Kibale National Park is a national park in South Uganda protecting moist evergreen rain forest. It is 766 km2 (296 sq mi) in size and is located between 1,100–1,600 meters (3,600–5,200 ft) in elevation. Despite encompassing primarily moist evergreen forest, it contains a diverse array of landscapes. Kibale is one of the last remaining expanses to contain both lowland and montane forests. In East Africa, it sustains the last significant expanse of pre-montane forest.
The park was gazetted in 1932 and formally established in 1993 to protect a large area of forest previously managed as a logged Forest Reserve. The park forms a continuous forest with Queen Elizabeth National Park. This adjoining of the parks creates a 180 km (111 mi) wildlife corridor. It is an important eco-tourism and safari destination, popular for its population of habituated chimpanzees and 12 other species of primates. It is also the location of the Makerere University Biological Field Station (MUBFS).
Kibale National Park is located in the districts of Kabarole and Kamwenge, approximately 320 kilometres (200 mi), by road, west of Kampala, Uganda’s capital and largest city. Fort Portal in Kabarole District is the nearest large city to the national park. The coordinates of the park are: 00 30N, 30 24E (Latitude:0.5000; Longitude:30.4000).
Locals and the Park
Two major tribes, the Batooro and Bakiga, inhabit the area around the Kibale Forest National Park. They use the park for food, fuel, and other resources with the help of the Uganda Wildlife Authority. In the last century, the population around the park has increased by sevenfold. This is speculated to be because the park directly brings in revenue for those living around it and the tourism industry creates jobs. In addition, many farmers believe that the soil is better for growing crops year round. This increase in the population has caused the area around the park to be divided and developed or turned into plantations and farmland. This fragmentation of the area outside the park has begun to affect the biodiversity inside the park.
Kibale National Forest has one of the highest diversity and concentration of primates in Africa. It is home to a large number of endangered chimpanzees, as well as the red colobus monkey (status: Threatened) and the rare L’Hoest’s monkey. The park is also home to over 325 species of birds, 4 wild fellids, 13 species of primates, a total of at least 60 other species of mammals, and over 250 tree species. The predominant ecosystem in Kibale is moist evergreen and semi-deciduous forest. Much of the forest was logged during its time as a Forest Reserve, and some exotic species of trees were planted in plantations (pines and eucalyptus). Since the national park was gazetted many of these introduced trees have been removed and logging has ended.
There are 13 species of primates in Kibale National Park. The park protects several well-studied habituated communities of Common Chimpanzee, as well as several species of Central African monkey including the Uganda Mangabey (Lophocebus ugandae), the Ugandan Red Colobus (Procolobus tephrosceles)and the L’Hoest’s Monkey. Other primates that are found in the park include the black (Colobus satanas) colobus and the blue monkey (Cercopithecus mitis). The park’s population of elephants travels between the park and Queen Elizabeth National Park. Other terrestrial mammals that are found within Kibale National Park include red and blue duikers, bushpigs, warthogs, and buffalo. The carnivores that are present include leopards, bushpigs, three species of duiker and two species of otter. In addition, lions visit the park on occasion.
Habituated Chimpanzee in Kibale National Park
Bird life is also prolific. The park boasts 325 sited species of birds, including the olive long-tailed cuckoo, Western Green tinkerbird, two species of pittas (African and Green-breasted) and the African Grey Parrot. The ground thrush (Turdus kibalensis) is endemic to Kibale National Park.
Primates are very common in Kibale National Forest. The forest has some of the highest abundances of species of primates in the area. There are many species of primates and these species persist in the less disturbed areas of the forest in their natural habitats.
Flora of Kibale Forest National Park
There are approximately 229 species of trees found within the moist tropical forests of the park. Some endangered timber species of trees include Cordia millenii, Entandrophragma angolense, and Lovoa swynnertonnii. The forest understory is dominated by shade-tolerant shrubs and herbs, which include Palisota schweinfurthii and Pollia condensata, in addition to ferns and broad leaf grasses.