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Upemba National Park is a large park in the Katanga province of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Located in a lush area dotted by lakes, including the eponymous Lake Upemba, and bordered by the Lualaba River, its 11,730 km² dominates the Kibara Plateau.
The Upemba National Park was first established in 1939. It is home to some 1,800 different species, some of them discovered as late as 2003. There are also a handful of villages in the park. In recent years, the park has come under considerable attack from poachers and local militias. On 28 May 2004, for instance, the park headquarters in Lusinga came under attack by the Mai Mai militia. Several wardens and their families were killed, the headquarters were burned down, and the family of the chief warden was taken hostage. As with much of the wildlife of the region, the park continues to be threatened by the activities of poachers, pollution and the activities of refugees and militia.
On 1 June 2005, the protectors of the park received the Abraham Conservation Award for their role in protecting the rich biodiversity of the Congo River basin.
Upemba National Park is located between Latitude 9°5’ and 8°45’ South and Longitude 25°50’ and 27°10’ East. At the time of its creation on the 15th May 1939 the park had a surface area of 17,730km² and was the largest park in Africa. In July 1975, the limits were revised and today the integral park has an area of 10,000km² with an annex of a further 3,000km². The habitat of the park varies from grassland at higher altitudes, forests and woodland and lakes and wetlands.
Lake Upemba has a maximum depth reported to be only 3.2 meters and it is a site of intense algae growth. The watercourses of the region fluctuate according to the season and the water level in the lake is high from March to June and low from October to January. Many of the bodies of the water in the area are characterized by extensive swamps, with Papyrus, Nile lettuce and Water caltrop among other species.
The system of lakes, rivers, swamps and wetlands supports a variety of fish fauna. This includes over 30 species of Cyprinidae, Mormyridae (also known as freshwater elephant fish), Barbus, Alestidae, Mochokidae and Cichlids.
Bird species include several threatened or endangered species, such as the Shoebill, Wattled Crane and Spotted Ground-thrush.
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