Hilde Vanleeuwe, Philipp Henschel, Cyril Pélissier, Arnaud Gotanègre
KNP and UNP are located in Katanga Province, SE DRC. Both Parks comprise high altitude grasslands plateaus (1,700m - 1,900m a.s.l.) surrounded by hills of Miombo forest. The plateaus are marked by splendid cliffs that sometimes fall at right angles into the valleys below. From Southeast to Northwest one finds: KNP (2,200km2) between the Luapula River in the East and the Lufira River in the West and sheltering the highest falls of Africa, the Lofoï falls (340m); Kundelungu Annexe (5,300km2), comprising the wetlands around the Lufira River; Lubudi-Sampwe Hunting block (?? Km2) dissected by the Lufira River; UNP (10,000km2) comprising highland plateaus and a long stretch of the Lufira valley that ends in Lake Upemba; Upemba Annexe (3,000km2) with Lake Upemba and several other lakes, connected by the Luabala River and set in a large wetland complex representing the Upper Congo River (Fig 1).
Figure 1: UNP and KNP, Annexes and Lubudi-Sampwe
Both Parks fall into the ecoregion of central Zambezian miombo woodland (Rodgers et al., 1996). Upper Katanga’s large range of habitats, including wet and dry miombo, thicket, shrubland, gorges, savannah woodland, high altitude grasslands on the plateaus and flooded grassland in the swamps, render it a center of plant diversity (WWF & IUCN, 1994), comprising at least 220 taxa and 42 endemic species (Malaisse, 1998).
The plateaus are aquifers, providing water all year round on the open highland plains. The numerous streams and rivers on the plateaus are lined with gallery forests including mainly Khaya nyasica, Parkia sp and Chlorophora excelsa but also fig trees, rubber trees, Rafia palms and bamboos. The gently rolling hills of plateau grasses include Hyparrhenia, Andropogon, Paspalum and Tricholaena, and some trees and shrubs of Protea and Dissotis, endemic toCentral Africa (Malumaku, 2005). Grasslands transit into Uapaca sp. and into Miombo woodlands dominated by the subfamily Caesalpinioideae, particularly species belonging to the genera Brachystegia, Julbernardia, and Isoberlinia (Campbell, 1996). Little patches of swamp woodland, comprising almost exclusively Aeschynomene elaphroxylon and Hibiscus diversifolius, occur on elevated sites, which are regularly inundated at high water. On the lakes one finds floating mats of Pycreus mundtii and Paspalidium geminatum or of Cyperus papyrus that can form drifting islands up to 15ha and the open waters are locally covered by waterlilies, Nymphaea caerulea, N. lotus and Lemna sp., Pistia stratiotes and Trapa rattan (UNEP, 1984).
Katanga includes some 190 species of mammals belonging to 40 families (www.bakasbl.org). Amongst those are elephants, although only a fraction of the masses that Katanga once contained. Until the early 1990’s elephants annually migrated between Zambia and the Northwest of Lake Upemba, upon following the greater Lufira valley. Several large elephants groups still live in the papyrus swamps around Lake Upemba, in an area called Buyaba (Mululwa, 2008). Most of those elephants are said to be resident and some would have been trapped there during there annual migration after people settled in the movement corridor. For the moment elephants are safer in the papyrus swamps than inside UNP, because the swamps are inaccessible and there is still insecurity and lack of control inside the UNP.
UNP and KNP house a large variety of ungulates, including DRC’s only population of plains zebra, the endemic red lechwe and Upemba lechwe, roan and black sable antelope, Lichtenstein hartebeest, cape buffalo, cape eland, greater kudu, southern reedbuck, waterbuck (Kobus ellipsiprymus), bushbuck, sitatunga, puku, grijsbok (Raphicerus sharpie), oribi, impala (Aepyceros melampus), klipspringer (Oreotragus oreotragus), several species of duiker (Cephalophus grimmia, C. monticola, C. sylvicultor), warthog, bushpig and hippopotamus. In turn, healthy ungulate populations historically supported a guild of large carnivores, including lions, leopards, cheetahs, African wild dogs and spotted hyenas (Schouteden, 1948; Verschuren, 1987). Smaller carnivores include the side-striped jackal, caracal, African wild cat (Felis silvestris), serval (Leptailurus serval), cape clawless otter (Aonyx capensis), Congo clawless otter (Aonyx congica), spotted-necked otter (Lutra maculicollis), Zorilla (Ictonyx striatus), honey badger (Mellivora capensis), striped weasel (Poecilogale albinucha), marsh mongoose (Atilax paludinosus), dwarf mongoose (Helogale varia), Egyptian and lesser mongoose (Herpestes ichneumon; H. sanguineus), white-tailed mongoose (Ichneumia albicauda), banded mongoose (Mingos mungo), African civet (Civettictis civetta), Angolan genet (Genetta angolensis), small-spotted genet (Genetta genetta hintoni), large spotted genet (Genetta tigrina) and palm civet (Nandinia binotata) (www.bakasbl.org).
Primates include black-cheeked white-nosed monkey (Cercopithecus ascanius katangae), blue monkey (Cercopithecus mitis), vervet monkey (Chlorocebus aethiops), Brazza monkey (Cercopithecus neglectus), grey-cheeked mangabey (Lophocebus albigena), yellow baboons, king colobus (Colobus polykosmos) and red colobus (Piliocolobus badius) and three species of bushbaby (Galago demidovii, G. senegalensis, G. crassicaudatus).
There is also aardvark (Orycteropus afer), pangolins, hares, hyrax, porcupines and many species of rodents, shrews, squirrels and bats. There are also 721 species of birds belonging to 77 families, 187 species of reptiles belonging to 19 families, 110 species of amphibians belonging to 9 families and 453 species of fish belonging to 25 families (www.bakasbl.org).
DRC has an estimated 66 million people and over 200 ethnical groups of which the Luba from Katanga are amongst the largest groups (US State Department, 2008). President Kabila’s home province Katanga covers 1/5th of DRC and doubled in population between 1998 and 2003 from around 4 million to 8 million people of which the majority (52%) are below 15 years of age. The surveyed Parks lay in Central Katanga in the territories of Mitwaba, Malemba Nkulu and Bukama. Ethnical groups are very mixed due to migrations that come with industrialization and also with insecurity but the main tribes around UNP and KNP are Luba, Arund (regrouping Lunda, Tchokwe, Luena, Ndembo and Minungu), Sanga, Bemba and Lamba. Most people of Katanga live in large cities and Urban centers such as Lubumbashi and Kolwezi and many work in the mining industry (Tshimanga, 2008). The communities living around (and also inside) UNP and KNP live of agriculture, small-scale animal husbandry, fishing and hunting (pers. obs.). Rural people are very poor and most villages carry visible signs of recent insecurity such as burnt houses and bullet holes in walls (pers. obs.).
Katanga is the wealthiest Province of DRC, containing 34% of the world’s cobalt reserves and 10% of the copper reserves and harbors the greatest potential for resource-based economic growth in RDC (Global Witness, 2004). Nevertheless, economic revival depends on political stability, market prices, and on a control of the rent-culture leading to abuse of national wealth for personal enrichment and empowerment (WorldBank, 2008). The worlds’ demand for copper and cobalt decreases and up to 56 mining companies have significantly reduced their output with view to possible closure that may lead to 300,000 job losses by end 2008 (Tshimanga, 2008). The MONUC fears for more social and security problems that may arise from this situation.
People occupying bottom end positions in Government offices are often underpaid and some use their position or even their guns in the case of armed offices, to scrape a living. The overall economic instability and thus important levels of poverty, combined with the overall important numbers of armed men around and inside UNP and KNP, poses security threats both to people and wildlife. The 2 main armed groups in Katanga are the regular army or FARDC (Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo) and the Mai-Mai (IPIS, 2007). Since 2004 some 5000 Mai-Mai have been disarmed but an estimated 1000 armed Mai-Mai still live around, and many inside, UNP (IPIS, 2007). During this survey, the situation was calm but 1/4th of UNP is avoided by Park guards and had to be avoided during the survey for insecurity reasons caused by Mai-Mai refuging in the illegal village Bwe, located along the Lufira River inside UNP.