Upemba National Park
About 1899Km (25Hrs), south east of Kinshasa capital, lies Upemba National Park (Parc National De l’Upemba).
The park is situated in the South east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Katanga province, Hauti-Lomami District.
Initially, it is the second largest national park in DRC covering a total area of about 11,730Km.However, at one time; the park was the largest in DRC and the whole of Africa covering an area of about 17,730Km².
The park is named after its most distinctive feature, Lake Upemba. Lake Upemba is at the North West boundary of the park.
Upemba National park lies on a mountain plateau known as Kibara, which has an elevation of about 1,800m altitude.
The lower section of the park is at the Upemba depression which has a series of lakes and marshes which are located outside the park in the Kamolondo plains; and the most distinctive feature which is within the parks boundary in the North West, Lake Upemba.
Upemba depression comprises of about 50 lakes, 22 of them being relatively large size, and the largest, Lake Upemba. Some of the lakes include Lake kisale (second biggest), Kalondo, Lunde, Tungwe, Noala, kasala and others.
The area is believed to be the origin of the Kingdom of Luba from 1585 to 1889. Upemba depression consists of over 40 archaeological sites and is regarded as a world heritage site by United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
The park is bordered by Kundelungu national park to the south east; and Lualaba River to the West.
First established on the 15th May 1939, the park had a total surface area of about 17,730Km². At this time, it was considered the largest in the whole of DRC and Africa. However, in July 1975, the parks boundaries were revised and it was reduced to about 11,730Km.
During the maimai militia in 2004, the parks headquarters at Lusinga where attacked by rebels on the 28th May and burnt down. Several wardens and their families were killed. The family of the chief warden was taken hostage by the rebels.
However, on the 1st June 2005, the protectors of the park received the Abraham Conservation Award for their role in protecting the park from poachers and the biodiversity of the Congo River basin.
Vegetation in the park is determined by altitude. It consists of rainforest forest, wooden grassland, grassland and swamps. At higher altitude between 1750 to 1800m, is the grassland cut by a number of streams and intercepted by rainforest. Below is the Uapaca dominated woodland.
However, during the rainy season, water accumulates in the depressions causing the formation of temporary swamps; and permanent water ponds which over flow resulting into floods. Areas around the Upemba depression which is characterized by lakes and streams have a riparian type of forest.
Located further south from the equator, Upemba national park has a short rainy season, from December to march, with annual rainfall of about 1200 to 1400mm.
The rest of the Year is the Dry season with temperatures ranging from 25 to 35°C. The dry season tends to be dry and dusty.
The national park is home to about 1,800 different species.
Having a series of lakes, rivers and swamps; Upemba National park is a habitant to about 30 fish species such mormyridae (elephant fish), Cyprinidae, cichlidae, mochokidae and many other species.
There is also a number of mammal species which include zebras, antelopes, elephants, buffalos, lions and others. Bird species include shoebill, wattled crane, bee-eater, leaf love, Miombo rock thrush, Racket tailed roller, Miombo rock thrush, fly catcher, fire-finch and many more.
The lake marks the North West boundary of the park and it’s from it that the Parks name is derived. Lake Upemba Marks the North West boundary and is the largest lake in the park covering an area of about 530Km².The Lake is shared by both bukama and Hauti-Lomami districts.
Upemba lake has 0.9Km³ volume of water and is about 4m deep. However, the water levels of the region fluctuate according to the season.
During the rainy season, the water levels are high especially from march to June; when it is the dry season, the water levels are low especially from October to January.
The lake is a habitant to freshwater fish species such as tilapia, elephant fish and other species. The surrounding areas are characterized with papyrus, water caltrop and other species.