Upemba National Park

The Upemba National Park (UNP) is located in the Congo River basin, the park is located in the Katanga Province in the southeastern corner of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The Congo River basin includes the second largest rainforest in the world. The Lualaba River flows through UNP, which is a main stream of the Congo River. Plagued by civil wars and violent militias, DRC is still a relatively unpopular destination for tourists. Due to the social unrest in the DRC, nature conservation has not been a priority for years since Belgium's independence, leaving room for illegal activities at the expense of local nature.

UNP is part of the Upemba-Kundelungu Complex, an area comprising the Upemba and Kundelungu National Parks and adjacent nature reserves. The Upemba-Kundelungu Complex is a DRC designated RAMSAR Wetlands site for the area's wetland ecosystem. The national government has instituted Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN) has been assigned the responsibility for the management of the national parks. For the management of UNP and Kundelungu , the Forgotten Parks Foundation (FPF) signed a 15-year agreement with ICCN in 2017. International Conservation Fund (ICF), as a partner of FPF, is
responsible for fundraising and storytelling for the two parks. In DRC, rangers are deployed by ICCN to protect the various types of nature reserves. In UNP it turned out that in the past these rangers were often responsible for a significant part of the illegal activities. Since FPF took over the management of UNP, work has been done to improve this ranger program. At the moment still dependent on donations, it is necessary for permanent stable management to be able to generate income from the park. This research aims to determine which ecotourism activities can generate this income in the near future. The geographical and ecological characteristics are investigated by means of an area analysis.

The area analysis has shown that UNPconsists of two high plateaus through which a lower valley around the Lufira River runs. At the end of this valley is the swampy area where Lake Upemba and a number of smaller lakes are located. The lower parts of the park are dominated by Miombo vegetation and the plateaus are mainly Savannah grassland. Biodiversity is relatively low compared to comparable areas, with the exception of bird and fish populations. In the village of Lusinga is the headquarters of the park management, this village is located in the east of the park on top of one of the plateaus. In Lusinga there is a runway large enough for most lightweight aircraft. Dangerous militias are still active in the park, which means that a large part of UNP is not yet under the control of the rangers.