The Institute of the National Parks of Belgian Congo
History of the Institute
The creation of the Institute for the National Parks of Belgian Congo (IPNCB) was partly due to a misunderstanding between the different members of the administrative committee of the National Park Albert (PNA). The liberties given to foreign missions were not agreed upon unanimously by all members of the Committee. As a result the president and vice-president, prince Eugène de Ligne and Derscheid, resigned from the administrative Committee towards the end of 1931
The posts were given to prince Léopold, duc de Brabant and Victor Van Straelen, new director of the Belgian Museum of Natural Sciences, who will take the presidency of the Committee in 1934. The new Committee showed its intention to stop the influence and the management by other countries, mainly American, of the park
After a visit to PNA in 1932, the new directors of the Committee fixed the principles of a re-organisation of the administrative services, and showed their intention to create the IPNCB as well as to reinforce the surveillance of the Park.
In 26 November 1934, a decree creates the « Institut des Parcs Nationaux du Congo Belge ». It had its head quarters in Brussels and replaced the institute « Parc National Albert » from which it would take over all rights and charges. « The Institute has as main objective to ensure in the territories the protection of the fauna and the flora, to promote scientific research as well as tourism, as long as it is compatible with nature protection » (Décret 26/11/34, Art. 2)
These guiding principles originate fom the way Victor Van Straelen wanted to develop the Institute. His conceptual ideas have formed the structure of the institute which should ensure the realisation.
The IPCNB would become an institute with both a scientific as well as a nature protection component. It would have two bodies, one administrative and the other executive.
The administrative body of the IPNCB would be the committee of the national parks, that would have a president, a secretary, and 24 members appointed by the King. The bigger part the members came from scientific institutes. To reflect the international character of the conservation, a third of the members came from foreign institutes (Languy & al., 2006).
The executive body of the Institute was the Steering committee; it was the emanation of the Commission. Until the independence of Belgian Congo, this centralized structure was maintained by the Belgian Museum of Natural Sciences.
Between 1934 and 1960, no less than 15 explorative and research missions were organised. 10 of these concentrated themselves on the PNA.
The Ministry of Colonies was the main funder of the Institute. However the institute, through its civil status, had a great independency for actions and received many additional funding for its activities and publications.
Frechkop S., 1941. Animaux protégés au Congo belge. Institut des Parcs Nationaux Belges, Bruxelles, pp. 391-396.
Languy M., De Merode E., 2006. Virunga, survie du premier parc d'Afrique. Lannoo, pp. 62, 67, 68, 106, 213, 259.