Lomami National Park

The Park is perched within the middle basin of Lomami River (major tributary of Congo River) straddling the provinces of Maniema and Tshopo with a slight overlap into the forests of Lualaba and Tshuapa Rivers thus making the Park more photogenic and very spectacular indeed. The Park is found in the south of Kisangani which is Tshopo Province’s capital and northwest of Kindu (the capital of Maniema Province). Lomami is among Congo’s largest Parks covering about 8,879 square kilometers of tropical lowland rain forest with savanna Islands in its southern direction and to its west there are hills all making the Park one of the most spectacular places in the country. The Lomami River forms the western border at the southern limit of the park and flows through the center of the northern part of the park. Two other rivers within the Park are; Tshuapa River and Lualaba River which define the general east-west limits of the TL2 landscape.

The park is a favorite destination for Congo tourists because the park protects a Congolese endemic great ape known as ‘’bonobo’’. A bonobo is sometimes referred to as a pygmy chimpanzee, or dwarf or even a gracile chimpanzee and it is an endangered great ape and one of the two species making up the genus ‘’Pan’’ the other species is ‘’Pan troglodytes’’ formally known as common chimpanzee.

Although the name “chimpanzee” is sometimes used to refer to both species together, it is usually understood as referring to the common chimpanzee well as the Pan paniscus is usually referred to as the bonobo. The name ‘’bonobo’’ is thought to be a misspelling on a shipping crate from the town of Bolobo on the Congo River near the location from which the first bonobo specimens were collected in the 1920s.

The bonobo is distinguished by relatively long legs, pink lips, dark face and tail-tuft through adulthood, and parted long hair on its head. The species is omnivorous and inhabits primary and secondary forests including the seasonally inundated swamp forests. Political instability in the region and the timidity of bonobos has meant there has been relatively little field work done observing the species in its natural habitat. Along with the common chimpanzees, the bonobos are the closest extant relative to humans and because the two species are not proficient swimmers, the formation of the Congo River 1.5–2 million years ago possibly led to the specialization of the bonobos.

Bonobos live south of the river and thereby were separated from the ancestors of the common chimpanzee which live north of the river. There are no concrete data on population numbers of bonobos but the estimate is between 29,500 and 50,000 individuals. The species is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List and is threatened by habitat destruction and human population growth and movement however commercial poaching is the most prominent threat. The bonobos typically live 40 years in captivity though their lifespan in the wild is not clear. For a great experience about bonobos’ behaviors and differences and similarities with common chimpanzees can all be got when you visit Lomami national park.

Lomami national park is therefore outstanding for its large number of bonobos and numerous primate species such as; De Brazza’s monkeys, Lesula, Tshuapa red Colobus, Lomami red Colobus, Katanga red-tailed monkeys, Northern black Mangabeys, Dryas monkeys, Sclater’s Angolan Colobus among others. Other inhabitants in the Park include about 500 African Forest Elephants remain which thrive in northern forests of the park.

The northern part of the Park is the most attractive since animals in the southern were heavily hunted to extinct. In the North there also lives; Okapis, rain forest giraffes and Congolese endemics which occur only on the west bank of the Lomami River. The Park also resides numerous species of birds including; endemic Congo pea-fowls and grey parrots among others.