Albertine Rift

Murchison-Semliki Landscape

The Murchison-Semliki Landscape extends from Murchison Falls National Park at the northern end of Lake Albert to the Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve at the southern end of the lake and encompasses all of the connected tropical forest on the escarpment above the lake. About 70% of the natural habitat in this landscape is protected. Key forest areas within the landscape include the Budongo and Bugoma Central Forest Reserves (CFR) together with smaller reserves such as Kagombe, Kitechura, Matiri, Itwara and Wambabya CFRs. Savanna protected areas include Murchison Falls National Park, Kabwoya and Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserves and Kaiso-Tonya Community Conservation Area. Species of conservation concern in this landscape include elephants, chimpanzees, Nile crocodiles, hippopotamuses, Nahan’s francolin, forest raptors such as the crowned eagle, as well as large (lion, hyaena, leopard) and medium-sized (golden cat, side-striped jackals) carnivores.

The total number of mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian and plant species recorded from this landscape to date number 2,583, of which 37 species are endemic to the Albertine Rift and 49 species are threatened (CR, EN, VU) under the IUCN Redlist (2010).

 Landscape Mammals  Birds  Reptiles Amphibians  Plants
 Endemic species  3 0 1 2 31
 Threatened species  8  4  2  0  35
 Species number  200  684  78  41  1,580


Conservation Challenges

This landscape has been under great pressure recently as it has been a settlement area for people from other parts of Uganda as well as refugees from the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It has been seen as an area where land is still available for settlement.  Coupled with an increasing interest in the development of cash crops in Uganda with farmers increasing the area they farm to be able to include crops such as tobacco, sugar, tea, and cocoa, this has resulted in the conversion of large areas of  forest and bushland to agricultural land over the past 10-15 years. The increasing fragmentation of forest in the landscape is reducing connectivity between forest reserves and will affect those species that do not have viable populations in any single forest reserve.
The finding of significant reserves of oil in the rift valley around Lake Albert has also increased threats in the region by encouraging immigration by people with hopes of employment or speculation over land that may need to be purchased by oil companies in future.


Conservation Approach

WCS has been active in the region, particularly over the past four years, identifying critical corridors that are required to maintain connectivity within the landscapes for certain ‘landscape species’ (those that require the connectivity to maintain viable populations) and working with other partners to develop a conservation action plan for the landscape, focusing on using carbon financing to provide incentives to local farmers to maintain natural forest on their land. We have compiled biodiversity data throughout the forests in the landscape, focusing on large mammals, birds and plants, but have worked with scientists from Makerere University to undertake surveys of small mammals, amphibians and reptiles in some of the sites. We have also developed a carbon map for the forest of the landscape and have measured forest loss between 1995-2006 and 2006-2010 across the landscape. These studies show that over 8,000 hectares of forest have been cleared annually over the past 15 years because of the increasing demand for agricultural land and the increasing use of cash crops such as tobacco, sugar, tea and cocoa in the region.  A Reduced Emissions from forest Destruction and Degradation (REDD) feasibility analysis has been made for the landscape by WCS (with UNDP/GEF funding through WWF) and we are finalizing a Project Development Document which will enable us to market the carbon from these forests.

WCS has also been leading surveys of chimpanzees, one of the endangered species in this region that require connectivity between the forests if they are to remain viable in the long term. Dr Andy Plumptre, WCS’s Albertine Rift Director, developed a novel census method for chimpanzees in Budongo CFR in the early 1990s and this method, the ‘marked nest count’ has been used to survey chimpanzees in all of the forests of this landscape since 1999. Repeat surveys in 2009/2010 show that chimpanzee numbers have remained stable in Budongo and Bugoma CFRs but have declined in Kagombe CFR.  There are likely to have been major declines outside the forest reserves with the large areas of forest loss in the region (over 450 km2 in the past 15 years which is likely to have contained about 450-500 chimpanzees using an average density for the forests in the region).


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Key Staff

Grace Nangendo
Director of Conservation Planning and Research
Simon Takozekibi Nampindo
Country Director WCS Uganda
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Albertine Rift Program
Plot 802 Kiwafu Rd, Kansanga, PO Box 7487, Kampala, Uganda