A team of nature enthusiasts comprising of 27 participants joined the Rhythm City Mbale group for 2 nights and 3 days expedition at Mountain Elgon National Park, the exercise began on 27th and ended on 29th of December – 2016. The activity was co-supported by Mount Elgon Area Conservation of Uganda Wildlife Authority, Wilderness Explorer and the Eastern Corporates Club (ECC).
Facts About Mountain Elgon:
Mountain Elgon is one of Uganda’s oldest physical features and an extinct volcano believed to have erupted over 20 million years ago, its size is 1145sqkms and holds the world’s largest caldera 40sqkms in size created as a result of unusually violent eruption. With its peak as high as 4,521m (at Wagagai)above sea level; this makes it the 8th largest mountain in Africa, 4th in East Africa and 2nd in Uganda. Due to viable floras, Elgon was gazetted into a forest reserve in 1938 and later degazetted into a national park in 1993; a number of streams and falls including river manafwa and sipi originate from the mountain because it provides a good water catchment.
The mountain is shared with Kenya from the East and habited by the Sabiny’s and Bamasaba (Bagisu) of Uganda who practice subsistence farming on small scale. Both tribes practice circumcision but the Bamasaba’s are known for their biannual imbalu ceremony in which boys are innitiated into manhood while the Female Genital Mutilation was a common practice among the sabiny’s, however the practice was banned by the Goverment.
Fauna and Flora:
The mountain is banded into various zones whose characteristics are dictated by the variation in altitude and rainfall, the lower slopes are covered with dense forest and regenerating forests, hung with vines like lianas, epiphytes and linchens while the lower floor is covered with ferns, orchids and flowering plants. Common tree species encountered in this tropical montane forest are; the elgon teak, prunus africana, Elgon olive welwitchi, cedar,Dobelia elgoniasis, cordia, Neoboutania, allophyllus, tombea and Aningeria adolfi-friedericii. At an altitude between 2500 and above strives the bamboo which merges into open woodland dominated by the hanegia abyssinica and African rosewood; some of the plants are medicinal in nature while some provide hard wood on the other hand, bamboo shoots are used as local stew among the bamasabas. It’s a habitat to over 170 species of butterflies, 300 species of birds, several species of primates including the; black and white colubus monkey, blue monkey, red tailed monkey and dog monkey (baboon). Other endemic animals found are; forest elephants, buffaloes, bush pigs (warthogs), duikers (species of antelopes), bush bucks, jackals and hyenas at 3200mtrs. This Protected Area was upgraded into a Man and Biosphere reserve by United Nation Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2005.
Challenges facing the Protected Area
Like any other protected area found in the world and across Africa, there is no variation from what was shared with us during the expedition. Mr Matanda who’s a warden shared with us the challenges below;
- Encroachment into the park boundaries by the surrounding communities due to high birth rates increasing pressure onto the protected area for fertile agricultural land, has affected implementation of policies that governs sustainable resource management and utilization.
- Poaching of wildlife resources and products has led to a vast decline of species in the park, while some like the forest elephants have shifted to the neighbouring Kenya because of insecurity though the population is now thriving and is expected to increase with time.
- Climate change; global changes in atmospheric temperature over time has affected the mountain adversely, this challenge can be witnessed by the decline in water levels, drying of food crops and untillable land. Through our interactions with the local communities, we were forced to ask them about their thoughts on the changes; however their biggest fear is the intense drought already on the go.
- Insecurity; armed men often invade the park killing and wounding severely the game rangers and wardens, most times they kill wildlife creating fear among the park administration and the communities.
Amidst the challenges observed above, the Protected area offers great opportunities such as; source of employment for researchers, tour operators, game wardens and rangers, wild food, herbs and wood fuel for the local communities, gate collections are used to support infrastuctural developments and local projects through revenue sharing managed by Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). Nature enthuasists such as researchers, institutions of learning (primary, secondary schools and universities) use the facility for learning and mending with nature. The water falls are used to generate hydro-electric power that’s distributed to local communities living around the mountain.
Sights of Mt Elgon Fauna and Flora and note, this is by far the work we have done with much Flora images See below: