There are 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). All 5 of these sites are natural sites.
DRC UNESCO Sites
- Garamba National Park (1980)
- Kahuzi-Biega National Park (1980)
- Okapi Wildlife Reserve (1996)
- Salonga National Park (1984)
- Virunga National Park (1979)
Garamba National Park (1980)
Garamba National Park is the first of five natural sites listed under the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Established in 1938, this is one of the oldest national parks in Africa. This national park is considered significant because it was known as the last home of the Northern White Rhinoceros. However, the poaching of the rhinos made this national park one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Danger in 1996.
In addition to being the natural habitat of these endangered rhino species, the park is known for establishing the African elephant domestication program. This program was launched in the 1960s wherein elephants were trained to allow tourists to ride on them. A non-profit organization known as African Parks Network currently manages this park.
Kahuzi-Biega National Park (1980)
This national park is a protected area and one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The park was established in 1970 by conservationist Adrien Deschryver who named it after two dormant volcanoes in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is one of the country’s largest national parks that measures up to 6,000 square kilometers in land area. The landscape within the park features both lowland and mountainous terrain.
One of the things that helped establish it as an important natural feature in the country is the fact that the park provides refuge for the Eastern lowland gorilla, which is a rare and endangered species. In addition, it also earned a nod from UNESCO for its unique biodiversity.
Okapi Wildlife Reserve (1996)
This wildlife reserve was founded in 1992 and was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1996. The entire wildlife reserve covers a total of nearly 14,000 square kilometers in land area. This reserve is located within the Ituri Forest at the country’s northeastern part. The reserve encompasses about 1/5 of the forest.
This reserve is considered as one of the biggest natural marvels of Africa. This reserve consists of the largest population of forest elephants, chimpanzees and okapi. There are also 13 other wildlife species that thrive here as a natural habitat. These species include leopard, bongo antelope, birds, insects, primates, and water chevrotain.
Salonga National Park (1984)
This national park covers the Congo River Basin. It is also recognized as the largest tropical reserve in Africa with a span of up to 36,000 square kilometers. The reserve spans four different provinces in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The park protects a pristine rainforest wherein there are no roads. The only way you can get to this national park is by the river. The park serves as a natural habitat for a wide range of wildlife species such as Dryas monkeys, leopards, forest elephants, bonobos, African slender-snouted crocodiles, and more. There are also several species of birds that call this natural reserve home.
Virunga National Park (1979)
Virunga National Park completes this list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This national park encompasses the Virunga Mountains and the Rwenzori Mountains. It also borders another national park in Rwanda, which is the Volcanoes National Park.
When it was established in 1925, it became the first national park in Africa. It was established primarily to protect the endangered species of mountain gorillas that inhabit the land of the park, particularly the forests within Virunga Mountains. However, the Congo Civil War and the recent poaching problem has caused significant damage to the wildlife and has put this national park under serious threat.