According to a recent mission report to Buyaba, politico-administrative authorities and local chiefs would have agreed to relocate villages located in the elephant corridor NW of UNP (Mululwa, 2008). However, this does not solve the problem of the illegal village of Bwe inside UNP that lies in the corridor. Armed Mai-Mai soldiers refuge at Bwe with protection of important personalities in return for gold and other valuables from round the Lufira and Munte River. Bwe represents a real insecurity for wildlife and ICCN guards and reports of IPIS (2007) warn for a possible regrouping of several Mai-Mai fractions that refuge inside UNP. During the 2008 survey, insecurity caused by Mai-Mai from Bwe forced the closure of an ICCN outpost for safety reasons. Removal of Bwe is essential to open up the Lufira corridor, but this is a task that needs support from Government offices at the highest levels. Opening up the Lufira corridor also requires removal of all fishing and hunting camps and animal traps from the Lufira valley inside UNP, and the halting of selling licenses by ICCN conservators to fish and hunt inside the valley.
Embezzlement of state funds for personal enrichment and empowerment render public offices poor and the lowest ranking officials, often not paid, use petty corruption and guns in the case of armed forces, to scrape a living. Of 324 armed guards for UNP, KNP and Annexes combined, only 51 are paid, with serious delays and salary cuts. Most of the time there is no money for rations or for fuel. Financial fraud was witnessed at many levels during the survey, both to counter real famine and needs (rations, fuel) but also just for personal enrichment. ICCN would need to promote PA management partnerships with large conservation institutions for UNP and KNP. Establishing agreements and raising funds will take time but there is very little time given the enormous pressure and the little wildlife that is left. Immediate conservation actions and ICCN management changes at UNP and KNP are required to stop the most detrimental threats and avoid un-restorable damage.
In the current situation, having many guards without control and without means to send them on patrols is a liability more than an asset. More efficient protection can be obtained with a smaller number of guards (i.e. 50 for UNP and 25 for KNP) provided they are paid, there are rations to send teams on field missions and there is fuel to drop and fetch teams. With 8 ground survey teams of 5 people we covered 1/4th of UNP and the entire KNP thoroughly in 2 weeks. Guard families live at Park stations and outposts resulting in some 450 people living at UNP-N station alone. Without wages and availability of food, guards and their family engage in snaring and fishing for subsistence.
However, worse than the effect of hunting by guards for subsistence, is the effect of selling licenses to villagers to hunt and fish inside the Parks, accruing unregistered taxes in villages from looking into cooking pots, contouring guard salaries and even selling donated equipment, to generate money for personal enrichment. ICCN conservators having been in charge of Kayo and Lusinga station at UNP and of Katwe station and KNP for the past 5 years are guilty of mismanagement at the cost of wildlife and even extinction of some species. KNP was combed almost entirely by 4 survey teams of 5 people in 2 weeks, only to discover countless fires, camps, snare traps and other evidence showing that KNP has had no protection. The same is true for UNP where not less than 43 people were encountered equipped with licenses signed by the ICCN conservator.
Years of fraudulous relations between conservators and people from surrounding communities sets a bad example for guards, reduces control over the increasing number of camps inside UNP and also incites expectations from the local communities who have become accustomed to hunt and fish inside UNP. Breaking this cycle may initially cause friction and vengeance. ICCN guard posts don’t belong in the middle of villages. These posts only function to accrue taxes from looking into cooking pots (whilst guards themselves catch wildlife for the pot) and instigate tension.
SURVEY INTRODUCTION & OBJECTIVES
Hilde Vanleeuwe and Philipp Henschel
The first faunal samples for identification were collected around 1909. Ichthyologic sampling work, ornithological papers and reports on fauna and flora came out in the 1930’s and 1940’s but most scientific explorations happened after 1946. Early studies were often geared towards species identification.
The black rhino was wiped out between the 1940’s and the late 1960’s. Other wildlife populations declined to critical numbers during that era but they revived in the 1970’s after human settlements along the Lufira valley were removed by order of President Mobutu. An aerial count in the early 1970’s confirmed the presence of 400 zebras in Northeast UNP and 200 greater kudu in the South (Lukwessa Lwamatwi Makata, 1973). Vershuren and Lethiexe speak of 22,000 Red lechwe in the 1970’s and also Grzimek (1971) speaks of more than 10,000 Red lechwe, sitatunga and the largest herds of elephants in the Southwest. In the 1980’s still many large herds of elephants were found at UNP, and sufficient large ungulates to support large predators such as lion, leopards, cheetah, spotted hyena and African wild dogs (Verschuren, 1987). In 1986 African wild dog were sighted at UNP (Woodroffe et al., 1997) and in 1990, lion, leopard and spotted hyena were still considered present in both parks (Mills & Hofer, 1998; Nowell & Jackson, 1996). Cheetah was believed to occur in KNP only (Nowell et al., 1996). In the early 1990’s all went downhill due to economic and political instability leading to high levels of illegal resource extraction. Lions were considered extinct in this region around 2000 (Bauer & Van Der Merwe, 2004) although Chardonnet (2002) noted that lions were still occasionally observed in UNP and KNP.
DRC’s forested PAs receive lots of international attention because they include world-unique emblem species such as the okapi (Okapia johnstoni), mountain gorillas (Gorilla b. beringei) and bonobos (Pan paniscus). Katanga’s PAs receive no international attention although that the landscape can easily be ranked amongst the top most compelling in Africa. The UNP and KNP species list include zebra (the only population in DRC), the endemic red lechwe and Upemba lechwe, greater kudu, Lichtenstein hartebeest, roan antelope and sable antelope, cape eland and 5 species of large carnivores
The 2008 survey described in this report was an initiative by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) to explore the current status of large mammals and human impact at KNP and UNP to help plan conservation measures accordingly. Financed by the USFWS African Elephant Fund, Hilde Vanleeuwe of WCS-Congo designed and coordinated the systematic survey, assisted by Philipp Henschel of Panthera-NY to incorporate large carnivores, by conservation expert Cyril Pélissier of WWF-CAR, the pilot David Moyer of WCS and forestry expert Arnaud Gotanegre. The survey was conducted with important logistical support from ICCN, the NGO BAK, Congo Safaris and the NGO JACK with the objectives to:
Locate humans and large mammals through an aerial survey;
Establish relative abundance of humans and animals through a ground survey;
Establish the status of large carnivores to formulate conservation strategies;
Michel Hasson - Executive Director, Biodiversité au Katanga ASBL (BAK)
When one looks at the story of nature conservation in Africa, one cannot avoid noting that the protected areas of Katanga have been part of it since nearly the beginning. Early on, colonial authorities felt the necessity to protect wildlife against excessive population declines. In 1925, before any other colonial power thought of taking such action, King Albert of Belgium established the first protected area in Africa legally classified as an Integral Natural Reserve. Thus, as a part of the Belgian Congo Territory, Albert National Park was born and its management was given to an Administrative Commission in 1929. By 1932 the Governor of the Katanga Province created the two Hunting Reserves of Kundelungu and Sampwe by order n°75, 1932 (modified by n°116/Agri, 1932) and also an Elephant Hunting Reserve by order n° 74, 1932 between the Lualaba, Lufira and Luvua Rivers. The International Conference for the Protection of African Fauna and Flora met in London in November 1933 and defined the concepts of National Parks and Integral Natural Reserves. In 1934, the Administrative Commission charged with the management of Albert National Park became the Institut des Parcs Nationaux du Congo Belge (IPNCB) and that same year, through order n° 100/Agri 1934, the General Governor created the Hunting Integral Reserve in the region of the Lualaba lakes. On the 15th of May 1939 Upemba National Park (UNP) was created. At that time it was the largest national park in Africa, covering 1.173.000 hectares.
Preliminary work toward the formation of UNP failed to consider the rights of the native populations and provoked rancor from the local people against the Park, which persists today. The presence of tsetse flies became a sufficient argument justifying the removal and relocation of populations for sanitary reasons. Although that property belonged to the traditional land chiefs, relocation compensation was negotiated between the National authorities and the traditional political powers who do not own the land. Traditional land chiefs did not recognize agreements signed by the traditional political authorities. At the same time, mining rights of the Comité Spécial du Katanga were maintained because the IPNCB did not want to be accused of “hindering the economic boom of the region by its actions”. These mining rights were suppressed by the revision of the law in 1975.
Scientific missions to explore UNP were delayed until 1946 due to Second World War. Between 1946 and 1949, many scientists explored UNP under the supervision of Mr. G.-F. de Witte and produced an enormous collection of animals and plants that provided material for 148 publications in which 1889 new species were described. About 10.000 pictures accompanied those collections. Since 2005, the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences has scanned and archived all these pictures to make them available to the scientific community.
Five years after the creation of UNP, the populations started to claim their ancestral lands and successive commissions tried to solve the problem. The 1952-53 commission had a disastrous effect on the negotiations and the populations invaded the Park, especially in the western and the northern section. Poaching was severe and it was during that period that the black rhino was wiped out. In 1957, the Limbourg commission granted huge retrocession of land to the populations, giving some relief in the conflict. Unfortunately, the situation worsened again with the Katangese secession of 1960. People settled along the shores of the Lufira River that crosses the park, and UNP surface was reduced to only 300.000 hectares. The rangers managed to secure a buffer area of 20 km around Lusinga station in the Northeast. The rest of the park was in the hands of the “Gendarmes Katangais” and UN soldiers who killed off all the wildlife with machine guns.
With the arrival of the Mobutu power regime in 1964, UNP returned to the hands of the legal authorities. In 1967, Mobutu created the Institut des Parcs Nationaux du Congo by Ordonnance-loi n° 67/514 that was attached directly to his own office. The responsibility of managing National Parks and Hunting Reserves, including scientific research and tourism development, was given to the Institut Zaïrois pour la Conservation de la Nature (IZCN) in 1969. Under the new regime, all villages were evacuated from the UNP and guards regained control of the park. Animals slowly resurfaced.
Kundelungu National Park was created by the Ordonnance-loi n°70-317, 1970 and its limits were modified in 1975 by the Ordonnance-loi n° 75-097, 1975 which added a large “Zone Annexe” to the western part of the Park that included the Lufira valley. Some 14.700 hectares of the Zone Annexe along the Lufira River was classified as a Biosphere Reserve (MAB-UNESCO Program) in 1982, but it is doubtful that the site still meets the criteria of a Man and Biosphere Reserve today. In 1983 an application requesting to classify UNP as a UNESCO World Heritage Site was rejected.
In 1991 all the big cities in the country were looted, launching an era of decline for all the protected areas of Katanga. The massive fleeing of foreigners and the suspension of many economic activities led to the ultimate discontinuation of tourism. Lack of investment and unpaid salaries resulted in deserting of many guards, total neglect of the protected areas, internal poaching and illegal activities. In 1997, the troops of Laurent Désiré Kabila took control of Katanga. The soldiers who arrived at the Lusinga station took all the running vehicles and left the chief warden with a single bicycle to look after the entire park. Fortunately, the soldiers agreed to leave the park guns to the guards.
In 2000, Nouvelles Approches ASBL, a Belgian non-profit association organized, jointly with the Lukuru Wildlife Research Project (USA) and the Ape Alliance (UK), an emergency relief mission to the protected areas of Katanga. During this mission some 120 bicycles, 80 tents and a large assortment of materials including boots, backpacks and medical supplies were delivered to the ICCN authorities. Since then, Nouvelles Approches has continued its efforts to help the national parks of Katanga that seemed forgotten by the international community. With the help of the King Leopold III Fund for Nature, communication equipment and computers were provided to the stations of Kayo and Lusinga and to the office of ICCN in Lubumbashi. Very recently, UNDP has launched a program for the rehabilitation of the infrastructures of the Katanga Parks. In October 2008, during the WCS census, communication material was installed in Lusinga, Kayo and Katwe.
In 2004, Lusinga station was attacked by the Mai-Mai rebels and five people were killed; among them the wife of Chief Warden Batechi and the commander of the guards, Mr. Kalenga wa Konikwa. These heroes of conservation rest in peace in the martyr cemetery at Lusinga. Following this attack, the government sent one hundred soldiers to Lusinga where they remained for 24 months until the Mai-Mai finally surrendered to the UN Mission in Congo (MONUC) in the town of Mitwaba. The UN administration managed to disarm them and to send them back to their home villages. Today, only around 300 Mai-Mai remain in the park based in the village of Bwe along the Lufira River. ICCN has contacts with them and they seem to be quiet. In 2008, the non-profit organization Biodiversité au Katanga (BAK), registered under Congolese law, signed a preliminary agreement with ICCN. The aim of BAK is to preserve the biodiversity of Katanga. Their agreement with ICCN is designed to develop a public-private partnership to rehabilitate the protected areas of Katanga. Let us hope that this partnership will stimulate a halt to the deterioration of the biodiversity of Katanga and will create a new start for nature conservation in Katanga. As this report will show, the situation is critical and there is no time to ‘beat around the bush.’