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Only 5 to 10 Northern White Rhinos Left in Wild

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Only 5 to 10 Northern White Rhinos Left in the Wild

Garamba National Park (DRC) might lose its World Heritage status due to inability to stop poaching

Durban, South Africa, 13 July 2005 (IUCN) – The World Heritage Committee is considering removing Garamba National Park from the World Heritage List in 2006 if the Northern White Rhino becomes extinct by then. “No rhino, no World Heritage site” was the echoing comment of the World Heritage Committee meeting yesterday, 12 July 2005, during a long and heated debate about the situation of Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) and UNESCO informed the Committee, at its annual meeting taking place this week in Durban, South Africa, about the imminent threat of extinction of the last population in the wild of the Northern White Rhino due to poaching by highly organised armed gangs. The Committee considered that the loss of the rhino would mean that Garamba would no longer be of ‘outstanding universal value’, the criteria for World Heritage sites, and therefore said that it would consider removing the site from the World Heritage List next year.

The World Conservation Union, as the technical advisory body on natural heritage, advised the Committee to seek a credible survey of the population, but also to evaluate the other important values of the park before taking a decision on delisting.

“The Northern White Rhino is a flagship species for this site and every effort must be made to protect the remaining 5-10 individuals”, commented David Sheppard, Head of the IUCN delegation in Durban, “but important populations of elephant and the endemic Congo giraffe are also present here and the IUCN mission proposed to visit the site later this year will seek to evaluate the overall situation.”

The Committee requested that the Congolese implement the advice given by the IUCN Rhino Specialist Group to translocate a number of animals to safety in Kenya. Some delegates argued for greater in-situ protection with the support of armed forces and high level intervention from the international community.

The World Heritage Committee discussed the state of conservation of the 16 natural World Heritage properties currently included on the list of ‘World Heritage in Danger’. It confirmed that properties in the Central African Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, the DRC, Ethiopia, Guinea, Honduras, India, Niger, Senegal, Tunisia, and the United States should remain on the Danger List. Great concern was expressed about the continued problems at sites, particularly in the Côte d’Ivoire, DRC and Central African Republic due to armed conflict and poaching, resulting not only in severe damage to wildlife, but also the tragic loss of life of Park rangers.

On a more positive note, Sangay National Park of Ecuador was removed from the List of World Heritage in Danger, following a unanimous decision by the World Heritage Committee. The IUCN monitoring mission to the site in February 2005 found that the conservation status of the site had improved significantly, with a reduction in illegal hunting and grazing, greater involvement of all stakeholders and the upholding of rigorous international environmental standards regarding the construction of the Guamote-Macas road, which runs partly through the Park.

Moreover, the management effectiveness and sustainable financing of Sangay National Park has improved, thanks to the Enhancing our Heritage project implemented at this site by IUCN, and supported by UNESCO and the United Nations Foundation (UNF), in collaboration with the Ecuadorian Government. “This is a great success story for Ecuador and the Committee”, said Miguel Pellerano, Director of IUCN’s Regional Office for South America, “and it goes to show how useful the Convention can be in protecting outstanding heritage sites”.

The Committee also heard the IUCN report on progress in Manas National Park of India where conflict had impacted heavily on conservation work and wildlife numbers. The Government has now signed an agreement with the local Bodo people to work collaboratively on the rehabilitation of the Park. Further progress needs to be made on specific benchmarks before the site can be removed from the Danger list. Signs of improvement are also evident in Ichkeul National Park, Tunisia, where adequate rainfall and freshwater release in recent years has brought life back to the wetlands affected by salination following the construction of dams upstream.

The World Heritage Committee is continuing to examine IUCN’s reports on the other World Heritage sites today.

ENDS


Links:

· World Heritage in Danger http://whc.unesco.org/pg.cfm?cid=158
· IUCN World Heritage Monitoring http://www.iucn.org/themes/wcpa/wheritage/monitoring/monitoring.htm
· IUCN-UNESCO-UNF Enhancing our Heritage Project website: http://www.enhancingheritage.net/

Garamba National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo
The park's immense savannahs, grasslands and woodlands, interspersed with gallery forests along the river banks and the swampy depressions, are home to four large mammals: the elephant, endemic Congo giraffe, hippopotamus and above all the Northern white rhinoceros. Though much larger than the black rhino, it is harmless; only some 10 individuals remain in the wild.

Sangay National Park, Ecuador
With its outstanding natural beauty and two active volcanoes, the park illustrates the entire spectrum of ecosystems, ranging from tropical rainforests to glaciers, with striking contrasts between the snowcapped peaks and the forests of the plains. Its isolation has encouraged the survival of indigenous species such as the mountain tapir and the Andean condor.

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Created in 1948, IUCN - The World Conservation Union brings together 82 States, 111 government agencies, 800 plus NGOs, and some 10,000 scientists and experts from 181 countries in a unique worldwide partnership. IUCN’s mission is to influence, encourage and assist societies throughout the world to conserve the integrity and diversity of nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable.

IUCN is the world's largest environmental knowledge network and has helped over 75 countries to prepare and implement national conservation and biodiversity strategies. IUCN is a multicultural, multilingual organization with 1000 staff located in 62 countries. Its headquarters are in Gland, Switzerland.

http://www.iucn.org

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