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Table 1: Extent of Uganda’s Protected Areas by category




Area (km2)

%age of Uganda’s Land area

National Park




Wildlife Reserves




Wildlife Sanctuaries




Central Forest Reserves




Local Forest Reserves




Community Wildlife Reserves








Source: WPASP, 2002 and Forest Reserve Declaration Order, 1998)


Uganda has three World Heritage Sites, one Ramsar site and one Man and Biosphere Reserve and plans to prepare nominations for one or two other World heritage sites and two Man and Biosphere reserves are at advance stages.

The majority of wildlife conservation areas in Uganda were established in the 1950s. National Parks and Game reserves were declared in 1960s to mainly protect significant assemblages of mega fauna - elephants, buffaloes, lions and others. Controlled Hunting Areas (CHAs) were established to ensure regulated game hunting. The CHA status never restricted human settlement and other associated activities except hunting without a permit. At their time of creation, CHAs were areas that had large wildlife concentrations at the time when human population was very low in Uganda.

Wildlife Protected Areas

The table below summarizes the first date of gazettement of major wildlife Protected Areas and the size of the Protected Area. These have all been since rationalized and regazetted under Section 17 of the Uganda Wildlife Act Cap 200.

Protected Area


Legal Establishment

Bwindi Impenetrable NP

World Heritage Site


1992, Statutory Instrument 3

Kibale National Park

Wetlands i siten extreme south is a Ramsar


1993, Statutory Instrument 76

Kidepo Valley National Park


1962, Legal Notice 74

1967, Statutory Instrument 40

Lake Mburo National Park


1983, Statutory Instrument 2

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park


1991, Statutory Instrument 27

Mt. Elgon National Park


1993, Statutory Instrument 76

Murchison Falls National Park


1954, Legal Notice 221

1970, Statutory Instrument 209

Queen Elizabeth National Park

Man and Biosphere Reserve; Ramsar Site


1952, Legal Notice 159

1970, Statutory Instrument 209

Rwenzori Mountains National Park, World Heritage Site


1991, Statutory Instrument 26

Semuliki National Park


1993, Statutory Instrument 76

Ajai Wildlife Reserve


1965, Statutory Instrument 147

Bokora Wildlife Reserve


1964, Statutory Instrument 223

Bugungu Wildlife Reserve


1968, Statutory Instrument 20

East Madi Wildlife Reserve


1964, Statutory Instrument 125 as controlled hunting area, part (about 50%) gazetted as Wildlife reserve 2002, the other degazetted

Kabwoya Wildlife Reserve



Karuma Wildlife Reserve


1965, Statutory Instrument 136

Katonga Wildlife Reserve


1965, Statutory Instrument 136

Kigezi Wildlife Reserve


1962, Legal Notice 292

Kyambura Wildlife Reserve


1965, Statutory Instrument 199

Matheniko Wildlife Reserve


1964, Statutory Instrument 219

Pian-Upe Wildlife Reserve


1965, Statutory Instrument 136

Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve


1963, Statutory Instrument 246

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

The National Park hosts globally threatened mammals and a variety of birds; the forest contains about 300 individuals of Gorilla gorilla beringei (CR), roughly half of the world population of this subspecies, as well as Loxodonta africana (EN), Pan troglodytes (EN) and Cercopithecus hoesti (LR/nt).

The bird checklist of Bwindi currently totals 347 species. Mubwindi swamp is home to Bradypterus graueri. Indicator pumilio is only known in Uganda, with certainty, from this locality. Some of the species endemic to the Albertine Rift, such as Pseudocalyptomena graueri, Muscicapa lendu and Cryptospiza shelleyi, have limited distributions elsewhere in their range. The park also holds Zoothera oberlaenderi, one of the six species of the Eastern Democratic Republic Congo lowlands Endemic Bird Area. The northern sector is especially rich in species of the Guinea Congo Forests biome. Eight species of trees are known only from this forest in Uganda.

Mgahinga Gorilla national Park

Threatened mammals found here include Gorilla gorilla beringei (CR), Cercopithecus mitis kandti (EN) and Loxodonta africana (EN). The most recent checklist lists 115 birds species. Three of the globally threatened species, and others such as Nectarinia johnstoni, can be viewed in the open heath between the bamboo zone and the edges of the forest. Other scarce highland species include Musophaga johnstoni, Phylloscopus laetus, Chloropeta similis, Apalis personata, Nectarinia preussi and Cercomela sordida (known only from old records). Other notable species, such as Francolinus nobilis, Cossypha archeri, Batis diops and Parus fasciiventer, are found in only a few other places in Uganda.

Mount Elgon National Park

Threatened mammals known from this site include Loxodonta africana (EN). The small-mammal fauna is rich, and includes a relict population of Rhabdomys pumilio (DD), only known in East Africa from Mount Elgon. The butterflies Metisella trisignatus and Imbrasia balayneshae are known in Uganda only from this forest. Mount Elgon forests are rich in birds, with a total of 300 species recorded. Mount Elgon represents the western range-limit of some species or races that occur in the highlands of Kenya and northern Tanzania, such as Cisticola hunteri and Francolinus jacksoni, although the presence of Francolinus jacksoni needs confirmation (there is only one sight record). Notable among the species that are restricted to the Afrotropical Highlands biome, the park holds three that are not currently known from any other Ugandan IBA; Francolinus psilolaemus, Pogoniulus leucomystax and Cercomela sordida. Other notable highland species include Caprimulgus poliocephalus, Linurgus olivaceus and Cryptospiza salvadorii. There is an endemic race of Pogonocichla stellata. Francolinus jacksoni and Apalis pulchra are both forest-dependent species known only from Mount Elgon in the Ugandan part of their ranges.

Kibale National Park

There are four important timber species of conservation concern: Milicia excelsa (LR/nt), Cordia millenii, Entandrophragma angolense (VU) and Lovoa swynnertonii (EN). The park supports a rich fauna, including mammals of global conservation concern such as Loxodonta africana (EN), chimpanzee Pan troglodytes (EN), Procolobus badius and Cercopithecus hoesti (LR/nt), as well as the butterfly Papilio antimachus (DD). So far, 339 species of birds have been recorded, but more species are likely to be added. Among the scarcer species are Apaloderma vittatum, Campethera tullbergi, Trochocercus albiventris and Cryptospiza reichenovii, each found in only two other highland IBAs. There are old records of Francolinus nahani. The forest of this park lies close to the site of a postulated Pleistocene forest refugium in the Albertine Rift area. This has resulted in a diverse community of forest species, which also includes many Congo-Basin species at the eastern limits of their ranges.

Kidepo Valley National Park

The park has about 80 species of mammals, of which 28 are not found in any of the other Ugandan parks, including Acinonyx jubatus (VU). Other species of global conservation concern include Loxodonta africana (EN), Panthera leo (VU) and various species of antelope. The park has a rich and diverse herptile fauna, but it has not been assessed properly. Kidepo Valley National Park has about 480 recorded bird species, the second-highest total of any Ugandan protected area, after Queen Elizabeth National Park. It supports some of the rarest species in Uganda, such as Lybius rolleti and Apalis karamojae. Other species which are rare or local in Uganda include Tmetothylacus tenellus, Lanius dorsalis, Turdoides rubiginosus, Calamonastes simplex and many others restricted within Uganda to this Park, Moroto Forest Reserve and adjacent unprotected areas.

Queen Elizabeth National Park

Among threatened mammals, there are good populations of Loxodonta africana (EN) and Pan troglodytes (EN). This is one of the most popular National Parks in Uganda. Its bird diversity is reflected in its list of more than 600 species, the highest number recorded in any IBA in Uganda and probably the highest of any protected area in Africa. Eleven species of global conservation concern have been recorded, and there are old records of three other such species, none of which has been seen recently: Crex crex, Hirundo atrocaerulea and Muscicapa lendu. Torgos tracheliotus is a breeding resident. Seven species of the Afrotropical Highlands biome have been recorded, as have three of the Sudan Guinea Savanna biome. Other notable congregations at this site include Charadrius asiaticus at Shoebill Swamp on Lake George. Munyanyange crater is an important site for a wide range of migrant waders, including the highest national count for Recurvirostra avosetta (100) and notable numbers of Sterna nilotica, Larus fuscus and five species of duck.

Rwenzori Mountains National Park

Two species of forest tree, Hypericum bequaertii and Schefflera polysciadia, are only known from Rwenzori, and seven others are restricted to Rwenzori and other montane forests of the south-western border areas of Uganda. Twenty-five species of invertebrate new to science have been described from the area in the last 15 years. Mammals of conservation concern include Cephalophus nigrifrons rubidus (EN), Loxodonta africana (EN), Pan troglodytes (EN), Colobus angolensis ruwenzorii (VU) and Cercopithecus hoesti (LR/nt); subspecies of Cercopithecus mitis and Procavia capensis are only known from this park. In total, 217 species of birds have been recorded in the park, but given that it has not been comprehensively surveyed, further additions are to be expected. The park contains the second highest number of Albertine Rift endemics of any IBA in Uganda, and the second highest number of species of the Afrotropical Highlands biome, both after Bwindi. The species of the Afrotropical Highlands biome include some spectacular or rare birds, such as Musophaga johnstoni, Bradypterus alfredi, Nectarinia reichenowi, Nectarinia johnstoni and Nectarinia stuhlmanni. Seventeen species of the Guinea Congo Forests biome also occur, but all are well represented in other sites.

Murchison Falls National Park

The Park boasts a rich avifauna, with a checklist of more than 460 species, due to its large size and wide range of habitats. It is certain that the list is incomplete and many additions can be expected with more intensive research. The convergence zone between the lake and the delta forms a shallow area that is important for waterbirds, especially Balaeniceps rex. This species is an important tourist attraction of MFNP, the only Park where one is almost certain of seeing the bird. The globally near-threatened Phoenicopterus minor and Gallinago media have occasionally been recorded. The Park supports 20 species from three non-qualifying biomes: 11 species of the Guinea.

Congo Forests, six species of the Afrotropical Highlands and three of the Somali Masai. The stretch of river between Murchison Falls and the delta has one of the biggest concentrations of Crocodylus niloticus in the world. Mammals of conservation concern include Loxodonta africana (EN), Giraffa camelopardalis (LR/cd) and, formerly, both Diceros bicornis (CR) and Ceratotherium simum (CR). Both are now extinct in Uganda due to poaching, but reintroduction is being considered.

Lake Mburo National Park

Lake Mburo is the only National Park in Uganda in which the ungulate Aepyceros melampus (LR/cd) is found. The park has a diverse bird fauna, with over 310 species recorded. These include a number that have not been recorded in other parks in Uganda such as Ardeola rufiventris, Tricholaema melanocephala, Eremomela scotops, Euplectes orix and Cisticola fulvicapillus. Lybius rubrifacies, a restricted-range species, is occasionally seen, but is rare, probably reaching its northern limit here, and not known anywhere else in Uganda. The site is important for certain species of the Lake Victoria Basin biome, such as Bradypterus carpalis and Cisticola carruthersi, which are rare in other IBAs. The site has one Afrotropical Highlands biome species, Ploceus baglafecht. There are isolated records of two globally near-threatened species, Phoenicopterus minor and Gallinago media.

Semliki National Park

Semliki Forest is outstandingly rich in wildlife the area is believed to have been a forest refugium during the last arid period of the Pleistocene era, when conditions elsewhere on the continent were too dry to support forest vegetation. The park fauna is very rich and includes eight species of diurnal forest primate, as well as 51 species of forest swallowtail and Charaxes butterflies, including Papilio antimachus (DD). Milicia excelsa (LR/nt), Cordia millenii and Lovoa swynnertonii (EN) are forest trees considered endangered in the area. One species of primate and eight other mammals, as well as one butterfly, are only recorded from this area in East Africa. Threatened mammals include Loxodonta africana (EN) and Pan troglodytes (EN). Semliki Forest represents the only significant example of Congo-Basin vegetation in Uganda.

A large number of species of the Guinea Congo Forests biome reach their eastern limits here, in one of the richest localities for forest birds in Africa. The site contains half as many species of bird as the entire Congo and nearly two-thirds as many as in the 181,000 km² of the whole Upper Guinea Forests. No less than 70 species are only known within Uganda from Semliki Forest, including 31 of the Guinea Congo Forests biome. Other species with very limited national ranges occur, such as Bycanistes fistulator, Phyllanthus atripennis and Trochocercus nitens, Ploceus aurantius and Malimbus erythrogaster. Semliki forest is close to the Mount Rwenzori ranges, and the River Semliki meanders along the western border down to Lake Albert and is surrounded by swamp, where four species of the Lake Victoria Basin biome, including Laniarius mufumbiri and Cisticola carruthersi, occur. The site also has, surprisingly, six species of the Afrotropical Highlands biome, all widespread elsewhere in the country.

Semliki Wildlfe Reserve

In the 1960s, the reserve was renowned for its high populations of Kobus kob (LR/cd) and Panthera leo (VU), but these were reduced to low levels through poaching during the period 1971, 1986, as were Loxodonta africana (EN) and Alcelaphus buselaphus (LR/cd). An unknown number of chimpanzees Pan troglodytes (EN) occur in the reserve along the Riverine forests. The bird species-richness is relatively high, with a list of 350 species for the Wildlife Reserve. The birds are mainly savanna-woodland species, with water-associated species along various streams through the reserves as well as at the shores of the lake. The tall vegetation along the marshy shores of the lake is home to Balaeniceps rex and other wetland birds.

Ajai Wildlife Reserve

The reserve also holds four out of the 12 species that are restricted to the Lake Victoria Basin biome. The reserve was specifically gazetted to protect the mammal Ceratotherium simum (CR), which is now extinct in Uganda due to poaching. The reserve still has relatively healthy populations of other large mammals, such as antelope and Syncerus caffer (LR/cd).

Kyambura Wildlife Reserve

The fauna and flora are similar to that of Queen Elizabeth National Park. Both have volcanic craters with saline lakes, which are important sites for waterbirds. A total of 332 bird species has been recorded in Kyambura Wildlife Reserve, including seven species of global conservation concern. Lake George, the Kazinga Channel and the seven crater-lakes within the reserve offer a large and varied habitat to many birds, including about 110 wetland species. Lakes Maseche, Nshenyi and Bagusa are within a few kilometres of each other, and the populations of Phoenicopterus minor in these craters can be considered as one. Threatened mammals include Loxodonta africana (EN), Panthera leo (VU) and Pan troglodytes (EN).