Richard Tshombe Country Director wcs-drc

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Philipp Henschel, Cyril Pélissier, Arnaud Gotanègre, Hilde Vanleeuwe

The LC team covered 330 km of reconnaissance walks in UNP, and other ground teams walking transects combined with reconnaissance walks covered another ~570km in UNP and ~380km in KNP. No evidence for the continued presence of lion, cheetah, African wild dog or spotted hyena could be detected in either of the two parks. Leopard sign was found in UNP on 7 occasions (Tab 2), representing 4 scats, 1 set of pugmarks, 1 old puku kill and 1 leopard vocalization. Furthermore, 4 scats measuring > 3 cm in diameter and/or containing large bone fragments were found in UNP, and although these scats clearly originated from a LC, their old age and the lack of adjacent field sign did not allow identification to species level. Similarly, 1 set of pugmarks detected in UNP on very hard substrate did not permit identification of the species, and was likewise noted as “unidentified LC” (Tab2). No sign of any LC species was detected in KNP.
Small carnivore sign on the other hand, was relatively abundant in UNP. The LC team conducted a sample count of small carnivore scats along a 7 km stretch of park road and 28 scats were recorded. Considering this high abundance of scats and the great overall distance that was to be covered by the LC team, small carnivore scats were only recorded if they could unmistakably be identified to species level, such as for the African civets, genets and otters. Scats from servals and side-striped jackals are similar in size and appearance and were not recorded by the LC team. Side-striped jackals were observed in UNP on 8 occasions and servals on 3 occasions. One side-striped jackal was observed in KNP (cf. Tab 2 and Tab 3).
Due to the extreme paucity of LC sign and the omnipresence of hunters and fishermen, no camera traps were actually set up during the survey. Although that the absence of a species in a given area can never be verified for certain, their presence becomes relatively unlikely if no evidence is encountered during several weeks of fieldwork, provided the survey protocol is appropriate to detect the species (Henschel & Ray, 2003). Given the very high survey effort of ~1,280km (900km at UNP and 380 at KNP) and the suitability of the methods used to detect LCs, it appears very likely that lions, cheetahs, African wild dogs and spotted hyenas are absent at UNP and that no LC species remain at KNP.
The quasi complete disappearance of the LC guild is not so surprising, because they depend on intact communities of suitable prey. Smaller ungulates are still relatively common in parts of both Parks, but one analysis of 32 studies on lion feeding ecology showed that lion preferentially prey upon ungulates within a weight range of 190–550 kg (Hayward & Kerley, 2005). Hayward et al. (2005) also show that of all species found at UNP and KNP, only plains zebra and cape buffalo are significantly preferred by lions, while sable antelope and waterbuck are not preferentially preyed upon. Lion avoid smaller ungulates like bushbuck, reedbuck, common duiker, klipspringer and grysbok and they show neither avoidance nor preference for warthog, bushpig, puku, oribi and baboon (Hayward et al., 2005). In contrast, leopards preferentially prey upon smaller species within a weight range of 10–40 kg, and their preferred prey species include common duiker and bushbuck (Hayward et al., 2006). This preference for smaller prey is most likely the reason why leopards were able to persist in UNP, although the extreme paucity of leopard sign suggests that only very few individuals remain in the Park.

Hilde Vanleeuwe

      1. Historic events

The initial boundaries of UNP were drawn without consideration of local communities which led to a reclaim of ancestral lands between 1940’s and late 1960’s. Villages sprouted along the lakeshores and in the Lufira valley and associated poaching decreased wildlife to critical numbers. A revival of wildlife happened in the 1970’s and 1980’s after the new regime of Mobutu removed all the settlements from the Lufira valley in 1969 (Makabuza Kabirizi, 1971). Much of the territory conflict subsided when the UNP boundaries were reviewed and 3000km2 around the lakes was declared Zone Annexe of Upemba in 1975. However, this did not resolve insecurity and poaching by soldiers of the National army (FARDC) and by the Mai-Mai rebels who still reside in UNP.

Between 2004 and 2007, several organizations engaged in the disarmament of Mai-Mai soldiers, offering integration in the FARDC or compensation and reintegration in their villages of origin. Around 5000 Mai-Mai in Katanga were disarmed but 1000 still refuge inside and around UNP (IPIS, 2007). Famous Mai-Mai leader Makabe became head of security in Malemba Nkulu where he and his group of around 1000 men reside. In Mitwaba, insecurity calmed when Mai-Mai leader Gédéon surrendered in 2006 but some of his group did not surrender and still cause occasional insecurity problems (IPIS, 2007). Today it is hard to identify who’s responsible for insecurity because guns are abundant, there is no clear line between Mai-Mai and FARDC and also local chiefs use Mai-Mai to settle personal conflicts. Between 2003 and 2007 at least 12 local chiefs were murdered by Mai-Mai in North Mitwaba alone (IPIS, 2007).
In 2004, Lusinga station was destroyed by Mai-Mai. In response, 85 FARDC soldiers from Mitwaba were posted at Lusinga for 24 months for protection but several engaged in heavy poaching. The Mai-Mai of Bwe continue to poach freely. Bwe is believed to refuge between 300 and 800 armed Mai-Mai and is supported by important personalities. In the early 1990’s a Governor, in return for gold, tried to officially claim the territory of Bwe (Fig 7) for Mai-Mai. In 2006 weapons were delivered to Bwe by authorities of the FARDC in return for gold (IPIS, 2007).
Figure 7: The territory of Bwe
      1. Lack of finances

Environmental concerns, conflicts and insecurity are intrinsically linked to economy and politics. Katanga’s mine exploitations were controlled by the parastatal Gécamines when Mobutu nationalized the economy in 1967, and by 1985 Gécamines accounted for 30% of the national treasury and up to 85% of the county’s hard currency (La Conscience, 2005). By 1995, production declined to > 85% and by 2005 it was unable to pay a regular salary to its workers due to bad management and political interference (IMF, 2005). The result is general insecurity and corruption, obstructing measures of poverty alleviation, attracting dubious foreign investors and leading to abuse and degradation of natural resources. Natural resource degradation (incl. wildlife) increases poverty because the poorest people depend on them. The protection of UNP and KNP and sustainable offtake of resources in the Annexes are very important to avoid growing impoverishment of the poorest.

With the exception of some support by UNDP, PNUD, the NGO’s Nouvelles Approches, Lukuru Wildlife Research Project, Ape Alliance and BAK, both KNP and UNP have been neglected by the international community for decades. Foreign investment and presence of an international conservation institution at UNP and KNP could solve most of the mismanagement problems and poaching on the ground, but Government support is necessary to remove politically-backed insecurity. Lusinga station lost its vehicles and equipment to Kabila’s troops in 1997 and to the Mai-Mai who also destroyed the station and killed ICCN staff in 2004. The FARDC, residing there for protection between 2004 and 2006, poached much of the remaining wildlife that had been protected with $$, blood and tears.
Today, UNP counts 225 guards, its Annexe has 42 guards, KNP has 23 guards and the Domaine de Chasse Lubudi-Sampwe has 34 guards. Guard salaries are very low and money for rations and fuel is very limited. Some guard posts are located inside villages where guards accrue unregistered taxes for wild meat found in cooking pots. Donated vehicles were in poor condition and some equipment had been sold. 43 people (some hunters and mainly fishermen) were encountered in the Lufira valley inside UNP carrying licenses sold by the conservator. The effect of this on wildlife is very substantial. Guards brought us to places where they were convinced to still find many animals and they were surprised themselves to find almost no wildlife.

      1. Dysfunctional management setup

Dysfunctional management practices inside and around UNP and KNP that started a long time ago contributed as much to wildlife degradation than political instability and lack of finances. Aside the depletion of vegetation for mining, railway work, road work and for fuel-wood, a lot of land was set aside for cattle ranching. Although well intended to provide protein to the urban centres, cattle ranching left a barren poor environment and massacred wildlife. To contain sleeping sickness in cattle all trypanosomyases-tolerant wildlife (most animals) sharing land with cattle were killed (Lukwessa Lwamatwi Makata, 1973). By killing all the ungulates, large predators would have been encouraged to kill cattle to survive and local people would have lost their protein resources, encouraging them to poach cattle instead (one of the main reasons why cattle ranching was abandoned). Cattle that was killed by wildlife was poisoned to deter predators, which killed masses of raptors, vultures, African wild dogs, spotted hyenas, leopards, lions and other scavengers.

Dysfunctional management setup inside UNP and KNP had and still has further detrimental consequences on wildlife. None of the 11 guard outposts are in communication with the head-quarters and there is no fuel to verify what guards and their families are doing, nor to drop and fetch guards on field missions. The control of the conservators limits to ~15km around the main stations. Numerous poaching and fishing camps, fires and snare traps were found at KNP and UNP and signs of wildlife decreased with proximity to guard outposts. ICCN guards at UNP and KNP do not have days of rest and their families live with them at the stations and outposts. Some 450 people (guards and their families) live at Lusinga station. Housing families with the guards is essential in very remote places and in areas with high levels of insecurity but should be avoided if not essential for many reasons. It creates a living situation as in a sect, and requires the need for a school, teachers, a medical centre, nurses, and a lot of food. It is quasi impossible to find vegetables and only very occasionally people eat a chicken or eggs. Without availability of cultivated foods and without money to buy food, also some guards and their families fish and snare small mammals for the pot. In addition, guard rations are very basic and don’t often contain protein and many therefore fish during patrol missions or strike simple deals with poachers and fishermen they encounter. In an attempt to alleviate this pressure, a patch of land was set aside for subsistence cultivation near Lusinga but this doesn’t marry with the function of a National Park, nor does it seem to reduce the impact of subsistence hunting. There are villages located at 20km and 30km from Lusinga station and much closer to most of the outposts. There is therefore no need for guard families to live at Lusinga or at the outposts, provided that guards are given days of monthly and annual leave.
The impact of guards (and their families) on wildlife is not extensive and restricts to fishing and snaring of small mammals and rodents. However, this has an immediate effect on Lusinga for tourism development because although the views from Lusinga station are magnificent, it is extremely rare to see animals in this landscape. The same is also true for Katwe and Kayo. The impact of selling fishing and hunting licenses inside the Parks by conservators is on the other hand very substantial and requires to be halted immediately if the few remaining wildlife populations are to survive and to restore. The current wildlife numbers at UNP were very low and at KNP shockingly low and several species have already become extinct.


Hilde Vanleeuwe, Philipp Henschel
For UNP, the survey has shown that despite the omnipresent poaching pressure, there remain pockets of wildlife, although very low in numbers, that would allow a natural regeneration of UNP wildlife if immediate protection measures are instated. For KNP the picture is one of extreme low densities of wildlife and omnipresence of people.
Both UNP and KNP have compelling landscapes and would represent DRC’s most diverse PA’s if restored to contain the wildlife populations as observed in the 1970’a and 1980’s. Restoring the Parks requires protection of UNP, KNP and roughly the Lufira valley corridor that connects the Parks, running through Kundelungu Annexe and Lubudi-Sampwe, used by elephants up to the 1990’s to migrate between the lakes of NW UNP and Zambia. On the DRC side, the corridor ends in the vast wetlands and papyrus swamps Northwest of UNP called Buyaba where several hundred elephants reside (Mululwa, 2008). The other end of the corridor lies in Northeast Zambia (<200km from KNP). The largest section of the corridor lies already within PA’s but actions should be taken to provide Buyaba and the Southeast end of the corridor with a protection status. Opening up the wildlife corridor between NW UNP and Game Management Areas in north-eastern Zambia would revive elephant migrations, prevent their local over-population and reduce subsequent conflict with people. It would promote natural restocking of wildlife and attract species that have been wiped out such as most species of LCs. The principal investigator of the North Luangwa Carnivore Study in Zambia reckons that there are still lions in northern Zambia in certain areas near the borders and that re-population/ immigration into DRC should be possible. The project manager for African Wild Dog Conservation in Zambia, states that there are likely to be African wild dogs near the border at low density and re-colonization could be a possibility if snaring is under control. Nothing is known regarding the status of cheetahs and spotted hyenas in this border region, but the establishment of a wildlife corridor spanning the border between protected areas in both countries in likely to benefit a whole suite of species.

For leopards, immediate efforts should be made to prevent their accidental (e.g. through cable snares) and intentional killing at UNP, to avert the local extinction of the last remaining LC species. If leopards and their prey receive rigorous protection from poaching, a recovery of the leopard population in UNP is likely, given the presence of suitable prey species and the large size of the park. Lions and spotted hyenas would require substantial regeneration of numbers of larger ungulates such as zebra, buffalo and hartebeest, before a resident population could be established. For cheetahs and African wild dogs, the medium-sized ungulates on the high plateaus, such as oribi and common reedbuck, would need to greatly increase in numbers. A monitoring of the biomass of prey species preferred by the large carnivores could help to inform, when a reestablishment of resident populations of LCs might become feasible (Hayward et al., 2007).

To re-open and protect the corridor even just inside the current PA’s, some historical, financial and management problems have to be addressed:


To settle Park boundary issues with surrounding villages, the NGO BAK has been circulating and discussing old pictures in villages that figure elders who supported the development of UNP and KNP. This work is of great value and helps cultivate better relations between the Parks and surrounding communities. Traditional chiefs have a lot of power in decision taking and the big Chief Kayumba, -although said that he’s not always been a UNP supporter -, has shown positive intents to work together with UNP management and solve boundary-related problems amicably. According to the mission report of the new ICCN conservator of Lusinga, Jean Muluwa (2008), politico-administrative authorities and local chiefs would have agreed to remove the villages located in the elephant corridor NW of UNP. Such events won’t happen without complications but the initiative itself shows motivation for collaboration.

The real remaining territory problem today points at the illegal village of Bwe inside UNP, where armed Mai-Mai soldiers refuge and enjoy the protection of important personalities in return for gold collected from the Lufira and Munte Rivers and other valuables. The insecurity caused by Bwe extends beyond wildlife and ICCN guards. Reports of IPIS (2007) warn for a possible regrouping of Mai-Mai fractions that refuge inside UNP, the questionable relations between Mai-Mai leaders such as Makabe and his influential family in the FARDC and the relations between the same people and Bwe. During the 2008 survey, insecurity forced the closure of an ICCN outpost for safety reasons and close to 1/4th of UNP is avoided by guards for safety reasons. Bwe also lies along the Lufira River, obstructing the re-opening of the wildlife corridor and elephant migration. Removing Bwe lies beyond ICCN capacity and needs support from Government offices at the highest levels given the support of Bwe by important personalities. Removing Bwe may also avoid larger insecurity issues that could emerge from ignoring Bwe.


With the current available budget the ICCN at the PA’s cannot function. Given the size of UNP, its Annexe and Buyaba, a roughly estimated $1.5 million will be needed for reconstruction and management the first year and about half that amount per year thereafter for management. For KNP and its Annexe one looks at around half the amount of UNP.

Given the important number of wealthy expatriate hunters in the Urban centers of Katanga, an ICCN partner to manage the Lubudi-Sampwe hunting block could possibly be found amongst the most serious of those hunters. The most obvious potential sources of conservation funds for management of UNP, KNP and their Annexes consist of the International Conservation community, the private mining sector and the tourist sector. As part of the political agenda of developed countries, annual funds are allocated to help conserve the worlds’ heritage in developing countries through programs such as USAID and UNESCO. Such funds are applied in the field through large conservation institutions and ICCN should therefore partner with a large conservation institution to manage UNP and KNP. Another funding opportunity may be the mining sector as Katanga is by far the most exploited province of DRC by developed countries and it seems unjust that the private mining sector does not invest in conservation of Katanga’s PA’s. Historic records also show that both UNP and especially KNP can gain substantial revenue from tourism development.
Some immediate conservation actions are advisable to avoid an amplification of un-restorable damage at UNP and KNP. For UNP, a contribution of $7000 per month would provide 50 guards, conservators and conservator assistants, and other personnel, with a stipend that triples their current salaries. Another $1000 per month would cover rations for field missions and $2000 per month could cover fuel and maintenance of vehicles. For KNP, the same would be possible with around half of such investment. Stipends should be performance-based bonuses (i.e. for dismantling of snares, removing camps, seizing bushmeat, guns and ammunition) that are calculated as such that law enforcement is economically advantageous to bribing. Money handling and control of over maintenance of donated equipment should fall in hands of a Conservation NGO or individual with a solid record of honesty.


The current management setup of UNP and KNP has a negative impact on wildlife. Despite the vast area to protect, UNP has no field-based outposts. All of its 11 outposts are located along roads, with several along the same few drivable roads which make their effect redundant. We found a reduction of wildlife signs with proximity to outposts. The associated problems of housing guard families at stations and outposts should not be under-estimated. Some guards at road outposts have established deals and unhealthy relationships with hunters of surrounding communities. Asking several people at Lusinga station when they last saw an animal at the station, I was told a story of a small animal dragging a snare “as if coming to protest”. If tourism is to be re-developed at the main stations, the current housing situation of guards and their families will need to be tackled. Perhaps 1 or 2 road outpost along the same roads could be removed in favor of the restoring of 1 or 2 outposts in the field. Families of guards could be re-grouped to live at the Parks’ boundary closer to existing villages such as Mumbolo that is located at only 30km from Lusinga station. Discussions with the guards suggest that few would refuse a $10 per month housing allowance, 5 days paid leave per month and 1 month paid annual leave, to move families from the stations to the village.

A guard rotation system could be developed where guard teams move between road outposts, field outposts and the main station on foot (reducing need of fuel), using off-road circuits as field patrols. The installation of solar-powered HF radios at the main outposts would help strategic planning of patrols in accordance to threat dynamics. To discourage guards from dealing with fishermen on patrols, rations should contain sufficient protein. Fishermen in the Lufira valley could be given a warning and some time to leave (i.e. the time it takes for their license to expire) to avoid vindictive actions that could lead to the loss of species that occur in very low numbers such as the last hippopotamus, buffaloes and zebra. Supervision, motivation and control of the guards is key to ensure efficient protection. Conservators and their assistants carry therefore the greatest responsibility in Park management and protection. Evidently, no more licenses to fish or hunt inside UNP and KNP should be sold by conservators. Aside the immediate detrimental effect on wildlife, selling licenses sets a bad example to the guards and creates expectations by those buying licenses. A turnaround to better management is unlikely if conservators who created the current situation retain important management roles at KNP and UNP. To reduce tension between guards and surrounding villagers, we advice that guard posts located in the middle of villages to accrue taxes from looking into cooking pots, be removed.


We are most grateful to the USFWS-AfECF for providing the finances without which his survey would not have been possible, and to the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo for allowing us to conduct the survey. We would like to thank ICCN Provincial Director, Mr Mbayo Lukasu and the ICCN Conservator of Lusinga, Mr Jean Mululwa and ICCN Assistant Conservator Mr Jean-Louis Kazada Lenge for their help throughout the survey. We also thank Michel Hasson, executive Director of the NGO BAK and his assistant Vanessa Anastassiou for the logistical support they provided. We would like to thank Mr Richard De Cauwer, General Director of Congo Safaris, and Ron and Jenny, Kiubo camp managers, as well as Franck and Roxane Chantereau for support in housing of the team leaders in Lubumbashi and Kiubo. We thank the WCS-RDC country director, Dr Richard Tshombe and his team for logistical support.

Very special thanks goes to Cyril Pélissier (WWF-CAR), aerial observer and ground team leader for voluntarily agreeing to participate in this survey during his holiday time, to Philipp Henschel (WCS/ Panthéra), aerial observer and large carnivore team leader for agreeing to participate in this survey during his writing-up phase of his PhD, and to Arnaud Gotanègre for agreeing to voluntarily participate as a ground team leader, for his participation in the aerial survey and his help with logistics at the level of Lubumbashi at the beginning of the survey.
We are grateful to the pilot David Moyer (WCS) for his skilled contribution and to the DRC ground team leaders for their valuable survey work at KNP. We also wish to express our true gratitude to all the highly motivated ICCN rangers who participated in this survey as well as the ICCN drivers and driver assistants. A list of people who participated in the survey is provided next:
Hilde Vanleeuwe, PhD (WCS-ROC): Project Coordinator, aerial observer (4 days) and ground team-leader UNP with ICCN guards Nestor Ngômbe, Gustave Mushimi and Kasongo Kisimba.

David Moyer (WCS): Pilot

Cyril Pélissier, (WWF-RCA): Aerial observer (4 days), ground team-leader UNP with ICCN guards Lukomba Polidor, Ngoywangoy Jean, Kyungu Prudence and Seya Muteta Jean-Pierre.

Philipp Henschel, PhD (WCS/ Panthera): Aerial observer (3 days), LC team leader with ICCN guards Ngoy-Mutompa Paul, Kapita Mumbabe Simeon, Nsenga-Kadilwa Theofil and Makwa-Mba Vyoma Gédéon.

Arnaud Gotanegre (Forestry technician): Aerial observer (1 day), ground team-leader UNP with ICCN guards Aron Kazadi, Lenge Mutimpa, Mengwe Khisimba, and Edward Shimbi.

Fidele Amsini (WCS-DRC): Ground team-leader KNP with ICCN guards Kabemba Musimi Celestin, Lwenshia Mikoko, Mpondu Kasongo and Robert Kyapupwa.

Boniface Nyembo (WCS-DRC): Ground team-leader KNP with ICCN guards Kasuba Leopold, Katwisi Balyangwena, MaBwe Chomba Cosmas and Kyubo Ilunga.

Guillain Mitamba (WCS-DRC): Ground team-leader KNP with ICCN guards Ndaile Musampwa, Tchola Mabumba, Lukwesa wa Lukwesa and Masangu Muzinga.

Chryso Vyahavwa (WCS-DRC): Ground team-leader KNP with ICCN guards Masengo Mukubile, Kasongo Nkumuimba, Mutwale Kinika and Malela Mutombo.

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