Queen Elizabeth National park in Western Uganda is home to a variety of large animal species. It was first declared a game reserve in 1906, in order to prevent unregulated hunting but was later gazetted as a National Park in 1952. Queen Elizabeth National Park is home to about 2,500 elephants, 5,000 hippos 10,000 buffaloes. Other common herbivores include warthogs, waterbucks, Uganda kobs and topis, as well as the swamp loving but elusive sitatunga. This is one of the must visit destinations for wildlife safaris in Uganda.
Within Queen Elizabeth National Park, game drives are usually done early morning or during evening hours. Driving in the open savannah grasslands, tourists can spot a variety of animals such as buffaloes, elephants, Uganda kobs, warthogs, bushbucks, Impalas, Lions, leopards, topis, Sitatungas to mention but a few.
An elephant deserves more mention for it fears nobody and is the largest of all land mammals. Despite its size which can exceed six tonnes, it can swim for long distances.
Elephants have the largest brains in the animal kingdom and a super memory. It is said that an elephant never forgets. Their brain can weigh as much as 4.7 kilogrammes for an adult.
When it comes to communication, you can’t beat elephants with bare hands and ears. In long distance communication, they use infrasonic sounds, which are sounds emitted below the human hearing range.
An elephant can communicate with another 20 kilometres away using rumbles whose vibrations travel underground. The vibrations in the soil are transferred into the tips of the elephant’s toe bones and then up the leg into the middle ear where the vibrations are read and translated into messages in the brain.
Using their feet, elephants can detect far off tsunamis and earthquakes hours before they strike. And their sense of smell is also mind boggling. Elephants detect water sources up to almost 20 kilometres away.
An elephant’s trunk is a long nose used for smelling, breathing, trumpeting, drinking, and also for grabbing things. The strength of an elephant’s trunk is capable of lifting weights in excess of 250 kilogrammes.
Elephants do not have sweat glands and use their thin but huge ears for cooling. One ear from a bull African elephant weighs more than 50 kilogrammes. Elephants live in tight social units led by an older matriarch (female). Males leave the herd between the ages of 12 and 15. Elephants give birth every three to four years. Gestation period is almost two years. A baby elephant can weigh up to 125 kilogramme.
Elephants spend about 16 hours a day eating and can consume up to 300 kilogrammes of food. They have six sets of molar teeth and when the last set is lost, they are unable to eat and eventually die. They can live up to 70 years.
In Queen Elizabeth national park if the target is to spot a leopard there are some special places to look, one being the track called the leopard loop. The beautiful cat is also known to be seen by the adventurous channel track, Kasenyi research track around the crater at Queen’s pavilion and by the old mating ground in Kasenyi. There is as well a resident leopard around Kyambura Gorge. Leopards also roam the Mweya Peninsula, which lies beside Lake Edward. In the Ishasha area, the southern sector of Queen Elizabeth national park, it is to go for the Kigezi game reserve or for Ntungwe mating ground in the morning or late evening if the aim is to see a leopard.
Their survival is partly due to their adaptability to warm and cold climates and ability to climb trees while carrying heavy prey – keeping it safe from other predators such as lions and hyenas. They can run at incredible speeds of up to 58 km (36 miles) per hour, and hunt antelopes and monkeys as well as fish, birds, insects and reptiles.
One of the greatest attractions in Queen Elizabeth National Park are the hippos. The Kazinga Channel, Lake Edward, Lake George have the highest concentration of hippos in all of Africa. While on the Kazinga Channel boat ride, you will see hundreds of hippos in the water and on the shore.
Kazinga channel has areas like Kasenyi and North Kazinga. Its acknowledged that the plains of channel are focal points for game viewing. Tracking is the only way that will enable you see all the wildlife in its natural setting for example buffalo, elephants and other animals that dwell in the grassland thickets of the Northern Kazinga close to Mweya. The most favorable time for game drives is during morning and late afternoon hours.
Tree Climbing Lions can be found in Ishasha, which is over 120Km south of Mweya. They are usually spotted resting on savannah fig trees as they look out for Uganda kobs and buffaloes to feed on.