The Marungu-Kabogo region on the western shores of Lake Tanganyika in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is an area of very low human population density. Most of the area is Miombo woodland together with highland grasslands but there is also a contiguous block of forest of about 1000 km2, the Ngamikka forest, north of the town of Kalemie. The only protected area in this landscape is the Luama Katanga hunting reserve which has not had any staff present since the early 1980s through lack of conservation support. An aerial survey made by WCS in 2006 showed that most of the Marungu massif to the south had been converted to highland grassland for cattle and did not seem to hold much opportunity for conservation. Subsequent surveys by Eli Greenbaum of the University of Texas here have shown that there are amphibian species that only occur here and need some form of conservation action. The aerial surveys did show that the Ngamikka forest was intact and worth surveying and this led to a conservation program in the region for WCS. Only about 10% of the area of natural habitat in this region is conserved. Species found here include chimpanzee, elephant, bongo, Prigogine’s colobus, red colobus, Kabobo apalis, yellow-crested helmet shrike, red-collared mountain babbler, itombwe nightjar, and several amphibians and small mammals which are in the process of being described and are endemic to Ngamikka Forest.
The total number of mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian and plant species recorded from this landscape to date number 1,605, of which 76 species are endemic to the Albertine Rift and 32 species are threatened (CR, EN, VU) under the IUCN Redlist (2010).
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This part of the Albertine Rift has much lower human population densities compared with further north. The Marungu highlands were extensively farmed for cattle prior to the civil war in DRC but since then most cattle have been stolen or killed. However much of the region’s natural habitat was lost more than 50 years ago. The miombo woodland west of Kalemie and the Ngamikka forest, however remain pretty intact. Artisnal mining for gold affects some of the streams and rivers in the forest but it is not too extensive because the yield is very poor. This forest was the hideout of Laurent Kabila when he was fighting president Mobutu between 1960 and 1980 and subsequently has been insecure so that few people settled in the region. More recently mining exploration concessions have been established in the area which may pose a threat if any significant mineral deposits are found.
Following the initial aerial surveys WCS led a biological survey to the Ngamikka forest, together with the Chicago Field Museum, IRST Lwiro and WWF, which found six new vertebrate species for the World (4 small mammals and two amphibians). Given these findings we made a socioeconomic survey of the households living around this forest. This survey, amongst other questions, asked whether people thought the forest should be conserved and if so what sort of protected area should be created.
Most people wanted to conserve the forest and wanted to create a national park. The findings of the surveys were presented to the village chiefs around the forest and agreement was reached to work together to create a new national park. Since then WCS has been working with each village around the forest to participatively map and agree on the boundaries of the new park. We have also started the process of creating the protected area at provincial and national level in DRC. The proposed Ngamikka National park would be connected to the Luama Katanga hunting reserve to create about 4000 km2 of natural habitat and conserve at least 1,500 chimpanzees as well as the only habitat of the endemic species of the Ngamikka Forest.