of Kinshasa for meetings with the high-level authorities, even if visits to sites are deemed impossible due to the prevailing security situation in the eastern parts of the country. In addition, the Committee approves the emergency assistance requested for the purchase of one four-wheel drive vehicle each for Okapi and Kahuzi Biega (as well as for Virunga and Garamba National Parks) and requests the Centre to co-operate with international NGOs in rehabilitating the endangered World Heritage sites of the Democratic Republic of the Congo."
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 1997

The Bureau, at its last session in June 1997, learnt with concern that the military conflict which spread throughout the eastern region of this country led to looting of the facilities in this site and the killing of several elephants. Fortunately the staff and the captive Okapis have escaped unharmed. Only a small number of staff have opted to remain in the site; they have no equipment and receive minimal salaries paid by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and other international conservation agencies. Gold mining within the Reserve has been reported and the new Government's policy with regard to respecting the current boundary of the site remains unclear. IUCN has recommended setting aside US$ 50,000 as emergency assistance for the Okapi Faunal Reserve for purchase of equipment, to be undertaken as soon as security conditions permit.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 1997
21 BUR IV.B.19
Democratic Republic of the Congo

a)   Okapi Faunal Reserve 

The Bureau was deeply concerned to learn that the armed conflict which spread, during early 1997, to the whole of the region has led to the looting of all facilities and killing of several elephants in this site, inscribed on the World Heritage List in Mexico (December, 1996). Most of the expatriate and research staff have fled the Park and those remaining in the site receive only minimum salaries. There are reports of gold mining within the Park and the new Government's policy with regard to respecting the boundaries of the World Heritage area remain unclear.

b)   Kahuzi Biega National Park 

The Bureau noted with grave concern that portions of this Park had been deforested and considerable hunting of wildlife had been reported. Park facilities have been looted and destroyed and most of the Park staff have left the area. The Park may also be serving as a hide-out for militant groups and conflicts between tribal populations in the area have also been reported. Although UNHCR and GTZ (Germany) are considering to provide support for the Park projects cannot be started until the security situation in the area returns to normal.

The Bureau expressed its serious concerns regarding the integrity of Okapi Faunal Reserve and the Kahuzi Biega National Park and recommended that the Committee, at its next session, include these two sites in the List of World Heritage in Danger. The Bureau recalled its recommendation of a high level mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, made with regard to the two sites in this State Party already recognized as World Heritage Sites in Danger (i.e. Garamba and Virunga National Parks) and suggested that such a mission include discussions on the state of conservation of Okapi Faunal Reserve and the Kahuzi Biega National Park as well with a view to initiating projects for their rehabilitation.

21 COM VII.C.33-34
SOC: Okapi Faunal Reserve & Kahuzi Biega National Park (Democratic Republic of the Congo)

VII.33 Okapi Faunal Reserve (Democratic Republic of the Congo)

At its last session in June 1997, the Bureau, noted that equipment and facilities in this site had been looted and wildlife poached. Fortunately, the staff in this site did not suffer any harm although they had not been receiving any salaries. The Bureau was informed by IUCN that recently a US-based conservation foundation has come forward with financial assistance to pay staff salaries. There are reports of illegal gold mining in the Park occupied by the militia, and the staff have neither facilities nor resources to manage the Park.  

VII.34 Kahuzi Biega National Park (Democratic Republic of the Congo)

The Committee recalled the fact that this site has been significantly impacted by the influx of refugees. There are reports of a large presence of militia groups and illegal settlers in the Park which has led to fires, increased poaching, illegal removal and burning of timber. IUCN informed the Bureau at its twenty-first session that it has received several pleas from the staff of the Park for international aid for rebuilding Park infrastructure and staff morale. The Bureau noted that IUCN's monitoring report on this site included fifteen measures for implementation in and around the Park and eight actions for co-operation among international conservation organisations, which together could form a basis for the future rehabilitation of the Park.

In the light of the serious threats to the integrity of these two sites of the Democratic Republic of the Congo which have arisen as a consequence of armed conflict in the eastern parts of the country, the Bureau, at its twenty-first session in June 1997, recommended that the Committee include both Okapi and Kahuzi Biega in the List of World Heritage in Danger and requested UNESCO to undertake a high-level mission to the country. The Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Tourism of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has invited a high-level UNESCO mission to his country. UNESCO is intending to field such a mission as soon as the security conditions permit.

Furthermore, the Minister has submitted an emergency assistance request to the consideration of the Committee for purchasing one field vehicle for each of the four endangered sites of the Democratic Republic of the Congo: i.e. the Okapi Faunal Reserve and the Kahuzi Biega National Park and the other two sites of Virunga and Garamba National Parks, already included by the Committee in the List of World Heritage in Danger. The Committee noted that IUCN's Regional Office for Central Africa is also planning site visits in 1998.

Preoccupied by the serious threats and dangers affecting these sites and the urgent measures required, the Committee included both Okapi Faunal Reserve and the Kahuzi Biega National Park in the List of World Heritage in Danger, and invited the Director-General of UNESCO to write to the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, calling for his direct intervention to enable UNESCO to undertake the proposed high-level mission and plan rehabilitation measures for all World Heritage sites in Danger. The Committee requested UNESCO to field a mission, and invited the Chairperson to lead it, to the capital city of Kinshasa for meetings with the high-level authorities, even if visits to sites are deemed impossible due to the prevailing security situation in the eastern parts of the country. The Committee took note of the emergency assistance requests by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (see Section International Assistance of this Report) and requested the Centre to cooperate with international NGOs in rehabilitating the endangered World Heritage sites of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

21 COM VIII.A.4
Properties included on the List of World Heritage in Danger

VIII.4 The Committee examined the state of conservation reports contained in Working Document WHC-97/CONF.208/8BRev and decided to include the following natural properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger:

- Okapi Faunal Reserve (Democratic Republic of the Congo)

- Kahuzi-Biega National Park (Democratic Republic of the Congo)

- Manovo-Gounda St. Floris National Park (Central African Republic)

The Bureau may wish to transmit the reports on Okapi Faunal Reserve and the Kahuzi Biega National Park to the Committee for examination and recommend the following for adoption:

"The Committee decides to include both Okapi Faunal Reserve and the Kahuzi Biega National Park in the List of World Heritage in Danger and urges the Director-General of UNESCO to field the high-level mission to Kinshasa as soon as possible. The Committee set aside a sum of US$ 50,000 as emergency assistance for Okapi Faunal Reserve to enable the purchase of essential equipment as soon as security conditions allow safe transfer."

Report year: 1997
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Date of Inscription: 1996
Category: Natural
Criteria: (x)
Danger List (dates): 1997-present
Exports

* : 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.


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