The Park

Queen Elizabeth National Park is located in the south western part of Uganda.  It was founded in 1952, and is Uganda’s second largest and most visited park.  QENP is also a world biosphere reserve, has a RAMSAR -protected wetland, and is classified as an Important Birding Area (IBA) by Birdlife International.  Comprising 2,080 sq. km., it is an area of spectacular biodiversity, and is the home of elephants, lions, leopards, hyenas, hippos, crocodiles, warthog, 10 species of primates, including chimpanzees, 612 bird species, and numerous species of herbivores such as the Ugandan kob, bushbuck, buffalo, and defassa waterbuck.  Habitats include savannah, wetlands, and lowland forests.  The park is also famous for its volcanic features that include volcanic cones and deep "explosion" craters.

To read more about Queen Elizabeth National Park, visit the Uganda Wildlife Authority's webpage by clicking here.

The low predator population is a symptom of the many issues going on in the area surrounding Queen Elizabeth, where there are not only conflicts between the wildlife and humans, but also conflicts between different cultural groups, clear issues associated with the lack of sustainable livelihoods, and the growing population of enclave villages. 

You can read more about this region in a November 2011 article in National Geographic: Africa's Albertine Rift (that's lion Omukama in the main picture!)

The People

There are eleven villages within park boundaries and many more located just outside the borders, with no buffer zone in between.  It is estimated that more than 20,000 people live in the villages located within the park, and that more than 70,000 live in the areas immediately surrounding it.  With 65 percent of Kasese district, in which part of QENP is situated, being designated as protected areas, there are obvious challenges associated with land shortage and demand for access to natural resources.

Two of the largest ethnic groups in this area are the Basongora, who were traditionally pastoralists, and the Bakonzo (or Bakonjo), who are predominately cultivators.  Given the proximity of Lakes Edward and George, fishing is also an important livelihood for many people.

The area around the park was traditionally the land of the Basongora pastoralists.  When Queen Elizabeth National Park was formally gazetted in 1952, the Basongora had to find other land on which to graze their cattle.  Some of them crossed the border into the Democratic Republic of Congo.  In 2006 and 2007, over 1,000 Basongora with 10,000 cattle were expelled from the Congo’s Virunga National Park and returned to Uganda.  Some joined the mainstream Basongora community around the Nyakatonzi area, which borders the Park, yet with more than 50,000 cattle now in the region, many had to move within the Park's boundaries.  Fearing the negative impact this would have on the wildlife and ecosystem, the government relocated them to various areas outside of the Park, including onto land that was being used by the Bakonzo cultivators.  This resulted in a great deal of conflict, and lives and property were lost. 

The conflict over land continues today and contributes to the human-wildlife conflict going on as well.

Due to the shortage in communal grazing land, as well as an overgrowth of invasive weeds and thickets, there is overgrazing and land degradation.  Left with little suitable land on which to graze their cattle, livestock owners often illegally enter into the protected area, which can bring them into direct contact with predators.  Additionally, as the cattle leave the park and return home for the evening, predators will sometimes follow the cattle back into the villages.