"Leopard Village" is a community-run socio-economic development initiative which supports cultural and wildlife conservation through ecotourism. The goal is that this initiative will assist in the conservation of the area's wildlife and support the villagers as they regain their traditional custodianship of the local wildlife and other natural resources. Villagers will gain some economic benefit which will help offset the costs associated with living with carnivores, which prey on livestock, and herbivores such as elephants which destroy crops. It will also educate tourists about Uganda’s conservation challenges and rich cultural traditions.
To download a brochure on Leopard Village, please click here.
The story of Muhokya – “Leopard Village” – and Kim the Leopardess
Muhokya is known as “Leopard Village” due to its exceptional tolerance of neighboring wildlife, in particular the leopards, which often prey on the village’s livestock.
Leopardess Kim is one such leopard. One night in 2010, she was trapped by some villagers who lost many goats and calves to her over the years. Instead of killing her, which would solve the livestock loss problem and also bring in money from her skin, they called Dr. Siefert and James, who darted her and relocated her to an area within the park. However, she returned to her original territory in a matter of weeks, and ultimately we discovered she had a cub. To see pictures of Kim's relocation, click here.
Today, she and other leopards are regularly seen in Muhokya and other villages, preying on domestic livestock. Leopardess Kim has been fitted with a radio collar and is regularly monitored by us, along with her male sub-adult cub named Maathai. Tourists can often see them while on UWA’s lion tracking experience with James or Dr. Siefert.
We are grateful to the villagers of Muhokya for their continued tolerance and co-existence with Kim and other wildlife. Muhokya is now known as "Leopard Village" as a result!
Community Resource Center in “Leopard Village”
Muhokya is a terrific example of a local community co-existing with wildlife. By supporting their tourist and cultural activities, you will be assisting in the conservation of the area's wildlife and supporting the villagers as they regain their traditional custodianship of their local wildlife and other natural resources. It will also encourage other villages to develop their own community-based conservation and sustainable development initiatives.
With support from global partners, Muhokya and the neighboring villages of Kahendero and Hamukungu are embarking on a new ecotourism venture as a way to offset the damages they face by co-existing with the park’s wildlife, which sometimes prey on their livestock and destroy their crops.
A Community Resource site, called "Leopard Village", has been built in Muhokya with participation by Kahendero and Hamukungu. It is a place for both the local community of Queen Elizabeth National Park and the global community of tourists who come to visit the park. It can be visited as part of a short break on the drive to the park, or as part of a longer visit.
"Leopard Village" serves both the local community as well as the tourist community. It is the center of ecotourism activities and include displays on local culture and natural history, in addition to the performance and market site. It also has a small library for the village children and a meeting space for community members, tourists, researchers, and local/national/international students.
Here is the layout of "Leopard Village":
Tourists can visit the traditional huts located at the site and are welcome to go inside to have a look:
Other structures on site include a craft building, the reception hut, and tourist latrines:
Please stop by for a quick look on your next trip to Queen Elizabeth!
Activities at Leopard Village:
The communities welcome the opportunity to share information about their rich natural resources and their cultural traditions to tourists to the area, which can include sharing folk tales and knowledge about their pastoral and agricultural livelihoods and information about the Albertine Rift.
A short cultural visit can include:
- Brief mental and physical break before continuing the drive to or from Queen Elizabeth.
- Tour replicas of the traditional huts of the Banyabindi, Bakonzo, and Basongora ethnic groups.
- Opportunity to look at and purchase authentic, locally-made traditional crafts that support sustainable livelihoods in a friendly, ‘no-pressure-to-buy’ environment. Proceeds from craft sales go primarily to the individual artists, with a small amount reinvested into the further development of ecotourism activities.
- Short performance by village members and school children from Muhokya, Kahendero, and Hamukungu. Specific groups include Banyabindi Cultural Drama Group, Basongora Women Cultural Group, Muhokya Primary School choir, and Young Men's Acrobatic Crew.
A longer visit can also include:
- Conversations with Muhokya, Kahendero, and Hamukungu community members about the challenges and opportunities they face living next to the park or about their traditional pastoral and agricultural livelihoods.
- Visits to the local schools.
- Discussions, debate, and mutual learning about how the global community can work with the local communities on environmental and human-wildlife conflict issues.
We can work with safari operators to create a customized program offering.
We welcome groups of tourists who are interested in working alongside a community in Uganda, either for just a couple of hours or over the course of a few days. We’d like to engage the tourist community in helping us further develop this project.
The Center is also the hub of capacity-building development for the local communities, where they receive training on the production of quality goods and services. Longer-term plans include an affordable tented camp targeting backpackers & students.
Muhokya is the first town as you drive from Kasese towards Queen Elizabeth on the Kasese-Mbarara highway.
The market and performance site is on 3 acres, currently situated on the lower side of Muhokya Trading Centre, on the park side of the road, and adjacent to Muhokya Primary School and Muhokya Catholic Church. Entry to the site is next to the speed humps on Muhokya's southern exit.
To see the site on Google Maps, click here.
To schedule a visit – short or long – please simply email or phone ahead and let us know you are on your way. We will work with the community leaders to customize the visit according to you and your clients' interests and schedule. You can email us in the contact section (click here). Or you can contact us via mobile:
- James Kalyewa at +256 (0) 791 492 245
- Ludwig Siefert at +256 (0) 791 779 442
Here is a video of Lawrence Kalenzi and his cultural group - one of the performers visitors to Leopard Village can request to see:
This is a video of Martin Muhindo, Headmaster of Muhokya Primary School, speaking at Leopard Village about the historical cultural significance of lions and the importance of lion tourism today: