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Biodiversity of the Albertine Rift

The Albertine Rift is an area of high endemism and threatened species . Over 50% of birds, 39% of mammals, 19% of amphibians and 14% of reptiles and plants of mainland Africa occur in this region The table below summarizes the numbers of species for each taxa.

Table 4 Biodiversity of the Albertine Rift


Species richness

Endemic species

Threatened species





























Source: WCS 2003



The fish biodiversity in Uganda is dominated by cichlid family consisting of 324 species of which 292 are endemic to Lake Victoria and 42 non-cichlid species spread in the vast aquatic resources of Uganda. Of the 42, 15 are endemic to Lake Victoria (Mbabazi et al., 2006).

The 2006 fish biodiversity update indicated a total of about 324 cichlid species in the Ugandan part of Lake Victoria; 42 non-cichlid fish species in Lake Victoria . The Lake Kyoga complex harbors 41 haplochromine cichlids plus 5 tilapiine cichlids totaling 46 cichlid species besides the about 40 non-cichlid species in Lake Kyoga complex. Lakes Edward and George host an estimated 60 cichlid fishes and another 21 non-cichlid fish species to those lakes. Lake Albert has an estimated total number of 15 cichlid species and about 37 non-cichlid fish species, none of which is endemic to the lake. However, little remains known about the fish biodiversity of the minor lakes, rivers and swamps. A survey of the Kisoro minor lakes (Kamanyi et al. 2006) indicated that fish diversity in these lakes is comprised of 4 families and a total of 9 taxa, Koki lakes a total of 8 families, 7 cichlids and 3 nob cichlid species. The most recent survey of the crater lakes of western Uganda indicated 3 tilapiine species, 2 Claridae species, 1 Cyprinidae (Barbus spp.) and 1 Poecilidae (Mosquitoes fish) and unknown number of haplochromine species in the lakes mainly due to the difficulty in their identification (Efitre, 2007). A study of rivers-streams in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park also reported 8 families and 19 fish species, including 3 species believed to be endemic to the rivers and streams in the park (Kasangaki, 2007).


Despite the over 600 fish species found in Uganda the major commercial fish species only include: Nile perch (Lates niloticus) from all the major lakes except Edward/George and some satellite lakes in the Victoria and Kyoga basin lakes; the small Nile perch Lates macrophthalmus (from L. Albert); Nile Tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) from all major water bodies; Mukene (Rastreneobola argentea) from the Victoria and Kyoga basin lakes; Muziri/Mukene, (Neobola bredoi) of L. Albert; Catfish (Clarias gariepinus); Silver catfish (Bagrus docmak) from all major water bodies but currently very rare in lakes Victoria and Kyoga (Mbabazi, 2004). However in Lake Albert, Lanya/Munama/Oreko, Bagrus bayad similar to B. docmak comprise of one the dominant fishery (Mbabazi personal observation). Alestes Baremose, Brycinus nurse and N. bredoi currently constitute about 80% of fish biomass in Lake Albert. The most common fish species to almost all the water bodies is the Lungfish (Protopterus aethiopicus).


Most of the above diversity is found in the aquatic systems that comprise of five major lakes namely; Victoria, Albert, Kyoga, Edward, George, about 160 minor lakes, an extensive river system, dams and ponds (NBSAP, 2002).

These aquatic systems are also associated with extensive wetlands and collectively, they contain one of the largest assemblages of diverse freshwater fish species in the world. There are more than 600 species of cichlid fish are found in Lake Victoria (Arinaitwe et al. 2000). The state of biodiversity in these water bodies was greatly impacted by the introduction of exotic species, mainly Nile perch.