Saving Congo’s Lake Tumba

Geographical location:

Africa/Madagascar > Central Africa > Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaïre)

Women leaders of the local committees for natural resources management. Democratic Republic of Congo.


The Democratic Republic of Congo’s Lake Tumba and its surrounding swamp forests are home to a number of primates, including bonobos, as well as forest elephants, buffaloes, leopards, hippos and freshwater crocodiles. Logging, poaching and increased human settlement are some factors that are threatening this unique ecosystem and its rich biodiversity.

WWF, working with local communities, government wildlife agencies and others, is helping to conserve the biodiversity of Lake Tumba swamp forest while promoting sustainable economic development to alleviate poverty. This includes establish and maintaining national parks and other protected areas within the forest landscape and ensure that forests and other natural resources are sustainably managed by local communities to improve their income.


The Lake Tumba landscape within the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) covers around 72,543 km2 and encompasses a large collection of biodiversity. The landscape is home to species such as the bonobo (Pan paniscus) and several other primate species as the Angolan pied colobus (Colobus angolensis), Allen’s swamp monkey (Allenopithecus nigroviridus), black mangabey (Lophocebus aterrimus), Salonga red colobus (Piliocolobus tholonii), red-tailed monkey (Cercopithecus ascanius), De Brazza’s monkey (Cercopithecus cephus), and other species of conservation concern such as forest elephants (Loxodonta africana cyclotis), forest buffaloes (Syncerus caffer nanus) and leopards (Panthera pardus pardus). The fish diversity is rich, and other freshwater species include 2 crocodile species (Crocodylus cataphractus and Crocodylus niloticus), and hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius).

Threats to the biodiversity include rapid increases in human populations, induced by waves of migration. At the heart of the landscape are 3 logging concessions which take the Mellitia laurenti, a black hardwood highly prized by the logging industry.

High and unmonitored migrant fishing rates place a burden on fish populations. In addition, bushmeat hunting is rampant and poaching activities continue due to the wide availability of weapons and ammunition and the physical location of the landscape at the crossroad of many river routes. Local poverty also threatens biodiversity, putting an excessive strain on natural resources through unplanned and unsustainable subsistence agricultural practices.

About 60-65% of the landscape is in a swampy zone, making the landscape one of the most extensive wetland zones in the country. Periodical bird migrations have been observed but not fully documented, which qualifies the area as a potential Ramsar site, which the DRC joined in 1996.


Promote sustainable economic development in the Lake Tumba Swamp Forest Lanscape which provides effective conservation of biodiversity and addresses the poverty levels of the local populations.


a. Develop an integrated land-use plan with the participation of all stakeholders.

b. Establish and maintain national parks and other protected areas within the landscape.

c. Ensure forests and other natural resources are rationally managed by local communities to improve their income.

d. Influence the management logging concessions within the landscape, with a special focus on timber certification and overall sustainability.


1. Partners completed a segment-wide biological survey including an assessment of habitat quality, large mammal inventories and fish stock assessment.

2. Partners completed segment-wide socio-economic surveys, including a stakeholder assessment, economic assets, economic potential, felt threats and opportunities for biodiversity conservation.

3. These socio-economic and biological surveys helped:
i. Assess and document threats and populations of large mammals across the landscape segment, discovering new populations of bonobos, elephants and forest buffaloes where they were either thought to have disappeared or be totally absent.
ii. Identify and sketch the map of an important biodiversity zone, the proposed Lake Tumba IUCN Category VI Reserve, totaling 750,000ha. The process of creating the reserve was initiated.
iii. Identify and delineate 3 proposed Community-Based Natural Resource Managements (CBNRMs), namely Bobangi, Bikoro-Itipo, and Ngombe, totaling 277,425ha. Functions were attributed to each proposed CBNRM using a participatory approach both during the mapping, the attribution of functions to each micro-zones and defining strategies for the future.
iv. Identify and delineate 8 proposed locally managed fishing basins over the segment, totaling 630,000ha and 4 proposed seasonal conservation zones in the Lake Tumba itself, totaling 480.3ha or 0.63% of the lake.
v. Identify and delineate 2 community conservation zones: the Malebo zone in the southern part and Botuali-Mbie-Mokele/Motaka and Nkoso near Lake Tumba using a participatory approach. The Malebo community conservation zone is not included in the proposed reserve scheme whereas the Botuali-Bosango zone is included in the proposed zone. The same zone also greatly overlaps with the proposed Ngombe CBNRM.

4. Partners have prepared strategy documents for each of the proposed zones, indicating next steps and potential partners to carry out identified priorities for the management of natural resources in these zones.

5. The Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP) partners also trained a number of Congolese researchers both in biological techniques as well as in socio-economic research. Minimal equipment, infrastructure support and new research opportunities were also provided along with different training sessions for both non-governmental organisation (NGO) hired personnel and national institutions including staff from the Universities of Kinshasa and Kisangani, Service Permanent d'Inventaire et d'Aménagement Forestier (SPIAF), Réseau pour la Conservation et la Réhabilitation des Ecosystèmes Forestiers (CREF), and Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN). Local populations were also trained in different legal procedures to reclaim their rights on natural resources and management techniques for small grants and micro-credits they received from CBFP partners.

6. Media and communication outreach activities were also accomplished to engage local communities to participate in the land use planning process and become more responsive to the plight facing their natural resources. Accomplishments included several stakeholder meetings to designate CBNRMs, translating forestry code into Lingala, television broadcasting sessions, radio broadcasts, national and international media including newspapers and television. These activities had an impact both in this landscape and beyond and geared the cooperation between provincial and national authorities, law enforcement officials, local populations and the Central African Regional Program for the Environment (CARPE) partners.

7. Livelihood activities were implemented to help local populations find alternative sources of monetary income as well as sustainable natural resource management activities. The project disbursed money for 18 small grants to support traditional fishing, agriculture and fish farming activities. A sustainable agriculture programme was also implemented by the Bonobo Conservation Initiative (BCI) in coordination with the South-East Consortium for International Development (SECID) at Botuali and Mabali.

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Donate to WWF

Your support will help us build a future where humans live in harmony with nature.

Enter Yes if you accept the terms and conditions