Uganda’s attractions for the natural history enthusiast are almost legendary. One of the last enclaves of the mountain gorilla, it is also home to a wide variety of other primates, while the country’s 1060 species of bird should keep even the most ardent birdwatcher happy.
Uganda’s list of gazette conservation areas contains ten national parks and several other wildlife reserves and forest reserves. National parks are accorded a higher status and conservation priority than other reserves, and from the visitor’s point of view they are generally better developed for tourism.
When it comes to more conventional game-viewing, Uganda is a destination to reckon with as it has various national parks with various game.
Bwindi is a true rainforest, spread over a series of steep ridges and valleys that from the eastern edge of the Albertine Rift Valley. The national park has an average annual rainfall of almost 1,500mm, and it is a vital catchment area, the source of five major rivers which flow into Lake Albert.
Kidepo protects one of the most exciting faunas of any Ugandan national park. The total of 86 mammal species recorded is only the third highest in Uganda, but Kidepo protects a far greater variety of large mammals than any other national park, including 28 species found nowhere else in the country. The bird checklist of 463 confirmed and 26 unconfirmed species is second only to Queen Elizabeth National Park, and more than 60 of the birds listed have been recorded in no other Uganda national park.
Kibale forest offers superlative primate viewing, but it is not otherwise an easy place to see large mammals – this despite an impressive checklist which includes lions, leopard, elephant, buffalo, hippo, warthog, giant forest hog, bushpig, bushbuck, sitatunga, and peter’s, red and blue duikers. The elephants found in Kibale forest are classified as belonging to the forest race, which is smaller and hairier than the more familiar savannah elephant. Elephants frequently move into the Kanyanchu area during the wet season, but they are not often seen by tourists.
Lake Mburo is notable for supporting a wide variety of antelope and other ungulate species. It is the only place in Uganda where the impala still occurs, and it is the best place to see large herds of eland, Africa’s largest antelope. At one time, roan antelope were common in the area, but sightings of this animal are now so infrequent that some sources suggest it is locally extinct. Other antelope species which occur in the park are topi, bushbuck, sitatunga, common duiker, klipspringer, oribi, Defassa waterbuck and Bohor reedbuck.
The list of 76 mammal species recorded in Murchison falls includes many of Africa’s best-known plains animals, notable absentees being cheetah, zebra and rhino. Primates are poorly represented. Vervet monkeys and olive baboons are the most common species, though a small population of the localized patas monkey occurs in the north of the park and the forest support black-and-white colobus monkeys and chimpanzees.
Mgahinga is best know to tourists for gorilla tracking. Oddly enough, no gorillas live permanently within the park, but a fair number move freely between Uganda and the neigbouring Par des Volcans in Rwanda, and one habituated troop frequently spends months at a stretch within Mgahinga.
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