EXPLAINING UGANDA’S DIVERSITY
UGANDA’s stunning diversity-can only be understood if you begin to examine its geography.
Starting with the valleys and mountains, the Great Rift Valley enters the country after running some 7000km from Lebanon to Mozambique; -splits into two (‘Eastern, western and with an extension of the Southern Rift Valley’). The Albertine Rift is the western branch of the East African Rift, covering parts of Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania. It extends from the northern end of Lake Albert to the southern end of Lake Tanganyika. The geographical term includes the valley and the surrounding mountains. The highest of the mountains, the Rwenzoris, non-volcanic in its creation and punctuated by six massifs separated by deep gorges along its length, is older and higher than the Virungas, which was created by volcanism and rifting. Mt Sabinyo, the oldest extinct volcano of the Virunga ranges, noted for its intersection of the borders of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Rwanda and Uganda holds religious significance to local tribes. At 3,669 metres (12,037 ft), the slopes of Mt. Sabyinyo are a habitat for the critically endangered mountain gorilla. The mountain carries the local nickname “Old Man’s Teeth,” because its serrated summit resembles worn teeth in a gum line (in contrast to the perfect conical summits of the adjacent mountains in this range)
Uganda is exceptionally important in terms of biodiversity, with surveys reporting the occurrence of 18,783 species. Although the country covers just 241, 551 Km2 and accounts for only 0.18% of the world’s terrestrial and freshwater surface, Uganda harbors 4.6% of the dragonflies, 6.8% of the butterflies, 7.5% of the mammals, and 10.2% of the bird species globally recognized. Uganda has more species of primates than anywhere else on Earth of similar area. While Kibale National Park has an area of just 760 Km2, it has 12 species of primates. In two Ugandan forests (Bwindi Impenetrable and Kibale National Parks), scientists have recorded 173 species of polypore fungi, which is 16% of the total species known from North America, Tropical Africa and Europe.
major tourist attraction regions
The colossal Rift valley landscape includes the largest, deepest, and oldest of the Rift Valley Lakes, various stretches of river streams and the Nile River. Lakes Albert, Victoria, and Edward are part of the Nile River basin. They are also referred to as the Central African lakes. Collectively, these water bodies contain one of the largest assemblages of diverse freshwater fish species in the world. In Lake Victoria alone, more than 600 species of cichlid fish have been found, with as many as 102 species found in a single study of Ugandan lake waters.
The high level of biodiversity in Uganda is a function of Uganda’s location in a zone between the ecological communities that are characteristic of the drier East African savannas and the more moist West African rain forests, along with large differences in elevation and extraordinary combinations of terrestrial and aquatic habitats. Uganda includes several sites along the Nile River with spectacular waterfalls, including the Bujagali Falls (where white-water rafting is now conducted), Karuma Falls and Murchison Falls. The ecosystems range from the snow-capped peaks of the Rwenzori Mountains (Mountains of the moon), the Virunga Volcanoes and Mount Elgon to high altitude montane forests, to the open waters of Lakes Victoria, Albert and others, to the islands of Lake Victoria and Bunyonyi. Uganda has a unique blend of semi-arid woodlands, savannah and forest communities as well as a wealth of montane and lake habitats.
This island of evolution, isolated from the Indian and Atlantic oceans, has, become, over time, yet another endemism hotspot and leads us on to our conclusion: Uganda’s dizzying collection of ecosystems, from snow-covered Rwenzori mountains with their various climatic zones, lush valleys, vast plains and impenetrable forests, to semi-arid deserts and endless savannahs, each geographically isolated from one another and formed over millions of years, have conspired to make Uganda an evolutionary hotspot for an equally dazzling collection of flora and fauna.
The natural abundance of food, fresh water and array of climatic conditions eventually attracted humans, who also thrived here, adapting and evolving into the multitudes of pre-colonial cultures that we know of today, entirely distinct from one another in language, culture and traditions, lords and kings over their own isolated pockets of the country. It is no coincidence that Uganda has over 50 indigenous languages that are still spoken today, remnants of the great and beautiful golden peoples that once inhabited Uganda’s territory before the arrival of the British.