Democratic Republic of Congo’s World Heritage Sites: Virunga, Salonga, Garamba, Kahuzi-Biega and Okapi

The Democratic Republic of Congo is the only country in Africa with five natural sites on the World Heritage List.
More than twenty years ago, the DR-Congo decided to inscribe the sites of theVirunga, Garamba, Kahuzi-Biega, Salonga and Okapi National Wildlife Areas on the World Heritage List in danger.

Virunga National Park
Stretching over 790,000 ha, the Virunga Park offers an unparalleled diversity of habitats, ranging from swamps and steppes to the eternal snows of Rwenzori, at more than 5,000 m altitude, through the plains of lava and savanna on the slopes of volcanoes. Some 20,000 hippopotamuses frequent its rivers, the mountain gorilla finds refuge, and birds from Siberia come to spend the winter there.

Outstanding universal value
The Virunga National Park is distinguished by its chain of active volcanoes and the richness of its habitat diversity that surpasses that of any other African Park, with its range of steppes, savannas and lava plains, swamps, lowlands and forest belts. Afromontane to its unique Afro-alpine vegetation and to the icefields of the Rwenzori Mountains whose peaks peak at more than 5,000 m. The site includes the spectacular Rwenzori and Virunga mountains, home to Africa’s two most active volcanoes. The great diversity of habitats has resulted in exceptional biodiversity, including endemic species and rare and globally threatened species such as the mountain gorilla.

Kahuzi-Biega National park
Straddling the Albertine Rift and the Congo Basin, Kahuzi-Biega National Park is an exceptional habitat for the protection of the rainforest and eastern lowland gorillas, Gorilla berengei graueri. Covering 600 000 ha, there are dense lowland tropical moist forests as well as Afro-montane forests mixed with bamboo forests and some small areas of subalpine meadows and heather on the Kahuzi (3 308 m) and Biega mountains. (2,790 m).

Outstanding universal value
The park is home to an exceptionally diverse flora and fauna that makes it one of the most important sites in the Albertine Rift Valley, itself one of the richest ecologically rich regions in Africa and globally. In particular, the world’s largest population of eastern lowland gorillas (or Grauer), an endemic subspecies of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), ranked in the Endangered category on the IUCN Red List, uses the mosaic of habitats found in the property.

Garamba National Park
Comprising huge savannas, grassy or wooded, interspersed with gallery forests along rivers and marshy depressions, the park is home to four of the largest mammals: the elephant, the giraffe, the hippopotamus and especially the white rhino, harmless and much larger than the black rhinoceros, of which only about thirty individuals remain.

Outstanding universal value
Comprising vast grassy or wooded savannahs interspersed with gallery forests and swampy depressions, Garamba National Park is located in the north-east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in the transition zone between the dense rainforests of the Congo Basin and the Guineo-Sudanian savannas. It is home to the world’s last population of the northern white rhino, an endemic subspecies of Congolese giraffe, and an elephant population that mixes forest elephants, savanna elephants, and individuals with morphological features common to both subspecies. It is also characterized by an exceptionally high biomass of large herbivores thanks to the plant productivity of the environment. Covering 490 000 ha and surrounded by 752 700 ha of three hunting grounds that contribute to effective protection of the property against threats from the surrounding area, this property is an exceptional sanctuary for its unusual mix of spectacular large wildlife.

Salonga National Park
In the heart of the central basin of the Congo River, this park is the largest reserve of tropical rainforest, very isolated and accessible only by water. It is home to several endemic endangered species, such as the dwarf chimpanzee, the Congo peacock, the forest elephant and the African gharial, or “fake crocodile”.

Outstanding universal value
At the heart of the central basin of the Congo River, the Salonga National Park is the largest protected area of ​​dense humid forest on the African continent (when taking into account the two disjoint sections of the park). Highly isolated and accessible only by water, this vast park (3,600,000 ha) is home to the evolution of important species and communities of species in a forest area that is still relatively intact. Also playing a fundamental role in climate regulation and carbon sequestration, it is home to many endangered species such as the dwarf chimpanzee (or bonobo), the forest elephant and the Congo peacock.

The Okapi Wildlife Reserve
The Okapi Wildlife Reserve occupies about one-fifth of the Ituri forest in the north-east of the country. The Congo River Basin, whose reserve and forest are part of it, is one of the largest drainage systems in Africa. The wildlife reserve is home to endangered species of primates and birds and about 5000 okapis, out of 30,000 living in the wild. The reserve also has exceptional scenic sites, including falls on Ituri and Epulu. It is inhabited by traditional nomadic populations of Pygmies Mbuti and Efe hunters.

Outstanding universal value
The Okapi Wildlife Reserve has an exceptionally diverse flora and is home to many endemic and endangered species, including 1 / 6th of the existing okapi population. The Reserve protects 1 / 5th of the Ituri forest, a Pleistocene refuge dominated by a dense evergreen forest of “Mbau” and a semi-evergreen moist forest that intertwines with swampy forests that grow along the riverbanks. water, with glades locally called “edos” and inselbergs.

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