A bonobo ape, a primate unique to Congo and humankind's closest relative, sits in the grass at Lola Ya Bonobo sanctuary just…
FILE - A bonobo ape, a primate unique to Congo and humankind's closest relative, sits in the grass at a sanctuary just outside the capital Kinshasa, Oct. 31, 2006.

KINSHASA, D.R.C. - The Democratic Republic of Congo scored a key heritage victory on Monday as UNESCO removed one of its nature reserves from a list of threatened sites, the U.N. agency said. 

UNESCO praised the country's conservation efforts and the government's commitment to ban prospecting for oil in Salonga, the vast central African country's largest public park. 

The World Heritage Committee cited "improvements towards its conservation state" in its decision, according to a statement Monday. 

"Regular monitoring of the wild fauna shows that the bonobo (ape) populations remain stable within the territory despite past pressure, and that the forest elephant population is starting to come back," the statement said.  

The Congolese Environment Ministry welcomed the move.  

It would be "an opportunity to rethink the management of the peatland with a view to quantifying its capacity to absorb carbon" emissions, it told Agence France-Presse in a statement. 

Salonga is Africa's largest protected rainforest and home to 40% of the Earth's bonobo apes, along with several other endangered species. 

It was created in 1970 by then-dictator Mobutu Sese Seko and had been on the endangered list since 1984. 

The park is also home to slender-snouted crocodiles and Congo peacocks.