Budongo Forest Reserve, one of the most important in Uganda, lies on the escarpment north-east of Lake Albert. It consists of a medium-altitude moist semi-deciduous forest (covering c.42,800 ha), with areas of savanna and woodland. The reserve occupies gently undulating terrain, with a general slope north-north-west towards the Rift Valley. The forest is drained by four small rivers (Sonso, Waisoke, Wake and Bubwa) which flow into Lake Albert.Budongo has five main forest-types: colonizing, mixed, Cynometra, Cynometra-mixed and swamp-forest. The majority of the reserve is covered by tropical high-forest communities. Medium-altitude semi-deciduous Cynometra-Celtis forest covers about half of the site and Combretum savanna is widespread in drier areas. The forest is partially degraded, mainly because of pit-sawing and saw-milling over many years. The vegetation has also changed considerably following 60 years of selective logging and silvicultural treatment which favoured the growth of valuable timber species, especially mahoganies. Today, the forest is the richest for timber production in the country.The Forest Master Plan prescribes conservation of forest biodiversity and ecological conditions, economic production of hardwood timber on a sustainable basis, integration of the communities living near the Forest Reserve in collaborative management, development and provision of recreational facilities, and the pursuit of research on various aspects of forest ecosystem dynamics. The Budongo Forest Project is based at Sonso and carries out research throughout the forest, mainly on primates and birds. There are ecotourism sites at Busingiro and Kaniyo Pabidi.
See Box and Table 3 for key species. Two species of birds found in Budongo Forest Reserve are not found elsewhere in East Africa. The forest is the second most important in Uganda (after Semliki National Park, IBA UG009) for species of the Guinea–Congo Forests biome, and the list of such species will probably continue to grow. Muscicapa sethsmithi, only known from Budongo in Uganda, used to be common in mature forest, but is now extremely hard to find. Illadopsis puveli, a recent addition, is not known elsewhere in East Africa. Other species such as Ceratogymna fistulator, Smithornis rufolateralis, Ixonotus guttatus, Neafrapus cassini, Sylvietta denti, Batis ituriensis and Zoothera camaronensis are known from few other forests in the country. Other rare species in Budongo Forest include Pitta reichenowi and Parmoptila woodhousei, both with multiple recent records. Aside from the two biomes under which the site qualifies as an IBA, species restricted to other biomes also occur, including seven from the Afrotropical Highlands biome.
Non-bird biodiversity: Four tree species are of conservation concern: Cordia millenni, Irvingia gabonensis (LR/nt), Milicia excelsa (LR/nt) and Entandrophragma angolense (VU). Threatened mammals include Pan troglodytes (EN) and Loxodonta africana (EN; although this species has rarely visited Budongo in recent years). The butterfly Papilio antimachus (DD) occurs.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The Forest Department manages the reserve. Illegal pit-sawing has been a problem, although due to intensification of patrols, benefit-sharing with local communities, dialogue with the local authorities and community extension and education work, it has been largely controlled. There is a high cultural diversity among the communities living around the forest, including people from the DRC who consider bush-meat from a variety of mammals a delicacy. Although there is no firm evidence, the activities of such communities could pose a danger to threatened species such as chimpanzee Pan troglodytes and Francolinus nahani. The former dependence of four sawmills on the natural forest as a source of roundwood supply no longer poses a threat, since none of them is now active. Ecotourism, currently at a low level, would help to support conservation in Budongo: the Royal Mile (a broad drive through some of the most attractive parts of the forest) is probably the best-known ornithological site in Uganda.A commercial sugar plantation close to the forest is encouraging sugar-cane outgrowers’ schemes. These have resulted in the clearance of most forest patches outside the reserve. The implication of this is likely to be increased pressure on the reserve to satisfy fuelwood and timber requirements.