Queen Elizabeth National Park and Lake George

Year of compilation: 2001

Site description
Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP, popularly known as ‘QE’) lies in the Western Rift Valley. Its creation in 1952 recognized its varied habitats, including grassland, woodland, moist tropical forest and wetlands, including both freshwater rivers and lakes and saline crater-lakes. In the south-east, the Kigezi Wildlife Reserve (adjacent to the park, within the IBA) continues into the Maramagambo forest (partly within the park, wholly within the IBA), and up to Kalinzu Forest Reserve (which lies outside the IBA). These are medium-altitude, semi-deciduous forests, covering c.40,000 ha in total.The escarpment of the Western or Albertine Rift Valley forms part of the eastern boundary of the park. The IBA includes the whole of Lake George, as well as the wetlands to the north of the lake (totalling c.25,000 ha). These wetlands, difficult of access, comprise the only designated Ramsar Site in Uganda (Lake George itself is not part of the Ramsar Site). Lake George is connected to Lake Edward by the 32-km-long Kazinga Channel, which also roughly bisects the park into northern and southern sectors. To the north, QENP is contiguous with Kibale National Park (IBA UG006), and with Kyambura Wildlife Reserve (UG008) to the north-east.A number of crater-lakes, derived from eruptions during the mid-Pleistocene, are found in the north and north-east, the most prominent being Lake Katwe, whose salt deposits have been mined for centuries. Lakes Katwe, Munyanyange and Kasenyi, which are all saline, are outside the park’s boundaries, but belong to Kazinga Wildlife Sanctuary and have been included within this IBA. Katwe town and 12 other settlements, mainly fishing communities, are found within QENP, having been demarcated at the time of gazettement to allow for the exploitation of the rich fish-resources of Lakes Edward and George. Katwe town also flourishes because of salt-exploitation from Lake Katwe.

Key biodiversity
See Box and Table 3 for key species. This is one of the most popular National Parks in Uganda for birdwatchers. Its diversity is reflected in its list of more than 600 species, the highest number recorded in any IBA in Uganda and probably the highest of any protected area in Africa. Eleven species of global conservation concern have been recorded, and there are old records of three other such species, none of which has been seen recently: Crex crex, Hirundo atrocaerulea and Muscicapa lendu. Torgos tracheliotus is a breeding resident. Seven species of the Afrotropical Highlands biome have been recorded, as have three of the Sudan–Guinea Savanna biome. Other notable congregations at this site include Charadrius asiaticus at ‘Shoebill Swamp’ on Lake George. Munyanyange crater is an important site for a wide range of migrant waders, including the highest national count for Recurvirostra avosetta (100) and notable numbers of Sterna nilotica, Larus fuscus and five species of duck. Since 1997, the Queen Elizabeth National Park Bird Observatory has operated from the park headquarters at Mweya, and by the end of 1999 had ringed over 4,000 birds of c.200 species.

Non-bird biodiversity: Among threatened mammals, there are good populations of Loxodonta africana (EN) and Pan troglodytes (EN).

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The Uganda Wildlife Authority manages the whole area, except for the open waters of Lakes Edward and George, which are the responsibility of the Fisheries Department. The boundaries of the Ramsar Site leave out some important areas in terms of bird communities, including Lake George itself. There is evidence that some bird species feed in the freshwater wetlands but roost on some of the crater-lakes (Lakes Munyanyange and Katwe), whose inclusion would therefore greatly enhance the value of the Ramsar Site. These crater-lakes are protected under the Kazinga Wildlife Sanctuary, but may need a higher protection status since they fall outside QENP. Formerly, the biggest problem was poaching, but this is now comparatively minor. However, the increasing human population in the fishing settlements may cause threats in the near future through such activities as excessive use of fuelwood from the park, overfishing, illegal livestock-grazing, and burning. The presence of the settlements was one of the reasons for designating the park as a Biosphere Reserve in 1979.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Queen Elizabeth National Park and Lake George. Downloaded from on 14/07/2020.