A Brief Account of the CoCoSi of Maiko National Park

Categories: Journal no. 64, Protective Measures, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Maiko, Grauer's Gorilla

Participants of the 2021 CoCoSi for the Maiko National Park in Tingi Tingi (© ICCN)

Activities in protected areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo are carried out in accordance with an annual operational plan drawn up by the protected area management authority and submitted to the Co-ordination of Sites Committee (Comité de Coordination de Site, CoCoSi) for review before being implemented. When circumstances allow, the CoCoSi meets every six months; if this is not possible, it meets annually.

The mission of the CoCoSi can be summarised as follows:

  • to plan, co-ordinate and ensure the evaluation and follow-up of the planned activities,
  • to oversee the harmonisation of interventions and relationships between the site partners,
  • to encourage the exchange of experiences between sites.

In accordance with their internal rules, the meetings of the CoCoSi of the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN) are chaired by the protected area manager with the ICCN director general and sector managers, provincial directors and various site partners in attendance.

The CoCoSi thus acts as an excellent framework whereby the key workers of a protected area can meet, not only to examine and evaluate the operational plan of the site, but also to discuss crucial points for improving site management and benefitting local development.

Overview of the 2021 CoCoSi Meeting

The Maiko National Park (MNP) is divided into northern, central and southern sectors. The twenty-first meeting of the CoCoSi took place at the head office of the southern sector at Tingi Tingi on 19 and 20 November 2021. This meeting was attended by 48 people, representing the institutions associated with the management of conservation and biodiversity of the park.

The objectives of the CoCoSi were:

  • to undertake lobbying activities and to strengthen the visibility of the park on a national and international level,
  • to focus on the restoration of the State's authority in the park to rebuild efficient management and conservation of the unique biodiversity of the natural habitat and to guarantee a sustainable flow of ecological services providing benefits to local residents,
  • to publish a book to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the park, to sustain interest and collaboration among the parties involved.

A key aim of the meeting was to evaluate ongoing activities as outlined in the operational plan for the anniversary year (from 20 November 2020 to 20 November 2021) with financial support from the following partners: Fauna & Flora International (FFI), the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI), Berggorilla & Regenwald Direkthilfe, and The Gorilla Organization (GO).

Attending the meeting were the Administrator of Lubutu Territory, represented by Ntuma Vava, senior staff of the MNP, Jean Claude Kyungu (park manager and chief conservationist), Amube Ndey, the deputy manager in charge of bio-monitoring and the principal conservationist, the heads of the southern and northern sectors, and the heads of the two programmes LAB and COCO.

NGO partners active in the conservation of MNP were also present: Jackson Mutume, JGI and John Bolingo, FFI, based at Lubutu, respectively; Gulain Mitavo, head of base at the Nkuba Conservation area (DFGF-I), Claude Sikubwabo Kiyengo for Berggorilla & Regenwald Direkthilfe and the two gorilla reserve co-ordinators Nestor Mayala of REGOMUKI (Mukingiti Gorilla Reserve) and Abusala Mbalaka of REGOLU (Lubutu Gorilla Reserve).

The Lubutu Territory authorities were represented by the chiefs of the Obokote and Bitule sectors and four village grouping chiefs (Oso-Mandiba, Tingi Tingi, Peneluta and Osukwamalek). The ICCN director-general was not represented and the provincial director of ICCN Tshopo was represented by his deputy.

The meeting was started by Jean Claude Kyungu, manager of MNP, and facilitated by Jackson Mutume, the JGI/Lubutu coordinator. Mohindo Malikewa Franck, principal officer of the MNP rangers, Mme Donatienne Barubiyo, assistant to the provincial director of ICCN Tshopo, and Nyakudroma Dieu-merci, secretary to the MNP southern sector, served as secretaries.

Progress and Overall Results of the Meeting

Opening Ceremony: There were five speakers. The head of the southern sector welcomed the participants and presented a report on the state of affairs in his sector. The park manager thanked all the participants for responding to the invitation to attend, underlined the importance of MNP, a World Heritage site, and exhorted all partners to help protect this important park. The representative of the provincial director praised the park manager for his work. The meeting was officially opened by the Lubutu Territory administrator, who declared that nature conservation was of great importance and the main reason for the development of his territory.

Participants' Presentations: The participants all introduced themselves and described the main objectives of their organisations, which include the conservation and protection of nature, raising public awareness of the importance of conservation, animal life in general, and gorillas, chimpanzees, elephants, and okapis in particular.

Report of activities in 2021: The report of activities in MNP for the period November 2020 to November 2021 was presented and adopted after some discussion. The report shows that 45 % of the activities planned for 2021 were implemented; details are given below. The activities which were not implemented were re-scheduled for 2022.

Evaluation of the achievements of the 2021 Operational Plan: Six activity focus areas were evaluated:

  1. Lobbying for financial support for the MNP, the exit of rebels from the park and their demobilisation, the allocation of a website and raising public awareness of nature protection. 75 % of these lobbying activities took place.
  2. Specific management goals for the 50th anniversary year. The ultimate objective for this year was control of the whole park. The actual level of cover by patrols was low, with 25 % of the northern sector covered, 30 % of the central sector and 65 % of the southern sector. There are insufficient staff and the present staff are aging. 27 % of the objective to increase the numbers from 108 to at least 500, and to provide housing for them, was achieved. The activities that were not implemented were deferred to 2022.
  3. Drafting a plan to share benefits with the resident communities. This involves raising awareness and determining compensation for groups who are destroying the natural resources (hunters with 12-gauge shotguns, mine workers, fishermen etc.) and those who protect them, notably the grassroot organisations. Several hundred 12-gauge guns had been confiscated, the mining areas identified and marked on a map of the park, compensation mechanisms put in place such as support for fish farmers, as well as the allocation of mills, the construction of water supply wells, the installation of electric streetlights in the congested areas and informing people about conservation law. The actual achievement of this target was evaluated at 43 %.
  4. Analysis of management tools, i.e., the research and monitoring plan, the surveillance plan, and the management plan. As well as these plans, evaluation of these plans was undertaken through collection of data and analysis. The first two plans had not yet been validated by the director general of the ICCN. The overall management plan has not yet been revised and must be updated.
  5. Proofreading the draft of a book documenting 50 years of the MNP. A commission has been set up and is already working on this.
  6. Implementing the security plan for the park. Activities in this focus area include increasing staff numbers, re-opening closed ranger posts, and disarming and demobilising the armed groups. The control of the park is still not possible because of insufficient staff, a lack of infrastructure, several ranger posts remaining closed and the general lack of security. The targets were rated at 27.7 %.

Actions to include in the 2022 Operational Plan

The 2022 Operational Plan was adopted by the CoCoSi. It defines activities under the following focus areas:

  • conservation, patrols and bio-monitoring - 12 activities
  • conservation and security of the MNP - 6 activities
  • promotion of tourism to finance the park's management of community conservation - 13 activities
  • community conservation and development - 20 activities
  • health and epidemiology (control of animal-borne diseases) - 6 activities
  • assistance for personnel and administrative management - 6 activities
  • institutional support - 2 activities
  • justice and application of the law - 6 activities
  • co-ordination with the director general - 2 activities

The 2022 Operational Plan for the MNP comprises a total of 73 activities which require appropriate funding. The CoCoSi has approved these activities and it is now incumbent upon the managers of the park to estimate the costs and get to work.

Claude Sikubwabo Kiyengo and Jean Claude Kyungu Kasolene