The Carnivores of Uganda

Information, backgrounds and places for Lions, Leopards, Cheetahs, Smaller Cats and so much more in Uganda


A total of 38 carnivores have been recorded in Uganda: five canid species, seven felines, three hyenas, ten mongooses. Six mustelids (otters, badgers and weasels) and seven viverrids (civets and genets).


King of the Jungle, the Predator, king of the beasts, king of animals! One of Uganda’s big 5 animals and most difficult to hunt. Brought to you by of Lifetime Experience Safaris Why are lions considered the “king of the jungle”? Do any lions even live in jungles? I thought they all lived in massive fields. Lions prefer the open plains where there is plenty of game to hunt and kill … so the lion is king of the plains! See Uganda lion population, These and much more waiting for you to explore.

Lion (Panthera leo) The largest African carnivore, and the one animal that everybody wants to see on safari, the lion is the most sociable of the large cats, living in loosely structured prides of typically five to 15 animals. They normally hunt at night, and their favored prey consists of buffalo and medium-to-large antelope such as Uganda kob. Females, working in teams of up to eight animals, are responsible for most hunts. Rivalry between male lions is intense: prides may have more than one dominant male working in collaboration to prevent a takeover and young males are forced out of their home pride at about three years of age. Pride takeovers are often fought to the death; after a successful one, it is not unusual for all the male cubs to be killed. Lions are not very active by day: they are most often seen lying in the shade looking the picture of regal indolence. They occur naturally in most woodland and grassland habitats, and are now fairly common in certain parts of Murchison Falls and Queen Elizabeth national parks. A healthy lion population survives in Kidepo National Park, but they are no longer present in Lake Mburo.

Leopard (Panthera pardus) The most common of Africa’s large felines the leopard often lives in close proximity to humans, but it is rarely seen because of its secretive, solitary nature. Leopards hunt using stealth and power, often getting to within 5ni of their intended prey before pouncing, and they habitually store their kill in a tree to keep it from being poached by other large predators. They can be distinguished from cheetahs by their rosette-shaped spots and more powerful build, as well as by theirpreference for wooded or rocky habitats. Leopards are found in virtually all habitatsWhich offer adequate cover, and are present in most Ugandan national parks and forest reserves. The only place in Uganda where they are seen with regularity is along the Channel Track in Queen Elizabeth National.

Cheetah (Acinon)x jubatus) Superficially similar to the leopard, the cheetah is the most diurnal of Africa’scat species, and it hunts using speed as opposed to stealth. Cheetahs are the fastest land mammals, capable of running at up to 70krn/h in short bursts. Male cheetahs are strongly territorial and in someareas they commonly defend their territory in pairs ortrios. Cheetahs are the least powerful of the large predators: they are chased from a high percentage of their kills and 50% of cheetah cubs are killed by other predators before they reach three months of age. Likeleopards, cheetahs are heavily spotted and solitary in their habits, but their greyhound-like build, distinctive black tear-marks and preference for grassland and savanna habitats precludesconfusion. In Uganda, cheetahs are traditionally present only in the vicinity of Kidepo National Park, thoughseveral sightings in the north of Murchison Falls in 2002 suggest thatCheetahthey might yet recolonise this park.

Smaller Cats (Felis spp) The caracal (F caracal) is, a medium-sized cat found in open habitats, andeasily identified by its uniform reddish-brown coat and tufted ears. In Uganda, it occurs only in Kidepo National Park. The slightly larger

Serval (F. serval) has a pale spotted coat, making it possible to confuse it with some genet species. It favours moister habitats thanthe caracal, ranging from woodland to forest, and it is widespread in Uganda. The African golden cat (F. aurata) is a rarely seen creature of the west African forest: it is widespread in western Uganda, where it has been recorded in every forested national park except Semliki. TheAfrican wild cat (F. silvestris) is reminiscent of the domestic tabby, with has been known to interbreed successfully, and it is found in most savanna habitats in Uganda.(anids The Canidae is a family of medium-sized carnivores of which the most familiar is the domestic dog. Five species – all recognizably dog-like in appearance and habits – are present in Uganda, though none is very common.Jackals (Canis spp) Jackals are small to medium-sized dogs associated with mostsavanna habitats.

Although often portrayed as carrion-caters, they are in fact
Opportunistic omnivores, hunting a variety of small mammals and birds with some regularity and also eating a substantial amount of fruit and bulbs. The mostcantd in Uganda is the side-striped jackal (C. adustus), which occurs in all four savanna national parks as well as in Bwindi and Mgahinga, and is most likely to be seen in the north of Murchison Falls. Within Uganda, the similar black-backed jackal (C. inesonielas) is restricted toKidepo National Park, Pian Upe and environs, while the golden jackal (C. aureus), though it appears on the national checklist, has been recorded in no national park and is presumably a vagrant.

Bat-eared fox (Otocy(,n tnetwlotis) This small but striking silver grey insectivore, rendered unmistakable by its huge ears and black eye-mask, is most often seen in pairs or small fancily groups during the cooler hours of the day, associated with dry open country. The bat-eared fox is quite common in the Kidepo and PianUpe. But absent elsewhere in Uganda. African hunting dog (Lycaon picttu)


The largest African canid, and the most endangered after the rare Ethiopian wolf, the African hunting dog (also known as the wild or painted dog) lives in packs of five-50 animals and is distinguished by its cryptic black, African hunting dog brown and cream coat. Hunting dogs are highly effective pack hunters and were once widely distributed and common throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Hunted as vermin and highly susceptible to epidemics spread by domestic dogs, hunting dogs today have a very localized and scattered distribution pattern, with perhaps 25% of the estimated wild population of 5,000 confined to the Scions ecosystem in southern Tanzania. The African hunting dog is locally extinct. The countries it once inhabited, Uganda included. Recolonisation, though unlikely, is not impossible, since hunting dogs are great wanderers and small populations do still survive in parts of western Tanzania and Kenya.

Other carnivores
Spotted hyena (Crocuta crontta) In Uganda, as elsewhere in Attica, the spotted hyena is by far the most common member of a family of large, hunchbacked carnivores whose somewhat canid appearance belies a closer evolutionary relationship to mongooses and cats. Often portrayed as an exclusive scavenger, the spotted hyena is an adept hunter capable of killing an animal as large as a wildebeest. In ancient times, the spotted hyena was thought to be hermaphroditic: the female’s vagina is blocked by a false but remarkably realistic-looking scrotum and Spotted hyena penis. Most hyena species live in loosely structure clans of around ten animals and their social interaction is fascinating to observe. Clans are led by females, which are stronger and larger than males. The spotted hyena is bulky with a sloping back, a light-brown coat marked with dark-brown spots and an exceptionally powerful jaw wooer enables it to crack
Open bones and since through the thickest hide.

The spotted hyena is found in all of Uganda’s savanna national parks, as well as in Mgahinga, but is only seen with great regularity in Queen Elizabeth. Note that the secretive striped hyena (Hyaena hyena) and the insectivorous aardwolf (Proteles cristatns) are present but uncommon in Kidepo National Park and environs.

African civet (Civetticus civetta) This bulky, long-haired, cat-like viverrid has been kept in captivity for thousands of years (its anal secretions were used in making perfumes until a synthetic replacement was found). Surprisingly, little is known about their habits in the wild. Civets are Widespread and common in most wooded habitats, and they have been recorded in most of Uganda’s national parks, but they are seen very rarely on account of their secretive, nocturnal habits.

Genets (Genetta spp) closely related to civets, but often referred to mistakenly as cats because of various superficial similarities in appearance, the genets are slender, low-slung viverrids characterized by beautiful spotted coats and extraordinarily long tails. Secretive except when habituated, and subject to some taxonomic debate, genets are attracted to human waste and are occasionally seen slinking around campsites and lodges after dark. The servaline genet (G. tigrina), large-spotted genet (G. tigrina) and small-spotted genet (G. genetta) are all widespread in Uganda, with the latter two generally occurring in more lightly wooded areas than the former, and sometimes observed on night drives in the Semliki Wildlife Reserve. A West African species, the giant forest genet (G. victiriae), has been recorded in Maramagambo Forest in Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Otters Three species of these familiar aquatic predators occur in sub-Saharan Africa, and their ranges overlap in western Uganda, where all three have been recorded in certain areas such as Lake Mburo National Park. The Cape clawless otter (Aonyx capensis) and DRC clawless otter (A. congica), regarded to be conspecihc by some authorities, are the largest African otters, growing up to 1.6m long, with a rich brown coat and pale chin and belly. Associated with most wetland habitats, the clawless otters are most active between dusk and dawn, and are hence less likely to be observed than the smaller and darker spotted-necked otter (Lutra tnaculicollisi), a diurnal species that is unusually common and visible on Lake Bunyonvi in Kigezi.

Ratel (honey badger) (Mellivora capensis) The ratel is a medium-sized mustelid with a puppy-like head, black sides and under parts and a grey-white back. It is an adaptable creature, eating whatever conics its way – it’s said that they’ve been known to kill buffaloes by running underneath them and biting off their testicle which, if true, is certainly taking opportunism to a wasteful extreme. When not Bobbiting bovines, the ratel occasionally indulges in a symbiotic relationship with a bird called the greater honey guide: the honey guide takes the ratel to a beehi%, which the ratel then tears open, allowing the honey guide to feed on the scraps
Ratels are widespread in Uganda, but uncommon and rarely seen. Other mustelid found in Uganda include the Gorilla (or striped polecat) and the striped weasel.

Mongooses Ten mongoose species have been recorded in Uganda, none of which – as is commonly assumed – feeds predominantly on snakes. Five species .widespread and common enough to have be recorded in at least half the national parks. They are the marsh mongoose (Atilax paludinosii, Egyptian mongoos    (Herpestes ichneuntoii slender mongoose (Herpestes sanguineus), whin tailed mongoose

(Ichneutnia albicauda) and band mongoose (Mungos mungo). Of these the banded, Mongoose is the most regularly observed, particularly on the Mweya Peninsula in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
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