Kidepo Valley National Park lies in the north-eastern corner of Uganda in the Karamoja region, rising dramatically from 900–1,200 m at the border with Sudan to 2,750 m atop the forested Mount Morungole. It comprises semi-arid plains interspersed with hills, rocky outcrops and mountain ranges. One third of the park lies in the Narus Valley in the south and west, with two-thirds occupying the Kidepo Valley system in the east and north-east. Life in the park revolves around these two seasonal rivers. The Narus has water for about six months of the year and has well-developed Acacia-wooded savanna, but the Kidepo holds surface water only during the wettest seasons. Permanent water-holes are few and far between. The Acacia savanna merges in the south into a fire-climax grassland, tree- and shrub-steppe, and bushland, with c.2,000 ha of forest on the higher mountain slopes.
See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. Kidepo Valley National Park has about 480 recorded species, the second-highest total of any Ugandan protected area, after Queen Elizabeth National Park (IBA UG007). It is also the only IBA located entirely within the Somali–Masai biome. It supports some of the rarest species in Uganda, such as Lybius rolleti and Apalis karamojae. Other species which are rare or local in Uganda include Tmetothylacus tenellus, Lanius dorsalis, Turdoides rubiginosus, Calamonastes simplex and many others restricted within Uganda to this Park, Moroto Forest Reserve and adjacent unprotected areas. Species restricted to the Afrotropical Highlands biome occur mainly in the highlands of Lonyili, Morungole, Zulia and Lomej, where there is a characteristic mosaic of forest, savanna and thicket; notable among these species are Monticola rufocinereus and Sylvia lugens, both occurring at only one or two other IBAs in Uganda. The site also holds 16 species of the Sudan–Guinea Savanna biome, and four of the Guinea–Congo Forests biome. There are occasional records of three species of global conservation concern—Circus macrourus, Falco naumanni and Neotis denhami—and Torgos tracheliotus occurs.
Non-bird biodiversity: The park has about 80 species of mammals, of which 28 are not found in any of the other Ugandan parks, including Acinonyx jubatus (VU). Other species of global conservation concern include Loxodonta africana (EN), Panthera leo (VU) and various species of antelope. The park has a rich and diverse herptile fauna, but it has not been assessed properly. Unfortunately, there has been little scientific work in the park since the 1970s.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The park was gazetted in 1962 to commemorate Uganda’s Independence. Its remoteness from the headquarters in Kampala and other areas of human habitation makes it difficult to control poaching. Political instability in neighbouring Sudan has contributed to the ready availability of firearms, which have been used to plunder populations of many of the larger mammal species. However, in recent years management has re-established full control over much of the park, which is one of Uganda’s finest.