Information, backgrounds and places for Antelopes and other herbivores in Uganda
Antelopes in Uganda
ANTELOPE Some 29 antelope species – about one-third of the African total – are included on the checklist for Uganda, a figure that fails to acknowledge a recent rash of near or complete local extinctions. There are probably no more than ten roan antelope remaining in Uganda, for example, while no oryx are left at all. Of the species that do still occur, five fall into the category of large antelope, having a shoulder height of above 120cm (roughly the height of a zebra); eight are in the category of medium-sized antelope, having a shoulder height of between 75cm and 90cm; and the remainders are small antelope, with a shoulder height of between 30cm and 60cm.
Common eland (Taurotraqus oryx) The world’s largest antelope is the common Cape eland (T. oryx) which measures over 1.8m in height, and which can be bulkier than a buffalo. The eland has a rather bovine appearance: fawn-brown in colour, with a large dewlap and short, spiraled horns, and in some cases light white stripes on its sides. The common eland occurs in open habitats throughout eastern and southern Africa. In Uganda, it is most likely to be seen in Lake MburoNational Park, but also occurs in Kidepo Valley and Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve.
Greater kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros) This is another very large antelope, measuring up to 1.5m high, and it is also strikingly handsome, with a grey-brown coat marked by thin white side-stripes. The male has a small dewlap and large spirallinghorns The greater kudu live in small rough. in woodland habitats. In Uganda, it occurs only in small numbers in Kidepo.
Hartebeest (Akelaphus buselaphus) This large and ungainly looking, tan-coloured antelope – a relative of the wildebeest, which is absent from Uganda – has large shoulders, a sloping back and relatively small horns. It lives in small herds in lightly wooded and open savanna habitats. The typical hartebeest of Uganda is Jackson’s hartebeest (A. b. jacksoni), though it is replaced by the Lelwel hartebeest (A. b. lelweli) west of the Nile. The closely related and similarly built topi (Darttaliuus lunatus) has a much darker coat than the hartebeest, and distinctive blue-black markings above its knees. Jackson’s hartebeest is most frequently seen in Murchison Falls, though it also occurs in Kidepo Valley.
Defassa waterbuck (Kobus ellipsyprymnus defassa) Shaggy-looking, with a grey-brown at, White rump and large curved horns, the Defassa waterbuck is considered by some authorities to be a distinct species, K defassa(the common waterbuck found east of the Rift Valley has a white ring on its rump), but the two races interbreed where they overlap. Defassa waterbuck live in small herds and are most often seen grazing near water. They are found in suitable habitats in all four of Roan antelope Uganda’s savanna national parks.
Roan antelope (Hippotraqus equinus) This handsome animal has a light red-brown coat, short backward-curving horns and a small mane on the back of the neck. It is present only in small numbers in Pian Upe having become locally extinct in Kidepo Valley and Lake Mburo national parks.
Uganda kob (Kobus kob thomasi) Uganda’s national
antelope is a race of the West African kob confined to grassy floodplains and open vegetation near water in Uganda and the southern Sudan. Although closely related to waterbuck and reedbuck, the kob is reddish-brown in colour and similar to the impala, but bulkier in appearance and lacking the impala’s black side-stripe. Uganda Kob live in herds of up to 100 animals in Queen Elizabeth and Murchison Falls and neighbouring conservation areas, as well as in Semliki and Katonga wildlife reserves.
Bushbuck (TragelaphuS script us) Probably the most widespread antelope in Uganda is the bushbuck, which lives in forest, riverine woodland and other thicketed habitats. The male bushbuck has a dark chestnut coat marked with white spots and stripes. The female is lighter in colour and vaguely resembles a large duiker. Although secretive and elusive, the bushbuck is very common in suitable habitats in most forests and national parks in Uganda.
Sitatunga (Trageaphus spekei) This semi-aquatic antelope is similar in appearance to the closely related bushbuck, but the male is larger with a shaggier coat, both sexes are striped, and it has uniquely splayed hooves adapted to its favoured habitat of papyrus and other swamps. It is found in suitable habitats throughout Uganda, including six national parks, but is likely to be seen only in the Katonga Wildlife Reserve.
Lesser kudu (Tragelaphus itnberbis) This pretty, dry-country antelope is similar in appearance to the greater kudu, but much smaller and more heavily striped (greater kudu have between six and ten stripes; lesser kudu have 11 or more). Lesser kudu are present in Pian Upe and environs.
Grant’s gazelle (Gazellagranti) Yet another dry-country antelope which in Uganda has been reduced to 100 animals roaming the contiguous Pian Upe, Matheniko and Bokora wildlife reserves in Karamoja. This typical gazelle is lightly built, tan in colour, and lives in herds.
Reedbuck (Redunea spp) Also restricted to Kidepo in the mountain reedbuck (R. tulvorufula), a grey-brown antelope with small crescent-shaped horns. The very similar Bohor reedbuck (R. redunca) is more widespread, occurring in all four savanna national parks. Both reedbuck species are usually seen in pairs in open country near water, with the mountain reedbuck occurring at higher altitudes.
Impala (Aepyceros melampus) This slender, and some anteope, l superficially similar to the gazelles, belongs to a separate subfamily that is more closely related to hartebeest and oryx. The impala can be distinguished from any gazelle by its chestnut colouring, sleek appearance and the male’s distinctive lyre-shaped horns. An adult impala can jump up to 3ni high and has been known to broad jump for over 10m. Impala live in herds of between 20 and a few hundred animals. They favour well-wooded savanna and woodland fringes, and are often abundant in such habitats. In Uganda, impalas are found only in Lake Mburo National Park and Katonga Wildlife Reserve.
Small antelope Nine of the small antelope species present in Uganda are duikers, a Family of closely related antelopes which are generally characterized by their small size, sloping back, and preference for thickly forested habitats. Between 16 and 19 duiker species are recognized, many of them extremely localized in their distribution.
Grey duiker (Sylvicapra grirnmia) Also known as the common or bush duiker, this is an atypical member of its family in that it generally occurs in woodland and savanna habitats. It has a grey-brown coat with a vaguely speckled appearance. The grey duiker is widespread in east and southern Africa, and it occurs in all four of Uganda’s savanna national parks as well as in Mount Elgon.
Forest duiker (Ceplialoplms spp) The striking yellow-backed duiker (C. sylviculter) is also atypical of the family, due to its relatively large size – heavier than a bushbuck rather than any habitat preference. It is a west African species, but has been recorded in several forests in western Uganda, including those in Bwindi, Mgahinga, Ruwenzori and Queen Elizabeth national parks: it’s sometimes encountered fleetingly along the forest track leading uphill from the Buhonta headquarters at Bwindi. Of the more typical duiker species, Harvey’s red duiker (C. lzannTd) is a tiny chestnut-brown antelope found in forested parts of Queen Elizabeth national park grey-blue coat, is known to occur in Queen Elizabeth, Murchison Falls. Kibale and Bwindi national parks.Peter’s duiker (C. rallipyqus) has been recorded in Bwindi, Kibale and Queen Elizabeth; the black-fronted duiker (C. nizrfrons) in Mgahinga and Bwindi; and there have been unconfirmed sightings of the white-bellie di_tiker (C. leucogaster) for Bwindi and Semliki. The red- flanked duiker (C. rufilatus) and Weyn’s duiker (C. weynsi)
have not been recorded in any national park, but they most probably occur in the Budongo Forest.
Bates’s pygmy antelope (Neofraqus batesi) Not a duiker, but similar both in size and its favoured habitat, this diminutive antelope – the second-smallest African ungulate – is a Congolese rainforest species that has been recorded in Semliki National Park and in forests within and bordering the southern half of Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Klipspringer (Oreotraqus orcotragus) This distinctive antelope has a dark-grey bristly coat and an almost speckled appearance. It has goat-like habits and is invariably found in the vicinity of koppies or cliffs (the name klipspritger means rock juniper in Afrikaans). It lives in pairs in suitable habitats in Kidepo Valley and Lake Mburo national parks
Oribi (Ourebia ourebi) This endearing gazelle-like antelope has a light red-brown back, white underparts, and a diagnostic black scent gland under its ears. It is one of the largest `small’ antelopes in Africa, not much smaller than a Thomson’s gazelle. When disturbed, the oribi emits a high-pitched sneezing sound, then bounds off in a manner mildly reminiscent of a pronking springbok. The oribi favours tall grassland, and it occurs in all of the savanna national parks except for Queen Elizabeth. It is remarkably common in the Borassus grassland in the northern part of Murchison Falls National Park, most often seen in pairs or groups of up to five animals, consisting of one male and his `harem’, but also sometimes
Guenther’s dik-dik (Modoqua guentheri) This pretty, small antelope has a dark red-brown coat and distinctive white eye markings. It is found in the dry savanna in and around Kidepo Valley.
African elephant (Loxodonta africana) The world’s largest land animal is also one of the most intelligent and entertaining to watch. A fully grown elephant is about 35m high and weighs around 6,000kg. Female elephants live in closely knit clans in which the eldest female takes a matriarchal role over her sisters, daughters and granddaughters. Mother-daughter bonds are strong and may exist for up to 50 years. Males generally leave the family group at around 12 years, after which they either roam around on their own or form bachelor herds. Under normal circumstances, elephants range widely in search of food and water but, when concentrated populations are forced to live in conservation areas, their habit of uprooting trees can cause serious environmental damage. Two races of elephant are recognised: the savanna elephant of east and southern Africa (L. a. Africana) and the smaller and slightly hairier forest elephant of the West African rainforest (L. a.r ydotis). The two races are thought to interbreed in parts of western Uganda. Despite severe poaching in the past, elephants occur in all national parks except for Lake Mburo. They are most likely to be seen in Murchison Falls, Queen Elizabeth and Kidepo national parks.
Rhinoceros The black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) and northern white rhinoceros (Ceratotheriuni sitnum cottoni) both occurnaturally in Uganda, but they have been poached to localextinction. The northern white rhino is a geographically isolated Black rhino race of the white rhino of southern Africa: formerly common inUganda west of the Albert Nile, and at one time introduced into Murchison Falls National Park, its long-term future rests on the survival of one remaining breeding herd in eastern DRC.
(Hippopotannis anrphibus) This large, lumbering aquatic animaloccurs naturally on most African lakes and waterways, where it spends most of the day submerged, but emerges from the water to graze at night. Hippos are strongly territorial, with herds of ten or more animals being presided over by a dominant male. The best places to see them are in Murchison Falls, Queen Elizabeth and Lake Mburo national parks, where they are abundant in suitable habitats. Hippos are still quite common outside of reserves, and they are responsible for killing more people than any other African mammal.
African buffalo (Syncerus caller) Africa’s only wild ox species is an adaptable and widespread creature that lives in large herds on the savanna and smaller herds in forested areas. Herds are mixed-sex and normally comprise several loosely related family clans and bachelor groups. Buffaloes can be seen in just about all of Uganda’s national parks and large forests. In Queen Elizabeth and Murchison Falls national parks, you may see hybrids of the savannabuffalo (S. c. caffer) of East Africa and the red buffalo (S.
c. nanus) of the west African forest.
Giraffe (Giraffa canielopardus) The world’s tallest animal (up to 5.5m) lives in loosely structured mixed-sex herds, typically numbering between five and 15 animals. As herd members may be dispersed over an area of up to lkm, they are frequently seen singly or in smaller groups, though unusually large aggregations are oftenseen in Uganda. The long neck of the giraffe gives it a slightly ungainly appearance when it ambles; giraffes look decidedly absurd when they adopt a semi-crouching position in order to drink. The race found in Uganda is Rothschild’s giraffe, rare elsewhere in its former range but very common in the northern part of Murchison Falls National Park. A small herd is present in Kidepo Valley.
Burchell’s zebra (Equus burchelli) This unmistakable striped horse is common and widespread throughout cast and southern Africa. Zebras are often seen in large collective offspring. In Uganda, zebras are present only in Lake Mburo and Kidepo Valley national parks.
Swine The most visible pig species in Uganda is the warthog (Phacochoerusaethiopicus), a common resident of the savanna national parks. Warthogs are uniform grey in colour and both sexes have impressive tusks. They are normally seen in family groups, trotting away briskly in the opposite direction with their tails raised stiffly and a determinedly nonchalant air. The bulkier and hairier bush pig (Potanrochoerus porcus) is found mainly in thickets and dense woodland. Although bushpigs occur in all national parks except for Rwenzori, they are not often seen due to their nocturnal habits and the cover afforded by their favoured habitat. The giant forest hog (Hylochoerus tneinertzhageni) is the largest African pig species. It is a nocturnal creature of the forest interior, and so very rarely seen, but it probably occurs in all national parks in western Uganda, and is often seen by dayalong Channel Drive in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Hyraxes and other oddities Uganda’s five hyrax species are guinea-pig-like animals, often associated with rocky habitats, and related more closely to elephants than to any other living creatures – difficult to credit until you’ve heard a tree hyrax shrieking with pachydermal abandon through the night. Four types of pangolin (similar in appearance to the South American scaly anteaters) occur in Uganda, as does the aardvark, a bizarre, long-snouted insectivore which is widespread in savanna habitats but very seldom seen due to its nocturnal habits. Also regarded as large mammals by the official checklist are 12 squirrel species, three flying squirrels (anomalures), three porcupines, three hares, two cane-rats, a hedgehog and the peculiar chevrotain.