1.         Salonga National Park (Democratic Republic of the Congo) (N 280)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1984

Criteria  (vii)(ix)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger    1999-present

Threats for which the property was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger

Previous Committee Decisions  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/280/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1985-2000)
Total amount approved: USD 149,900
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/280/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

First phase of the UNF and Belgium funded programme for the Conservation of the DRC World Heritage properties (“DRC programme”). (2001–2005): approximately USD 320,000 for staff allowances, equipment, community conservation, monitoring and training activities. Current phase (2005-2008): limited funding for the inventory and monitoring component by UNF.

Previous monitoring missions


Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

a) Armed conflict, insecurity and political instability;

b) Poaching by military and armed groups;

c) Conflicts with local communities on the boundaries of the park;

d) Impact of villages included in the property.

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/280/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2007

On February 12, 2007 a succinct report on the state of conservation of the five DRC World Heritage properties was submitted by the State Party. The report provides a short overview of on-going park management activities, but unfortunately does not provide detailed information on the implementation of the corrective measures.

As requested by the Committee at its 30th session, a joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN mission visited the property and held consultations with various authorities and stakeholders in the field and in Kinshasa from 12 February to 10 March 2007. The full report of the mission can be consulted at the following web address https://whc.unesco.org/archive/2007.

The mission concluded that whilst the outstanding universal value of the property has been maintained, the decrease of wildlife populations has reached alarming levels. The property remains the only protected area in DRC conserving the bonobo or pygmy chimpanzee, a great ape species endemic to DRC and genetically the closest relative to man. At present, the bonobo population in the park is estimated at 14800 animals but there are strong indications of a recent increase in poaching pressure. Many of the other wildlife species are under serious pressure. The elephant population is currently estimated at 2000 animals, whilst based on an average density 0.5 elephants / km2, the park could hold a potential population of at least 16,000 animals. The alarming decrease in the populations of large mammals could in the long term affect the ecology and biological structure of the ecosystem and therefore threaten the outstanding universal value of the property.

The mission found that the main threats to the property are illegal poaching and fishing activities for commercial purposes and the presence of villages within the limits of the property.

The mission noted that over the last 2 years, poaching pressure on the park’s wildlife has increased significantly and is now practised on a quasi industrial scale to supply large urban centres with bushmeat, including large cities such as Kinshasa and Kisangani, located several hundreds of kilometres from the property. Members of the military and civilians (both from the local villages and from far away urban centres) are involved in the poaching activities and bushmeat trade, which is facilitated by the breakdown of law and order, the wide availability of weapons and ammunition as a result of the war as well as the limited management capacity of the park authority ICCN and the weakness of local institutions. The economic collapse of the region, with a complete breakdown in trading routes for agricultural produce and rampant poverty has further pushed large numbers of people into the bushmeat trade, considered together with fishing as one of the few viable economic activities. A study by the Wildlife Conservation Society estimated that 18,000 tons of bushmeat are extracted annually from the property. In spite of the immensity of Salonga (which is larger than Belgium), its apparent inaccessibility and low population densities, signs of human activity and poaching are found throughout the park. Access is facilitated by the large navigable rivers running through the park, but an extensive network of footpaths also exists. Bushmeat is being transported to urban centres on foot, by dugout canoe or bicycle for distances of up to 1000 km, as selling prices in the cities are 4 to 10 times higher than in the local villages. Whilst so far, commercial hunting has been primarily targeting elephants as well as large ungulates and small primates, there are indications that as a result of a rarefaction of these animals, smaller primates and even bonobos are increasingly targeted.

Fishing is also widely practiced in the park. While illegal, this activity has been tolerated and even taxed by ICCN for a long time. Even if the impact of commercial fishing activities on the integrity of the property is probably less important than the large scale hunting, the uncontrolled access of fishermen is severely handicapping the possibilities of ICCN to control illegal activities in the park.

Nine villages are situated within the boundaries of the property. In the northern sector of the park, a religious sect inhabits a large village called Kitawala. Its population is estimated between 3000 and 4000 people which are practising hunting and agriculture. Around the village, an area of approximately 15 km2 has been deforested for agriculture. The village was created only in the seventies, around the time of creation of the park. In the southern sector, 8 villages are inhabited by the Iyaelima people. Contrary to Kitawala, these villages predate the creation of the park, as the Iyaelima settled in this region in the 19th century. At the creation of the park and contrary to other villages which existed within its boundaries, the Iyaelima refused to resettle in the area between the northern and southern sector. Around the 8 villages, the deforested area stretches for 1 to 2 km. The presence of these villages is a serious threat to the integrity of the property, mainly as a result of the impact of their uncontrolled activities, in particular from hunting and ‘slash and burn’ agriculture. Their continued presence also creates tensions between ICCN and the villages that were relocated outside the park.

Since its creation, the park has never received the adequate resources to ensure proper management. Park management has been extremely weak. This was previously highlighted by the Committee at the time of inscription of the property on the World Heritage List in, 1984. Only since 2000, the park has received external support, through the UNESCO DRC programme and several NGOs. More recently, this support was increased substantially, in particular through the US-funded Central African Regional Programme for the Environment (CARPE) and a new project supported by the European Commission, both implemented by WWF. However, the vastness of the property, together with the logistical challenges and the insecurity during and after the war and the complexity of the issues involved have limited the ability of these projects to address efficiently the threats to the property. So far, several studies have been conducted to better understand the ecological and socio-economical context, several training sessions were organised for the guards, equipment has been purchased, new anti-poaching strategy developed, and certain measures initiated to start resolving the conflicts with the local communities and improve relations. Nevertheless, significant challenges remain. .

The mission developed a number of recommendations as corrective measures to address the main threats to the property. The implementation of these measures will be a first step towards its rehabilitation and ultimate removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger. However, the mission noted that it will take time to reverse the current degradation and that progress towards the impact of the corrective measures will need to be monitored to adapt them to the rapidly changing situation in the field. The corrective measures proposed by the mission are included in the proposed draft decision.

Finally, it needs to be noted that Salonga is included in the fourth phase of the ECOFAC programme of the European Union, expected to start by the end of 2007. This could bring important additional funds for the conservation of the property and could facilitate the implementation of certain recommendations of the UNESCO/IUCN monitoring mission

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN


Decision Adopted: 31 COM 7A.32

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having evaluated the state of conservation reports of the properties of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) presented in Documents WHC-07/31.COM/7A and WHC-07/31.COM/7A.Add,

2. Calls upon the Director-General of UNESCO and the Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee to convene a meeting with the DRC authorities, together with representatives of the African Union and appropriate sub-regional organizations and the President of IUCN, to discuss progress in addressing the deteriorating state of conservation of the DRC World Heritage properties with the assistance of the World Heritage Fund. In this context, the future role of the UN for preserving the natural and cultural World Heritage properties and Biosphere Reserves of the DRC will be reviewed , including the future role of UNESCO in the "One UN" exercise in the DRC;

3. Requests that a comprehensive approach for all the DRC properties in Danger be adopted by the State Party to take the necessary corrective measures, supported by a phased programme, with the active assistance of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN;

4. Calls upon the international community to support the above mentioned initiative;

5. Decides to recommend the application of the reinforced monitoring mechanism subject to the procedures in Document WHC-07/31.COM/5.2 and Decision 31 COM 5.2 in monitoring the state of conservation of the 5 properties in DRC to assist the State Party in achieving these goals.

Decision Adopted: 31 COM 7A.7

  The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC-07/31.COM/7A.Add,
  2. Recalling Decision 30 COM 7A.5, adopted at its 30th session (Vilnius, 2006),
  3. Expresses its concern about the serious threats to the outstanding universal value and integrity of the property as documented by the 2007 monitoring mission, in particular the large scale poaching of large mammals, illegal fishing and the impact of villages within its boundary; 
  4. Commends the conservation NGO and international donors for their support to the Park authority ICCN which have allowed to gradually put in place a management mechanism for the property;
  5. Urges the State Party to implement immediately the corrective measures identified by the 2007 joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN mission in order to safeguard the outstanding universal value and integrity of the property:

a) Organize urgently a large scale joint operation between ICCN and its conservation partners and the Congolese army (FARDC), in cooperation with MONUC and the National Disarmament Commission (CONADER) to evict the armed poaching gangs from the property, and conduct a disarmement campaign in the villages around the property. This operation should capitalise on the experiences of a similar successful operation in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve.The State Party might want to submit an international assistance request to help fund this urgent operation;

b)  Establish a permanent consultation mechanism between ICCN and the political and military authorities in the 4 provinces covered by the property, in order to address in a coordinated way the illegal activities in the property, in particular the large scale poaching;

c) Implement urgently the anti-poaching strategy developped recently, in particular by reinvigorating park staff and improving their efficiency through specialised training and introducing law enforcement monitoring;

d)  Continue and strengthen the recent efforts to resolve longstanding conflicts with the local communities on the use of the natural resources in the property, using a participatory approach and capitalising on traditional control mechanisms. A clear demarcation of the boundaries of the park will be an important first step;

e)  Develop and implement a strategy to minimize and mitigate the negative impacts of activities associated with villages located within the property;

f)  In the framework of the development of a management plan, establish an ecological corridor between the two sectors of the Park;

g)  Establish a trust fund for the rehabilitation of the DRC World Heritage properties, to which the Government of the DRC committed itself to contribute at the 2004 UNESCO conference on Heritage in Danger in DRC;

6.   Calls on international donors to support the efforts of the State Party to rehabilitate the property;

7.   Requests the State Party, in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and IUCN, to develop a draft Statement of Outstanding Universal Value for the property, including the conditions of integrity, for examination by the Committee at its 32nd session in 2008;

8.   Further requests the State Party, in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and IUCN, to develop a draft statement of the desired state of conservation for the property based on its Outstanding Universal Value;

9.   Also requests the State Party to provide the World Heritage Centre with an updated report by 1 February 2008 on the state of conservation of the property and progress made in the implementation of the corrective measures developed by the 2007 monitoring mission, for examination by the Committee at its 32nd session in 2008;

10.  Decides to retain Salonga National Park (Democratic Republic of the Congo) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.


Decision Adopted: 31 COM 8C.2

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Following the examination of the state of conservation reports of properties inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger (WHC-07/31.COM/7A and WHC-07/31.COM/7A.Add, WHC-07/31.COM/7A.Add.2, WHC-07/31.COM/7A.Add.3),

2. Decides to maintain the following properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger: