Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) commenced the translocation of 200 Uganda kobs from Kabwoya wildlife reserve to Kidepo valley national park. The herd includes 30 males and 170 females and marks the second kob translocation to the protected area with the first taking place in 2017.
Kabwoya wildlife reserve is found in Hoima district on the shores of Lake Albert within Murchison falls national park. The number of Uganda kobs there is estimated to be about 8,000, which might be above the carrying capacity for an 87 sq.km reserve. Yet in Kidepo there are 350 – 400 Uganda kobs.
Redistributing their population is the goal behind this kob translocation as a deliberate conservation strategy for UWA to restore and breed a healthy population in Kidepo valley national park. This contributes to ecosystem balance given that Kabwoya is a relatively smaller area. If the animals exceed the capacity of any given area, chances are high for overgrazing to happen, which can lead to change in food and habitat.
Usually when there is shortage of grass, the browsers may begin to stray into nearby farms, resulting in conflict between people and animals. According to the UWA official statement, it was essential to relocate the antelopes to a larger region as a result of the adverse effects that can arise in order to improve breeding, genetic diversity, and ecosystem balance. Secondly, the growing human population, climate change, and the ongoing oil exploration, development and production around the Murchison Falls Conservation Area according to the head of conservation at UWA, are additional reasons why more of these animals need to be relocated to a secure location.
Given that Kidepo covers 1,442 sq.km almost 16 times larger than Kabwoya, this strategy will be a success and the kobs will survive there without any disturbance. In Uganda, translocations are evolving into a crucial conservation tactic and are showing promising outcomes. For instance, the impalas’ relocation from Lake Mburo to Kidepo has also made it possible to see zebras and impalas together in this park. You see impalas, zebras, and giraffes together only in Lake Mburo or Kidepo national parks.
Kidepo valley national park
Kidepo is a semi-arid wilderness and contains 2 seasonal sand rivers (Narus and Kidepo rivers) that form permanent swamps during (September to March), savanna plains, rock kopjes bounded by dry mountain ranges including to the south east Mount Morungole (2,749m) and to the west Lonyili and Morunyang hills.
The protected area marks Uganda’s border with South Sudan and Kenya, where a transboundary conservation program brings together both countries to protect wildlife and benefit the adjacent local communities. Kidepo is rich in biodiversity including 77 mammal species, over 500 species of birds of which most are not found anywhere else in Uganda including Aardwolf, striped hyena, black-backed jackals, ostrich, cheetah, and Karamoja apalis.
The park is notable for harbouring between 10,000 – 30,000 cape buffaloes, lions, leopards Ugandan giraffes (Nubian giraffes), over 600 African elephants, waterbucks, hippos, impala, plains zebras and Jackson’s hartebeest. Through the National Wildlife Crime Task Force (NWCTF), UWA has lately strengthened anti-poaching efforts to combat illegal wildlife crime and trade in the region. It is observed that elephant and giraffe populations are growing and the Kidepo ecosystem is greatly regulated by these mammals, making it a better location for Uganda kobs.
The river valleys and hot springs
The Narus and Kidepo valleys are two of the river valleys that make up Kidepo National Park. The most well-known location for game drives, the Narus valley, is visible from the UWA visitor center. The view point at Apoka Rest Camp offers 360 degrees views across and the Lonyili and Morunyanga hills. The abundance of water and grass throughout the year attracts most of the park’s mammals including lions that tend to dwell on the rock outcrops.
The Kidepo valley on the other hand has less wildlife but is worth exploring. A visit to the Kanataruk hot springs (natural hot springs) and the sand river crossing by foot is a must do in the Kidepo valley. From there, you get spectacular views of Mount Jebel Lotuke across the border in South Sudan. The park therefore can be experienced in different ways including game drives, nature walks, and hiking.
Community based tourism in Kidepo
Besides wildlife, Kidepo also offers unique cultural experiences including visiting the Karamojong cattle warriors. Their history of cattle rustling has pushed the minority Ik (Uganda’s smallest tribe) away from the grazing lands into the mountains. Numbering about 12,000 according to Joshua Cheptegei project, the Ik live on the slopes of Mount Morungole, which is just a 3-4 hour hike away from Apoka visitor center.
You can interact directly with the locals, learn about their way of life, and discover things yourself. Tunbull, the first British American anthropologist to study the Ik described them as an inhospitable people in his novel “The Mountain People.” whether that’s true or not, you should find out when you visit Karamoja.
Besides the cultural walk, you can taste the Karamoja breakfast prepared by most of the lodges in and around the Kidepo Valley National Park including Apoka Safari Lodge (luxury), built on a rock outcrop at the edge of the Narus valley that’s often visited by lions and zebras. Just in front of the lodge, there’s a waterhole that attracts warthogs. You get to watch wildlife from the comfort of your balcony. Other lodges include Kidepo savanna lodge, Karatunga safari camp and Apoka rest camp.
The White-eared kobs
The white-eared kob is less prevalent than the common kobs that were translocated. The Pian Upe wildlife reserve, where the white-eared kobs were recently found almost two decades after their absence. Pian Upe is 306 km (6-hour drive) south of Kidepo and should be visited if you happen to be traveling to Kidepo through the eastern region.
White-eared kobs are endemic to South Sudan’s Badingilo National Park and the Sudd wetlands protected area that encircle it. Besides the wildebeest migration, the area is well-known for hosting the second-largest animal migration in East Africa. The white-eared kobs, tiang reedbucks, and mongalla gazelles migrate between January and June as they move from the west through the Sudd floodplains to Boma national park in the east of South Sudan.
As such, the presence of the species in the Pian Upe wildlife reserve is not surprising given that the Karamoja wilderness is a part of the Sudan-Guinea savanna biome ecosystems. Traveling to the Karamoja region gives you the opportunity to see unique landscapes and rare wildlife, such as the roan antelope in the Pian Upe wildlife reserve. Seeing this species back in Uganda’s protected areas is a sign of the transboundary conservation programs UWA established with neighbouring countries particularly in the Southern Sudan Northern Uganda Transboundary Landscape.