Imported from africa.wmf 25/05/2008 18:01:19

Semuliki National Park

Lying along the Uganda-Democratic Republic of Congo border in the western arm of the Rift Valley, beautiful Semuliki National Park is a paradise for birdwatchers. It is dominated by the easternmost extension of the great Ituri Forest of the Congo Basin, one of Africa’s most ancient and biodiverse forests. Semuliki has 305 recorded species of trees, of which 125 species are unique to it. The park is alive with over 440 recorded bird species, 300 species of butterflies, 235 moth species and 53 mammal species.

Semuliki National Park is a birdwatcher’s Eden. The only tract of true lowland tropical forest in East Africa, Semuliki hosts 441 recorded bird species and 53 mammals. The park stretches across the floor of the Semuliki Valley on the remote western side of the Rwenzori mountains in western Uganda. It is dominated by the easternmost extension of the great Ituri Forest of the Congo Basin. One of Africa’s most ancient and biodiverse forests, this is one of the few to survive the last Ice Age, 12 000 to 18 000 years ago. Hot springs bubbling up from the depths are a reminder of the powerful subterranean forces that have been shaping the Rift Valley during the last 14 million years. Large areas of this low-lying park are prone to flooding during the wet season – a subtle reminder that the entire valley lay at the bottom of a lake for seven million years.

The Semuliki Valley contains numerous features associated with Central rather than East Africa. You will find West African oil palms shading the grass-thatched huts in local communities. The Semuliki River is a miniature version of the Congo River. The forest is home to numerous Central African wildlife species, and the local Batwa pygmy community originated from the Ituri. As a result, Semuliki is a great destination if you want a taste of Central Africa without having to leave Uganda.

This biologically diverse region provides shelter to 120 mammals, including elephants and antelopes and primates such as baboons and chimpanzees. Hippos and crocodiles are common along the Semuliki River. The 441-strong bird checklist includes 35 Guinea-Congo Forest Biome bird species.  Look out for the long-tailed hawk,  spot-breasted ibis, lyre-tailed honeyguide, black-wattled hornbill, the Nkulengu rail, Hartlaub’s duck, Congo serpent eagle, chestnut-flanked goshawk and red-thighed sparrowhawk. Another 12 species with extremely limited distribution also can be spotted, such as the western bronze-naped pigeon and yellow-throated cuckoo. Look out for the fluttering of more than 300 endemic species of butterflies and 235 moth species.

Four distinct ethnic groups live near the park – Bwamba farmers live along the base of the Rwenzori, while the Bakonjo cultivate the mountain slopes. Batuku cattle keepers inhabit the open plains and Batwa pygmies, traditionally hunter-gathers, live on the edge of the forest.