Virunga National Park (1979)
Congo Democratic Republic

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Zaire 1975. 50th anniversary of the Virunga National Park. Okapi. 

Virunga National Park (covering an area of 790,000 ha) comprises an outstanding diversity of habitats, ranging from swamps and steppes to the snowfields of Rwenzori at an altitude of over 5,000 m, and from lava plains to the savannahs on the slopes of volcanoes. 

Mountain gorillas are found in the park, some 20,000 hippopotamuses live in the rivers and birds from Siberia spend the winter there. 

  • Zaire 1975. 50th anniversary of the Virunga National Park. Okapi. The same design exists in several face values and different colours. 

Virunga National Park was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger at the 18th Session of the World Heritage Committee (1994) in the wake of the war in neighbouring Rwanda and the subsequent massive influx of refugees from that country which led to massive deforestation and poaching at the site. Many members of the Park staff had not been remunerated for almost a year. 

Zaire 1982. Virunga National Park. Set of two se-tenant stamps in a composite design, depicting monkeys and leopard.

Poaching of wildlife has continued and the staff lacks the means of patrolling the Park's 650 km long boundary. The human population in the fishing village near Lake Edward has increased several fold, posing a serious threat to the integrity of the Park. The fuel wood requirements of almost one million refugees camping inside the Park is estimated at 600 metric tons/day and is leading to widespread depletion of forests in the lowlands. Fortunately, the mountain gorilla whose habitat is at a higher altitude, have been spared so far. 

Zaire 1982. Virunga National Park. Lions. Zaire 1982. Virunga National Park. Buffalo. Zaire 1982. Virunga National Park. Elephants.

In December 1996, the World Heritage Committee had considerable discussion on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the human tragedy unfolding there. The Committee noted that a major effort would be required over the next decade to rehabilitate and strengthen management of Virunga and to obtain local support for its conservation. 

Zaire 1982. Virunga National Park. Antelopes. Zaire 1982. Virunga National Park. Hippopotamus.

Its decision was communicated to UNHCR and other agencies involved in the management of refugee camps in and around Virunga. The national government was informed of the Committee's willingness to co-operate with IUCN as well as other institutions such as the World Bank, and to provide technical co-operation and training assistance, the better to face current threats to the site. 

Sources and links:

Congo was an independent state, founded by Leopold II of Belgium, until 1908 when it was annexed to Belgium as a colony. 

Congo became an independent republic in 1960. The name was changed to Republic of Zaire on October 28, 1971. 

  • Zaire 1980. Belgian independence sesquicentennial. Map of Africa with a effigy of King Leopold I of Belgium.

Other World Heritage Sites in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (on this site). Inactive links are not described on stamps. Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, section for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for further information on the individual properties. 

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Revised 20 jul 2006  
Copyright 1999 Heindorffhus 
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