Wildlife in Uganda
Uganda, the Pearl of Africa, is rich with a variety of tree species, plant life, beautiful landscapes and abundant wildlife, including the Big 5. Uganda enjoys perfect weather throughout the year, the tropical climate is ideal for wildlife viewing.
It is everyone’s fascination to visit and to be able to have the once in a lifetime glimpse of the big five. Well, the big five are not the only animal to be marvelled at! Uganda has over 350 species of mammals in all sizes. They range from large mammals like gorillas, rhinos, buffaloes, lions, and elephants to small ones, like bats, bush baby and shrews.
The animals found in Uganda can be grouped into these categories:
- Primates- mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, red-tailed monkeys, golden monkeys, grey-cheeked mangabey and many more
- Carnivores- Lion, Leopards, African wildcats, cheetahs, hyena and many more
- Herbivores- Buffalos, elephants, Giraffes, Hippos, Rhino, Zebra, Antelope, Uganda Kob and many more
- Reptiles- Crocodile, pythons, snakes, monitor lizards, chameleons.
- Birds- African eagle, vultures, turacos and many more
There are 38 carnivore species in Uganda
- Cheetah are very rarely seen and are heavily spotted with a greyhound-like build and distinctive black tear-marks. They are very fast animals though the least powerful among the large predators. They are found grassland and savannah habitats such as the Kidepo National Park.
- Lions, the king of the wilderness weighs 680kg and reaches a height of 165cm. They usually prey on antelopes and buffalos. The females are the hunters. They are quite common in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Murchison Falls and Kidepo Valley National Parks They are not present in Lake Mburo National Park. The famous tree climbing lions are found in Ishasha in Queen Elizabeth.
- Leopard are quite similar to the cheetah but can be differentiated from their rosette-shaped spots and are more powerfully built. They prefer wooded or rocky habitats and are present in most national parks in Uganda but regularly seen along channel drive in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
- African civet– are not easily seen since they are nocturnal but are common in most parks. They are bulky, longhaired with a cat-like face.
- Spotted hyena are bulky with a sloping back, dark brown spots and blessed with very powerful jaws that can crack through very hard bones and skin. They are usually found in the savannah and have distinctive hunting skills, capable of killing an animal as large as a wildebeest. They are however absent in Kidepo National Park.
- Mongooses are regularly seen around the Mweya peninsular in Queen Elizabeth National Park. The species include; Egyptian mongoose, Marsh mongoose, Slender mongoose, white tailed mongoose, and banded mongoose.
- Genets are nocturnal, resembling cats but are related to civets. The species include servaline genet, large-spotted genet and small spotted genet are seen on night drives in Semliki Wildlife Reserve. Interestingly they are attracted to human waste.
- Otters are aquatic predators associated with most wet lands and appear in some areas in Lake Mburo National Park. The species include; the darker spotted-necked otter smaller in size and very active between dusk and dawn, the Cape clawless otter and the Congo clawless otter that is regarded to be the largest African otters.
- Bat-eared fox is more associated with the dry open country and appears in only in Kidepo national park. They are small in size with a striking silver-Grey colour, huge ears and black eye-mask often seen moving in pairs or small family groups during the cooler hours of the day.
- Jackals are mostly savannah habitats hunting a variety of birds and mammals and sometimes eat a variety of fruits and bulbs. There is the side-striped jackal and the Black-backed found in Bwindi, Mgahinga, Murchison falls and Kidepo National Park.
- Smaller cats include several species like;
- caracal who are medium-sized with a reddish brown coat, tufted ears and prefers the open habitats found only in Kidepo National Park. The African golden cat caracal is widely spread in western Uganda and seen in every forested national park except Semliki.
- African wild cat, this appears in most Savannah habitats in Uganda.
- Serval is similar to genet with a pale coat, widely spread in Uganda and loves to lives in varied habitats from woodland to forests.
- Rhinoceros – Black rhino is extinct, and the white rhino has just been reintroduced in Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary in 2005.
- Giraffe, specifically Rothschild’s giraffe is the world’s tallest land mammal and can only be found in Murchison Falls, Lake Mburo and Kidepo Valley national parks. Its swaying gait comes as a result of it moving both right legs simultaneously, followed by both left legs.
- Buffalo is among the big five and are known to be one of the most dangerous species in Uganda due to their unpredictable and defensive nature. They can easily trample on a lion that attacks them. They live in large herds in the savannah and smaller herds in the forests and are found in all national parks.
- Hippopotamus are large aquatic animal, have webbed feet and are the third largest land mammal after the elephant and the rhinoceros weighing about 1,500–1,800 kg. They have no sweat glands and spend most of their days submerged in water to keep cool, as they have. They appear on almost all water bodies but can be seen best in Murchison falls, Queen Elizabeth and Lake Mburo National Parks
- Burchell’s zebra has beautiful striped black and white colour existing only in Murchison Falls, Lake Mburo and Kidepo Valley National Parks.
- The African elephant is the world’s largest land animal weighing around 6,000kgs. They are not found in Lake Mburo.
- Antelopes are identified with 8 in the category of large antelopes with a shoulder height of above 120cm, 8 in the medium-sized category with a shoulder height between 75cm-90cm and small antelope with a shoulder height of between 30cm-60cm.
The larger antelopes are;
- Eland– the largest antelope which is fawn-brown in colour with large dewlap and short-spiralled horns sometimes with light white stripes on its sides. They appear around Lake Mburo National Park, Kidepo Valley and the sorrounding areas.
- Greater Kudu is handsome with a Grey-brown coat with long, elegant spiral horns and white side stripes.
- Hartebeest commonly seen is Jackson’s hartebeest – an unusual, flat-faced creature, living in lightly wooded and open Savannah habitats, frequently seen in the Ishasha sector of the Queen Elizabeth National Park, Murchison Falls National Park, Lake Mburo and Kidepo valley.
- Orxy is ash-Grey in colour with sports distinctive large, scimitar-shaped horns and regal commonly found in Kidepo National Park because it is more familiar with the semi-desert and dry acacia woodland.
- Defassa waterbuck has a grey-brown coat, white rump and large curved horns and grazes near water. They are found most savannah national parks.
The medium sized antelope include the following;
- Sitatunga is semi-aquatic, large in size with a shaggier coat with both sexes having stripes and has distinctively splayed hooves adapted to its favoured habitat of papyrus and other swamps. It is found in all the six national parks.
- Impala is handsome, slender with a chestnut colouring, sleek appearance and distinctive lyre horns for males. They have broad-jump skills. They are only found in Lake Mburo.
- Lesser kudu is similar to the greater kudu but only smaller in size and less striped, found in Kidepo National Park.
- Grant’s gazelle are lightly built tan in colour.
- Reedbuck has small crescent-shaped horns and a Grey-brown in colour. The Bohor reedbuck is found in all the four Savannah national parks of Uganda. The mountain reedbuck is found in Kidepo National Park.
- Uganda kob is related to the waterbuck and reedbuck but reddish-brown in colour and bulkier in appearance. They are found in Queen Elizabeth, Murchison falls, Semliki, Kidepo national parks, and Katonga wildlife reserves.The small-sized antelope in Uganda belong to the Duiker family characterized by their small size and their love for thickly forested habitats.
- Forest duiker are relatively large with a striking yellow back and heavier than a bushbuck. Types of the forest duiker include;
- The Harvey’s red duiker is tiny with a chestnut-brown colour and are found around the forested parts of Queen Elizabeth national park and Kibale forest.
- The blue duiker is smaller with a grey-blue coat found in Queen Elizabeth, Murchison falls, Kibale and Bwindi national parks.
- Peter’s duiker is found in Kibale, Bwindi and Queen Elizabeth national parks.
- The black-fronted duiker is found in Mgahinga and Bwindi forests.
- Grey duiker is speckled with a Grey-brown coat found in woodland and Savannah habitats, seen in all four of the Savannah national parks and Mount Elgon.
- Oribi has a red-brown back, white underparts and a diagnostic black scent gland under its ears. They are found in the tall grasslands and it is seen in all the Savannah national parks. Borassus are found in the northern grassland of the Murchison falls national park.
- Klipspringer has goat-like habits with a dark Grey coat and almost speckled living in pairs in suitable habitats in Kidepo and Lake Mburo national parks.
- Guenther’s dik-dik is small, with a dark red-brown coat, distinctive white eye markings and very pretty. They are found in the dry Savannah around Kidepo valley.
- Bates’s pygmy antelope is not a duiker but similar and appears in the same favoured habitats. It is found in Semliki National Park and the forests bordering the southern half of Queen Elizabeth National Park.
- Swine– there are many species found;
- Warthog is grey in colour with tusks on both sides of the mouth seen in family groups. They are common in all Savannah national parks.
- Bush pig are nocturnal and prefer thickets and dense woodland. They are not found in Rwenzori National Park.
- Giant forest hog is nocturnal and rarely seen. They are found in most parks in the west.
- Gorilla is the largest primates weighing up to 210kgs. The species are the western lowland gorilla, the lowland gorilla and mountain gorilla. The endangered mountain gorilla is commonly seen in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. They can be tracked all year long.
- Chimpanzees are a black-coated ape is amongst the most intelligent. They are closely related to humans and can use tools. They have been habituated in Budongo and Kanyiyo Pabidi forests, Kibale Forest National and the Kyambura Gorge in Queen Elizabeth National Park. They can be tracked all year long.
- Vervet monkey has a black face with very distinctive blue male genitals. They are found all over Uganda.
- De brazza’s monkey has a hairy face, a reddish-brown patch around its eyes, white band across its brow, white moustache and beard with a relatively short tail. They are found in Mount Elgon and Semliki national parks.
- Black-and-white colobus monkeys are black with white face, white tail, long white hair running from the shoulders to rump, and white tufts at the ends of their long tails. Infants are born pure white.
- Baboons, Olive Baboon, are larger in size with a dog-like face and are found in roadsides, countryside, parks exception the montane regions of Mgahinga Gorillas Park, Ruwenzori Mountains and Mount Elgon.
- Blue Monkeys are dark-blue-grey in color, white throat and a white patch on chest with thick fur and backwards-projecting hair on its forehead. They are not present in Murchison Falls National Park and Lake Mburo National Park.
- L’hoest’s monkey has a black face with backward projecting white whiskers partially covering its ears and carries its tail in an upright position. They are very hard to see because it prefers very dense forests. It is found in Maramagambo forest, Kibale forest, Bwindi forest and Queen Elizabeth National Park.
- Red-tailed monkey has a brownish colour, white whiskers, and a coppery tail with a heart-shaped patch on the nose. They are found in Kibale forest, Bwindi forest, Mpanga and Budongo forest reserves, and Semliki and Queen Elizabeth national parks.
- Red colobus has a slightly tufted crown, and are sociable found Kibale Forest National Park especially around Bigodi Wetland sanctuary and a few of them in Semliki National Park.
- Patas monkey has a lankier build, a light reddish-brown coat and a black stripe above the eyes but could easily be confused with Vervet monkey. They are found in the dry savannah in Kidepo and Murchison Falls National Parks.
- Potto is a medium-sized sloth-like creature that spends the nights’ foraging upside down from tree branches. They are nocturnal and are found in Kibale forest, Bwindi and Queen Elizabeth National Park.
- Bushbabies also called gala goes. They have sparkling large eyes and have a distinctive piercing cry that can be heard especially at night. They are found in all of Uganda’s Savannah reserves
- Lesser bushbaby found.
- The eastern needled-clawed bush baby,
- Thomas bushbaby
- Dwarf bush baby
- The golden monkey is a sub-species of the blue monkey and is found in the bamboo forests of the Virunga Volcanoes. They are found in Rwanda, Uganda and DRC. They have a golden body, cheeks and tails with black limbs, crown on their heads and tail end and weigh 10 to 25 pounds.
- Gray-cheeked mangabeys are greyish and black have a shaggy appearance. They live in low and moderate altitude rainforests. They are found in Mabira forest, Semliki and Kibale Forest National Parks.
- Nile crocodile is the largest living reptile that can grow up to the length of 6m. They feed on fish, mammals who come to water bodies. It drowns its prey first, stores it under a tree until it is decomposed for better eating. They are seen in Lake Mburo, Murchison Falls and Kazinga Channel in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
- Python– they are large snakes that squeeze, crash and swallow their prey. You can spot the bat eating python in Maramagambo forest.
- Snakes– There are many species including puffadder, black cobra, green snake etc. They are common in the savannah and forest areas around Uganda.
When is the best time for wildlife viewing?
Most of the parks can be visited throughout the year, but the best time for wildlife viewing is the Dry season (from June to August and December to February) when animals congregate around near rivers and water points. During the rainy season, the roads can become impassable, hiking trails become slippery and challenging and the overall experience might be compromised.
Find out more about when the best time to visit Uganda is, here.
Uganda, blessed with tropical warm weather is definitely a haven with a variety of wildlife, plant life and adventure activities. You will be able to get a closer look at a variety of animals from mammals, primates, reptiles and birdlife. Extremely fascinating are the changing vegetation from Savannah, tropical forests, mountain vegetation, hygrophilous vegetation in water points, and the steppe.
Booking with Nkuringo Safaris will give you a tailor-made itinerary to suit your every need. Interested? Contact us today.