ELEPHANTS IN UGANDA
Uganda has got both savannah and forest elephants. Savanna elephants (Loxodonta Africana) are known for being intelligent, sociable, affectionate animals. Savannah elephants behave like humans in ways such as caring for weaker fellow elephants, adoption of orphaned calves and grieving over dead partners. Living in family groups of varying sizes and led by matriarchs, elephants traverse vast landscapes in search of food and water; it’s at this point that we witness some of the purposes of the trunk which is used to draw water and grass for feeding. It can also be used to clear way in the wild or even raises it together with the ears after sensing danger. A fully grown Elephant can measure up to 3meters and weigh between 2268-6350kgs,spends 16 hours feeding on grass, shrubs, tree branches, consume 140-270 kgs a day and rests less than 2hours in the wild. As a result, elephants play an important role in the modification of ecosystems and creation of conditions suitable for the survival of some plants and animals. They maintain grasslands by reducing tree cover and create water ponds/ wallows for other wildlife as they dig for water using their trunks and tusks. They help with the dispersal and germination of tree species such as Borassus palms and Balanitis aegyptiaca trees.
There are around 5,000 elephants in Uganda today. They are mostly found in the landscapes of Kidepo Valley, Murchison Falls and the Great Virunga landscape. They have a very low reproduction rate (one calf per female every 8.6 years); elephant populations recover more slowly than many other animals, with a maximum annual population growth of about 6%. And globally the elephant is classified as vulnerable by the (LUCN). As a result of the high levels of commercial poaching largely attributed to illegal trade in ivory and its products, the elephant population is facing substantial pressure. This is exacerbated by habitat degradation and loss mainly due to land use changes driven by an increased human population in the region. In Uganda, the 1970s and early 1980s were devastating times for the African elephant, the African elephant remains one of the top most species faced with high risk of extinction due lawlessness that resulted in heavy commercial poaching mostly for meat and ivory. Consequently, the elephant population declined from an estimated 30,000 individuals in 1960s to about 2,000 individuals in 1980s.
Places in Uganda to Find Elephants
Elephants live in the wild for about 50 – 70 years, though some go up to 80 years, Females are usually slightly smaller than the males and baby elephants weigh about 105kgs. The good thing about Uganda’s elephants is that they keep on increasing in number. The following are some of the places where elephants can be spotted in Uganda.
Queen Elizabeth National Park, Is located in southwestern corner of Uganda, this park is the famous home for elephants in Uganda. Both forest and savannah elephants can be spotted while on game drives in Queen Elizabeth national park. At times visitors spot them near their lodges, a launch cruise at Kazinga channel still exposes travelers to more elephants drinking water at the shore-line.
Murchison Falls National Park, This Park has a high increasing population of elephants; this ranks it among best places to see savanna elephants in Uganda. Huge herds of elephants are spotted during the game drive, visitors are warned to leave their eats behind because elephants can easily smell them and break the walls thus a sign of how close the elephants can be to people at Murchison falls.
Kidepo Valley National Park, Despite Kidepo Valley being the remotest park in Uganda, it has managed to be ranked the third position of the best national parks in Africa. Kidepo valley is an amazing place to see wildlife including the savanna elephants. With its best game drive safari, there is no visitor who leaves Kidepo valley without taking part in the game drive thus offering an opportunity for sighting herds of elephants in the park.
Kibale Forest National Park, Kibale is famously known for chimp trekking, it’s the primate capital of the world with more than 400 chimp species. However, trekkers occasionally come across forest elephants in their hunt for the chimps thus making it the best place to spot forest elephants in Uganda.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, this park is famously known for being the “GORILLA HIGHLAND” thus a right place for gorilla trekking in Uganda, and it’s during that activity of gorilla trekking that visitors will meet the forest elephants which are few in numbers but still exist there.