VII.13 Virunga National Park (Democratic Republic of the Congo)
IUCN provided a detailed report, including a map showing locations of major areas of armed conflict, refugee camps and rebel activity in relation to Virunga and three other World Heritage sites in the eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The situation in and around Virunga is unstable with militia groups threatening human population and wildlife. Aerial census of wildlife has not been undertaken since 1995; there are frequent reports of deforestation, poaching and illegal gold mining in the Park. Many automatic weapons left behind by fleeing soldiers have been claimed by local inhabitants and poachers and greatly endanger the life of the small number of Park personnel attempting to carry out anti-poaching activities. IUCN has listed fourteen recommendations for restoring the Park; however, it has noted that the high-level mission to Kinshasa, recommended by the Bureau at its June 1997 session, to remind the national authorities of their responsibilities under the Convention and determine the policy of the new Government on nature conservation, is the most urgent priority action needed at this time.
The Committee decided to retain Virunga in the List of World Heritage in Danger and requested the Director-General of UNESCO to send a high-level mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo as soon as possible.