The official list of Mammals in the country is 343 species. 133 of these can be classified as large mammals. The small mammals comprise 94 bat species, 70 rats and mice, 33 shrews and otters, 8 gerbils, 4 elephant shrews and 1 golden mole. The large mammals comprise: Elephants, Buffaloes, southern white Rhinos, Giraffes, Gorillas, Chimpanzees, Lions, Leopards, Elands among others
Primates (Apes & Monkeys)
Uganda is presently the best location for tracking mountain gorillas, the country boasts a wide variety of primates ranging chimpanzees and several types of monkeys to the tiny wide-eyed bush baby.
All these are easily visible among the wide variety of 343 species of large mammals that the country has to offer.
There are mainly two kinds of apes that can be explored in Uganda. That is, the Gorillas and the chimpanzees.
In Uganda, gorillas can only be found in the far south western parts of the country. Uganda is known for hosting over 60% of the remaining Gorilla population in the whole world concentrated in the two national parks; Bwindi impenetrable and Mgahinga National parks.
The parks can be accessed by road; which may take you over 8 hours from Kampala via Masaka, Mbarara, Kabale to Kisoro though a flight may be arranged to Kisoro which may take you only one hour and a few minutes.
Today Uganda has 12 habituated gorillas families; for anyone interested in researching about gorillas; the two national parks will do you justice since you will have the opportunity to interact with over 300 gorillas, on the other hand, if you are considering going for a tour in any of these two, you will need a gorilla permit. Gorilla permits were invented to limit access to these two parks. Entrance fee based access would expose the place to high numbers of visitors because of the scarcity of gorillas in the whole world.
When we mention Mgahinga and Bwindi Impenetrable national parks, a question arises on which of the two is the best gorilla tracking destination in Uganda, a few facts about the two parks may help you to make an informed decision on where to enjoy your trekking from.
Bwindi impenetrable national park is home to over 400 gorillas. The park apparently hosts eleven families of habituated gorillas unlike Mgahinga which only has one habituated gorilla family. This implies that when you visit Bwindi, you are presented with a wide range of trekking choices unlike in Mgahinga
Further more Bwindi impenetrable national park’s location is paramount in terms of access to other national parks, for instance, Queen Elizabeth national park; the home to the tree climbing lions is just in a distance of two hours drives from Bwindi while Mgahinga may be four hours or more.
Bwindi is also the only park in world where you can track gorillas, chimpanzees and golden monkeys in the same forest. The park also harbors over 25 endemic bird species making is a special destination to anyone interested in gorilla tracking, chimpanzee tracking and birding.
There are mainly seven destinations in Uganda for anyone interested in tracking, feeding or poses for photos with chimpanzees;
- Kibale Forest National Park
- Kalinzu Forest (Near Queen Elizabeth National Park)
- Budongo Forest (Near Murchison Falls National Park)
- Chambura Gorge Chimpanzee tracking (Near Queen Elizabeth National Park)
- Toro Semuliki Wildlife Reserve
- Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary
- Uganda Wildlife Conservation Education Center
Uganda wildlife Conservation Education center also known as Entebbe Zoo, offers what is known as a chimp close up where the tourist has the opportunity to feed the chimpanzees for their breakfast, watch them through the day, as well as carrying some to pose with them for wildlife experience photo.
Ngamba Island also give a similar experience of watching chimpanzees free range as well as feed as the guide shares with you the history of the place, and the great rescue tales of the surviving chimps at Ngamba which most of which were rescued from people’s homes, and hunters
The other destination are for chimpanzees in their natural environment, it is mostly from this destinations that chimpanzees are pouched for meat, while others are captured to be kept as pets. Though Uganda wildlife authority give licenses to people to keep some wild species such as parrots, Antelopes, crocodiles, its uncommon to find private gazetted areas for chimpanzees
Uganda is also gifted with a variety of monkeys that can be found in almost any tropical forest around the country. The most spotted Monkeys around Uganda include the vervets, red tailed, Black and white colobus and the Mangebeys, while the Patas, L’Hoest’s, DeBrazza’s, Angola colobus, Baboons, golden and blue monkeys can only be spotted in a few places around the country.
The different botanical gardens in Uganda more so in Entebbe have free ranging black and white colobuses, vervets, and red tailed monkeys. The other monkey species can be found in Semliki National park and game reserve, Mountain Elgon national park, Kibale forest National Park, Bwindi impenetrable national park, Murchison falls national park and Queen Elizabeth national park
Nocturnal primates –
Bush babies and the Poto are some of the other permanent primate residents in Uganda, though because of their night activity, it is very rare to spot them during the day.
Felines: Uganda’s Cats
Uganda is believed to have a total population of over 400 lions distributed among Murchison falls, Queen Elizabeth National park, Kidepo valley National Park, Lake Mburo National Park, and Semliki National park. However its only queen Elizabeth, Murchison falls and Kidepo valley national park where you will be assured of spotting lions whenever you visit.
Though Lions can easily be spotted as mentioned above depending on the national park you visit, leopards are very rare to find yet they are believed to have a total population of over 2000 which is 5 times more than the lions. Leopards are solitary cats which makes them very hard to spot since they often dwell alone.
It is known for climbing trees with a potential of carrying prey two times its weigh up on the tree. It usually feasts from the trees to avoid scavengers such as the hyenas which commonly bull the lions after catching their prey, however the hyenas doesn’t only survive on prey hunted by other animals, it hunts more than 60% of it prey though they often start feasting on the prey even before killing it.
Cheetahs are the fastest land animal capable of sprinting up a speed of 120 kilometers per hour. It is the third biggest cat among all the Ugandan cats. The cheetah can be spotted in Kidepo valley national park. They commonly feed on small antelopes such bushbacks, impalas, kobs among others
There are also behind the scenes sessions at Uganda wildlife conservation education in Entebbe where you get the opportunity to pose for photos with cheetahs.
The Caracal is also another feline that is rare in Uganda, it can only be spotted in Kibale forest National park. The also feed on small antelopes such duikers.
(v)African Golden cat
Due to the solitary nature of these cats, its very rare to spot them, the African golden cat can be spotted in Kibale forest National park. They are slightly bigger than the serval cats; commonly feeding on monkeys, birds, and small Antelopes.
(vi)African Wild Cat
The African wild cat carries a similar size and appearance to that of the domestic cats,, those that live near people homes often feed on chicken, rats, and small birds.
(vii) Serval Cat
The Serval cat carries similar spot to that of a cheetah, its commonly mistaken for a leopard. Amongst all the felines, the Serval cat has the longest compared to its body size.
The side-striped jackal, bat-eared fox, golden jackal, African hunting dog. There are 38 species of canivores, there are Five Canine species, Seven felines, Three hyenas, Ten mongooses, Six mustelids (otters, badgers and weasels), Seven viverrids (civets and genets) and a lot more species.
Antelope: (29 Species)
Large antelopes include the common Eland, Derby’s Eland, Greater Kudu, the Hartebeest, the Defassa Waterbuck, Roan Antelope and the Oryx. Medium-sized antelopes include The Uganda Kob, Bushbuck, Sitatunga, the lesser Kudu, Grant’s Gazelle, Mountain Reedbuck, Bohor Reedbuck and the Impala.
The Nile Crocodile, the world’s largest reptile is common in most rivers and lakes (Though in depleted numbers). There are hundreds of different lizards and snakes. Snakes are mostly shy and seldom seen. Several types of chameleon are available.
Information from Uganda Wildlife Authority and Makerere Institute of Environmental Studies.