Uganda’s conservation movement started in the early 20th century during the colonial era, when several of the existing parks and reserves were designated. Following decades of political upheaval in the 1970’s and 80’s, conservation areas were poorly managed and encroached on, and poaching was rife, resulting in a significant loss of the country’s biodiversity value. With the return of stability in the late 80’s and the launch of committed conservation programs in the 90’s, Uganda is fast rebuilding the biodiversity of her reserves.
Today, Uganda has 60 conservation-protected areas that harbour many critically endangered species like the mountain gorillas and the golden monkeys, and some formerly extinct ones like the rhino. Poaching, and human encroachment and development in protected areas remain the main threats to conservation efforts, but to counter these, sanctuary reserves have been set up to provide a home for animals captured from poachers, and conservation education for Ugandans remains a top priority of the Uganda Wildlife Authority.
Discover Uganda's Conservation Areas
Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary was established in 1998 as a project of the Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Wildlife trust to provide a home for orphaned chimpanzees and chimpanzees that are rescued from illegal poaching activity. The sanctuary currently cares for 49 chimpanzees that have been rescued from within Uganda, and as far as The Democratic Republic of Congo.
The island is made up almost predominantly of thick forest with small gaps of grassland, with an acre of cleared land that houses the camp quarters and chimpanzee feeding area. Ngamba Island is also a habitat for over 120 bird species and has healthy populations of otters, monitor lizards and fruit bats. Only a limited number of visitors are permitted on the two boat trips that depart from Entebbe daily, for 3-hour expeditions on the island.
Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary
Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary is the only place in Uganda where you can see rhino in the wild. The sanctuary is part of the effort by Rhino Fund Uganda and Uganda Wildlife Authority to rebuild the Rhinoceros population in Uganda. Uganda was once home to thousands of rhino but prolonged civil war and poaching in the 1970s and 80 take its toll and in 1982, the last rhino living in the wild was killed.
Rhinos are classified as threatened animals, with only 5 remaining species, two of which reside in Africa, and the other three in Asia. In 2005, 4 southern white rhinos were introduced from the Solio ranch in Kenya and an additional 2 from the Disney Animal Kingdom in Florida, USA. Today the sanctuary boasts 22 rhinos.
Uganda Carnivore Programme
The Uganda Carnivore Program (UCP) is an organisation devoted to the research and conservation of Uganda’s large carnivores, including lions, leopards and hyenas. It was started in the 1990s to mitigate the continued deaths of lions in Uganda, which research showed was because of poisoning – the effect of expanding human settlements in the park. A critical aspect of UCP’s work is community-based activities that increase local participation in wildlife conservation – some 50,000 people live inside the park boundaries in 11 community villages. UCP also welcomes local and international graduate and undergraduate students who would like to carry out research.
Today, working with Uganda Wildlife Authority, UCP offers guided lion-tracking, the Lion Tracking Research Experience is a rewarding adventure that offers trackers close up encounters with the lions, in a very intimate setting. These experiential tours last 1-3hours and take place twice a day, in the early morning hours or the late afternoon.
Lions are tracked via radio-telemetry and the tracking team monitor their movements into conflict “hot zones,” where they face the danger of meeting up with people and their livestock. There is at least one collared lion in each pride which means that trackers can expect to see multiple prides in a few short hours. Because this is an off-road adventure, close encounters with other wildlife are also assured.
Uganda Wildlife Education Centre
The Uganda Wildlife Conservation Education Centre (UWEC), commonly known as the Entebbe Zoo was established in 1952 as an animal refuge for wild animals that were sick, injured or orphaned. In the 1960s the centre evolved into a zoo, even displaying some animals like bears and tigers that are not indigenous to Uganda. But in 1994, following the establishment of Uganda Wildlife Education Centre Trust, the zoo refocused its mission; to provide leadership in educating Ugandans about the benefits of conserving the country’s biodiversity; to rescue and rehabilitate injured, orphaned or confiscated animals; and to breed endangered species in captivity with the aim of introducing them in the wild. UWEC specifically targets the young generation and receives over 250,000 visitors annually, mostly students on school trips.
UWEC is located on 72 acres in Entebbe town on the green shores of Lake Victoria, about 40kms south of Kampala. The landscape of the centre mimics 3 main ecosystems where Uganda’s animals stay in the wild; wetland, forest and savannah. UWEC has in its care 282 animals including 10 big cats, 121 bird species and 250 herbs and medicinal plants in the forest. The star attractions include the chimpanzees, rhinos, lions, leopards, and shoebill storks in the aviary.
UWEC offers guests a variety of exciting programmes like ‘behind-the-scenes’ and ‘zoo-keeper-for-a-day’ tours, as well as volunteer opportunities.