Tucked into Uganda’s north eastern corner along the border with Sudan and Kenya, the Kidepo Landscape is less well known than the other landscapes in terms of its biodiversity. The Landscape has breathtaking savannahs studded with hills and outcrops. Several species occur here that are not found elsewhere in Uganda such as the cheetah, African wild dog, Lesser Kudu, Karamoja Apalis and a species of crocodile that WCS helped to identify. In its 555 square miles, 86 species of mammals—including bat-eared fox, striped hyena, aardwolf, jackal - 473 species of birds—notably hornbills, eagles, and ostriches—and 692 plant species have been recorded. This region also includes the main area where the Ik tribe occurs, made famous by Colin Turnbull’s work on this ethnic group.
The landscape is primarily made up of the Kidepo Valley National Park with adjacent Forest Reserves and Community Managed Areas. It also links to the Kidepo Game Reserve in Southern Sudan.
WCS’s initiatives to conserve the Landscape
WCS worked in this Landscape with the USAID WILD project and implemented the following:
1. Wildlife surveys: we conducted several surveys of the wildlife of the area, documenting increases in some of the large mammal populations with UWA. We have also undertaken the first survey and genetic analysis of crocodiles in this Park and determined that they are not Nile crocodiles (Crocodylus niloticus) as always assumed but that they are more a kind of a West African sahelian crocodile (Crocodylus suchus), a species that used to occur in the Nile but has been almost extirpated.
2. Radio-tracking elephants: this study showed that elephants clearly avoided the area,Kidepo Game Reserve in Southern Sudan but regularly migrated outside the Park, to the south, into the Karenga Community Managed Area which links to Rom Forest Reserve.
3. Spatial data Profiling: WCS carried out spatial data profiling of the landscape to provide a basis for ecological landuse planning, biodiversity conservation reference for Local Governments at district and lower levels in environmental and development plannin. Analyses included assessing changes in landcover vegetation distribution, forests and woodlands and impacts of agricultural expansion on woodlands.These analyses showed a general decline in woodland vegetation and an increase in grasslands and also revealed a relationship between woodland loss in protected areas and agricultural encroachment.
4. We have also provided support for the general management of the park and law enforcement activities.
Threats to conservation of the Landscape
Threats to this Landscape are fewer than the other Landscapes where WCS works in Uganda because the human population density adjacent to the Protected Areas is much lower. The Karamajong are the main ethnic group living here and they are pastoralists, grazing their cattle in the extensive woodlands outside the protected areas. Occasionally they will steal cattle from different ethnic divisions within the Karamajong and the stolen cattle are often taken through Kidepo Valley NP. Many of the Karamajong have automatic weapons and poaching of large mammals using these weapons is common when they come across them. Neighbouring tribal groups such as the Toposa and Pokot in Southern Sudan and Kenya occasionally pass through the Park and cattle raiding has been known to occur.