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Virunga National Park

Democratic Republic of the Congo
Factors affecting the property in 2019*
  • Civil unrest
  • Illegal activities
  • Land conversion
  • Livestock farming / grazing of domesticated animals
  • Oil and gas
  • War
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Armed conflict, lack of security and political instability
  • Attribution of a petroleum exploration permit inside the property
  • Poaching by the army (issue resolved) and armed groups
  • Encroachment
  • Extension of illegal fishing areas
  • Deforestation, charcoal production and cattle grazing
Threats for which the property was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger
  • Increased poaching of wildlife
  • Incapability of staff to patrol the 650 km long boundary of the Park
  • Massive influx of 1 million refugees occupying adjacent parts of the Park
  • Widespread depletion of forests in the lowlands
Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger
Corrective Measures for the property
Revised in 2014, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/5979
Updated in 2018, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/7224 
Timeframe for the implementation of the corrective measures
UNESCO Extra-Budgetary Funds until 2019

Total amount granted: USD 1,802,300 from the United Nations Foundation and the Governments of Italy, Belgium and Spain as well as the Rapid Response Facility (RRF)

International Assistance: requests for the property until 2019
Requests approved: 10 (from 1980-2005)
Total amount approved : 253,560 USD
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2019

On 15 March 2019, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation available at: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/63/documents, containing the following information:

  • Cooperation between the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN) and the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) has been strengthened;
  • The total strength of the eco-guards numbers 748, with support from 300 civilians ;
  • The area covered by ground patrols has doubled in comparison to 2017 (from 30.5% to 63%) contributing to a reduction in the surface of the occupied property of 1.5% (from 20.9% to 19.4%). Furthermore, the ICCN is increasing development projects to respond to the needs of the communities;
  • The ICCN has issued 844 reports of offenses, but only 14 resulted in judicial convictions despite strong judicial follow-up;
  • Around 3,000 armed elements operate in the property, especially in the northern and southern sectors, as well as around Lake Edward. ICCN has deployed patrol efforts along the ecological corridor between the northern part of Lake Edward and the Queen Elizabeth National Park, in Uganda, to protect wildlife and limit new incursions. The guards have recovered the northern zone around Mont Tshiabirimu;
  • The illegal exploitation of charcoal continues and the resulting income from this traffic is estimated at 35 million Dollar/year. Operations have been carried out to combat illegal wood exploitation, which have resulted in the seizure of 115 ovens (of the 24 identified) and the seizure of 445 sacks of charcoal. The Park continues the construction of hydroelectric plants to respond to the energy needs of the populations;
  • Non-sustainable fishing practices and the poaching of hippopotamuses has increased around Lake Edward. The establishment of a new maritime command centre and a new governance convention for fishing are foreseen to mitigate these threats;
  • Inventories carried out in the property in 2017 and 2018 indicate that poaching continues in all the sectors. 285 elephants, 20 to 30 lions, roughly 1,500 hippopotamuses (a 16% reduction) and 286 mountain gorillas were inventoried;
  • No oil exploitation has been reported;
  • Tourism activities will be recommenced in 2019, following last year’s tragic attack.

During a meeting with the World Heritage Centre in July 2018, ICCN confirmed the establishment of an Interministerial Commission with a view to studying the possibility of modifying the boundaries of the protected areas to authorize extractive activities. 

Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2019

Due to the presence of armed groups, security remains a major concern because it threatens the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property and its integrity through the illegal exploitation of the natural resources and poaching. This situation has once again led to the loss of 9 guards and a driver in 2018. It is recommended that the Committee address its sincere condolences to the families of the guards.

Despite this difficult context, surveillance activities have continued to be carried out thanks to the increase in the number of guards, the strengthening of collaboration with the FARDC, and efforts in management and law enforcement. It is encouraging to note a significant increase in the zones covered by the patrols in 2018.  However, it is important to recall, as in the earlier report, that the evacuation of the rebel groups and the re-establishment of law are conditions sine qua none to ensure adequate surveillance of the property and fully protect its OUV.

It is also encouraging that deployment operations have resulted in the recovery of the Mont Tshiabirimu zone, the only zone with a Grauer gorilla population. However, the illegal occupation of a fifth of the area of the Park remains an important concern that threatens its integrity. It is imperative to envisage a strategy to halt the encroachments as well as anticipating the recovery of the earlier-invaded zones in the western part of Lake Edward and Kirolirwe. The implementation of such a strategy requires a clear political will at the local, national and regional levels.

These invasions are, among others, caused by over-population problems and poverty following years of crisis and conflicts. The implementation of the Alliance Virunga activities for the economic and social development of north Kivu to reduce poverty and respond to energy needs of the local populations of the property could contribute to the implementation of this strategy.

While noting the renewal of unsustainable fishing practices and poaching of hippopotamuses around Lake Edward, the establishment of a new maritime command centre and a new governance fishing convention to respond to these threats is welcomed.

The results of the biological inventories that were carried out in 2018 show that poaching continues causing serious impacts on the elephant and hippopotamus populations. Only the gorilla population displays an increase of nearly 100 individuals in comparison to the 2010 census. The State Party should be congratulated for its efforts to protect this species and its habitat, even during the security crisis.

The State Party notes that no petroleum activities have been observed in 2018. Nevertheless, the possibility of carrying out petroleum exploration activities is still current in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (cf. report on Salonga National Park). The establishment by the former government of an Interministerial Commission to study the possibility to modify the boundaries of the protected areas to authorize extractive activities is very worrying. Given that a new Government is not yet in place, the mandate of this Commission remains unclear. For all these reasons, it is also recommended that the Committee reiterate its position according to which petroleum exploration and exploitation are incompatible with World Heritage status.

It is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to prepare biological indicators for the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR) as the main results of the wildlife inventories are available, and to submit them as soon as possible to the World Heritage Centre.

It is also recommended to the Committee to maintain the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger and to continue the application of the Reinforced Monitoring Mechanism.   

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2019
43 COM 7A.11
Virunga National Park (Democratic Republic of the Congo) (N 63)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/19/43.COM/7A.Add,
  2. Recalling Decision 42 COM 7A.51, adopted at its 42nd session (Manama, 2018),
  3. Addresses its most sincere condolences to the families of the guards killed in the line of duty and to all the staff of the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN);
  4. Commends the management efforts of the ICCN to strengthen surveillance and ecological monitoring, in particular through the increase in the number of guards, the improvement in collaboration with the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) that has resulted in the control of Mont Tshiabirimu and an increase of nearly 50% in the areas covered by surveillance in comparison to 2017;
  5. Expresses its keen concern as regards continuing insecurity and notably the presence of 3,000 armed elements that operate in the property, rendering management operations very difficult and leading to incessant illegal activities (poaching, illegal fishing and production of charcoal) while endangering the life of the surveillance staff of the Park;
  6. Again expresses its concern in the face of serious threats that weigh on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property, in particular the encroachment of illegal plantations in nearly 20% of the Park, illegal fishing, the exploitation of wood and poaching;
  7. Requests the State Party to continue its efforts to implement the corrective measures updated by the 2018 reactive monitoring mission and encourages it to continue the implementation of the sustainable development activities established in the framework of the Alliance Virunga;
  8. Notes that a clear political will at the local, national and regional levels is necessary to resolve the encroachment issues of the property and urges the State Party to develop, in consultation with all the stakeholders, a strategy to halt encroachment and take measures to recover the invaded areas;
  9. Also requests the State Party to submit the results of the inventories of the flagship species to the World Heritage Centre for review by IUCN and to define the biological indicators for the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR), in cooperation with the World Heritage Centre and IUCN;
  10. Expresses its deepest concern regarding the establishment of an Interministerial Commission to study a possible modification of the boundaries of the protected areas with a view to authorizing extractive activities, and recalls again its position according to which all mining, petroleum and gas exploration and exploitation is incompatible with World Heritage status, a policy supported by the commitments undertaken by the leaders of the industry, such as Shell and Total, not to engage in such activities in World Heritage properties;
  11. Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2020, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 44th session in 2020;
  12. Decides to continue the application of the Reinforced Monitoring Mechanism;
  13. Also decides to retain Virunga National Park (Democratic Republic of the Congo) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
43 COM 8C.2
Update of the List of World Heritage in Danger (Retained Properties)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined the state of conservation reports of properties inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger (WHC/19/43.COM/7A, WHC/19/43.COM/7A.Add, WHC/19/43.COM/7A.Add.2, WHC/19/43.COM/7A.Add.3 and WHC/19/43.COM/7A.Add.3.Corr),
  2. Decides to retain the following properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger:
  • Afghanistan, Cultural Landscape and Archaeological Remains of the Bamiyan Valley (Decision 43 COM 7A.41)
  • Afghanistan, Minaret and Archaeological Remains of Jam (Decision43 COM 7A.42)
  • Austria, Historic Centre of Vienna (Decision 43 COM 7A.45)
  • Bolivia (Plurinational State of), City of Potosí (Decision 43 COM 7A.48)
  • Central African Republic, Manovo-Gounda St Floris National Park (Decision 43 COM 7A.5)
  • Côte d'Ivoire / Guinea, Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve (Decision 43 COM 7A.6)
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo, Garamba National Park (Decision 43 COM 7A.7)
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kahuzi-Biega National Park (Decision 43 COM 7A.8)
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo, Okapi Wildlife Reserve (Decision 43 COM 7A.9)
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo, Salonga National Park (Decision 43 COM 7A.10)
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo, Virunga National Park (Decision 43 COM 7A.11)
  • Egypt, Abu Mena (Decision 43 COM 7A.17)
  • Honduras, Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve (Decision 43 COM 7A.4)
  • Indonesia, Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra (Decision 43 COM 7A.1)
  • Iraq, Ashur (Qal'at Sherqat) (Decision 43 COM 7A.18)
  • Iraq, Hatra (Decision 43 COM 7A.19)
  • Iraq, Samarra Archaeological City (Decision 43 COM 7A.20)
  • Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls (site proposed by Jordan) (Decision 43 COM 7A.22)
  • Kenya, Lake Turkana National Parks (Decision 43 COM 7A.12)
  • Libya, Archaeological Site of Cyrene (Decision 43 COM 7A.23)
  • Libya, Archaeological Site of Leptis Magna (Decision 43 COM 7A.24)
  • Libya, Archaeological Site of Sabratha (Decision 43 COM 7A.25)
  • Libya, Old Town of Ghadamès (Decision 43 COM 7A.26)
  • Libya, Rock-Art Sites of Tadrart Acacus (Decision 43 COM 7A.27)
  • Madagascar, Rainforests of the Atsinanana (Decision 43 COM 7A.13)
  • Mali, Old Towns of Djenné (Decision 43 COM 7A.53)
  • Mali, Timbuktu (Decision 43 COM 7A.54)
  • Mali, Tomb of Askia (Decision 43 COM 7A.55)
  • Micronesia (Federated States of), Nan Madol: Ceremonial Centre of Eastern Micronesia (Decision 43 COM 7A.43)
  • Niger, Aïr and Ténéré Natural Reserves (Decision 43 COM 7A.14)
  • Palestine, Palestine: Land of Olives and Vines – Cultural Landscape of Southern Jerusalem, Battir (Decision 43 COM 7A.30)
  • Palestine, Hebron/Al-Khalil Old Town (Decision 43 COM 7A.29)
  • Panama, Fortifications on the Caribbean Side of Panama: Portobelo-San Lorenzo (Decision 43 COM 7A.50)
  • Peru, Chan Chan Archaelogical Zone (Decision 43 COM 7A.51)
  • Senegal, Niokolo-Koba National Park (Decision 43 COM 7A.15)
  • Serbia, Medieval Monuments in Kosovo (Decision 43 COM 7A.46)
  • Solomon Islands, East Rennell (Decision 43 COM 7A.2)
  • Syrian Arab Republic, Ancient City of Aleppo (Decision 43 COM 7A.31)
  • Syrian Arab Republic, Ancient City of Bosra (Decision 43 COM 7A.32)
  • Syrian Arab Republic, Ancient City of Damascus (Decision 43 COM 7A.33)
  • Syrian Arab Republic, Ancient Villages of Northern Syria (Decision 43 COM 7A.34)
  • Syrian Arab Republic, Crac des Chevaliers and Qal’at Salah El-Din (Decision 43 COM 7A.35)
  • Syrian Arab Republic, Site of Palmyra (Decision 43 COM 7A.36)
  • Uganda, Tombs of Buganda Kings at Kasubi (Decision 43 COM 7A.56)
  • United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Liverpool – Maritime Mercantile City (Decision 43 COM 7A.47)
  • United Republic of Tanzania, Selous Game Reserve (Decision 43 COM 7A.16)
  • United States of America, Everglades National Park (Decision 43 COM 7A.3)
  • Uzbekistan, Historic Centre of Shakhrisyabz (Decision 43 COM 7A.44)
  • Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), Coro and its Port (Decision 43 COM 7A.52)
  • Yemen, Historic Town of Zabid (Decision 43 COM 7A.38)
  • Yemen, Old City of Sana’a (Decision 43 COM 7A.39)
  • Yemen, Old Walled City of Shibam (Decision 43 COM 7A.40)
Draft Decision: 43 COM 7A.11

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/19/43.COM/7A.Add,
  2. Recalling Decision 42 COM 7A.51, adopted at its 42nd session (Manama, 2018),
  3. Addresses its most sincere condolences to the families of the guards killed in the line of duty and to all the staff of the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN);
  4. Commends the management efforts of the ICCN to strengthen surveillance and ecological monitoring, in particular through the increase in the number of guards, the improvement in collaboration with the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) that has resulted in the control of Mont Tshiabirimu and an increase of nearly 50% in the areas covered by surveillance in comparison to 2017;
  5. Expresses its keen concern as regards continuing insecurity and notably the presence of 3,000 armed elements that operate in the property, rendering management operations very difficult and leading to incessant illegal activities (poaching, illegal fishing and production of charcoal) while endangering the life of the surveillance staff of the Park;
  6. Again expresses its concern in the face of serious threats that weigh on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property, in particular the encroachment of illegal plantations in nearly 20% of the Park, illegal fishing, the exploitation of wood and poaching;
  7. Requests the State Party to continue its efforts to implement the corrective measures updated by the 2018 reactive monitoring mission and encourages it to continue the implementation of the sustainable development activities established in the framework of the Alliance Virunga;
  8. Notes that a clear political will at the local, national and regional levels is necessary to resolve the encroachment issues of the property and urges the State Party to develop, in consultation with all the stakeholders, a strategy to halt encroachment and take measures to recover the invaded areas;
  9. Also requests the State Party to submit the results of the inventories of the flagship species to the World Heritage Centre for review by IUCN and to define the biological indicators for the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR), in cooperation with the World Heritage Centre and IUCN;
  10. Expresses its deepest concern regarding the establishment of an Interministerial Commission to study a possible modification of the boundaries of the protected areas with a view to authorizing extractive activities, and recalls again its position according to which all mining, petroleum and gas exploration and exploitation is incompatible with World Heritage status, a policy supported by the commitments undertaken by the leaders of the industry, such as Shell and Total, not to engage in such activities in World Heritage properties;
  11. Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2020, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 44th session in 2020;
  12. Decides to continue the application of the Reinforced Monitoring Mechanism;
  13. Also decides to retain Virunga National Park (Democratic Republic of the Congo) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
Report year: 2019
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
SOC Report by the State Party
Report (2019) .pdf
arrow_circle_right 43COM (2019)
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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