The reserve (KWR) lies immediately south of Lake George (a Ramsar Site), and east of Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP: IBA UG007) where the Kazinga Channel leaves the lake, flowing towards Lake Edward. Although KWR has similar ecosystems to QENP, the natural barriers formed by the Kyambura Gorge and Kazinga Channel make it possible to manage the area as a separate entity. KWR serves as a buffer zone for the north-eastern part of QENP.There is no land connection between the reserve and the park, animals simply fording the Kyambura river where it is shallowest during the dry seasons to move between the protected areas. The river gorge supports a high-canopy tropical forest which grades to a swamp-forest and papyrus (Cyperus papyrus) swamp near the river mouth. The eastern border follows Buhindagi river from Lake George, south-east to Kasyoha-Kitomi Forest Reserve (a moist semi-deciduous forest not presently included within the IBA) where the boundaries of the Forest and Wildlife Reserves abut. A road from the main Mbarara–Kasese highway runs up to Kashaka fish-landing site, bisecting the reserve.There are seven volcanic crater-lakes, both fresh and saline, in the reserve, the most significant of which are the saline Lakes Nshenyi, Bagusa and Maseche; Lakes Chibwera, Kinera, Kararo and Kyamwiga have fresh water.
See Box and Table 3 for key species. The fauna and flora are similar to that of Queen Elizabeth National Park (IBA UG007). Both IBAs have volcanic craters with saline lakes, which are important sites for waterbirds. A total of 332 bird species has been recorded in Kyambura Wildlife Reserve, including seven species of global conservation concern. Lake George, the Kazinga Channel and the seven crater-lakes within the reserve offer a large and varied habitat to many birds, including about 110 wetland species. Lakes Maseche, Nshenyi and Bagusa are within a few kilometres of each other, and the populations of Phoenicopterus minor in these craters can be considered as one. Since 1994, the number recorded on the three saline lakes together has exceeded 20,000 on several occasions, and reached 30,000 in February and August 1999. Although the population of Phoenicopterus minor in Uganda is only 2% of the total population in East Africa, these sites are of considerable conservation importance, since they represent alternative potential breeding sites if the traditional breeding sites are not available. Laniarius mufumbiri and Chloropeta gracilirostris were recorded in papyrus swamps along the shores of Lake George in November 2000. There is a roosting site for Pelecanus onocrotalus at Kashaka fishing village, with a single count of 900 birds in 1994. There are isolated records of Gallinago media and Hirundo atrocaerulea, and a 1994 record of Torgos tracheliotus by the Frontier-Uganda team.
Non-bird biodiversity: Threatened mammals include Loxodonta africana (EN), Panthera leo (VU) and Pan troglodytes (EN).
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
KWR was gazetted as a Controlled Hunting Area and then raised to the status of Game Reserve in 1965. It was used for licensed hunting and cropping to supply the local community with meat until the early 1970s. Due to civil unrest in the 1970s and early 1980s, the level of uncontrolled hunting increased drastically which led to mass killing of big-game mammals. At the same time, subsistence farmers from the surrounding areas and migrants from southern Uganda annexed land in the south-east of the reserve. These encroachers were evicted in 1992, when Zwilling Safaris AG Ltd took over management of the reserve. The area of abandoned and overgrown cultivation, whilst attracting many birds and providing a haven for wild pigs (Potamochoerus larvatus and Hylochoerus meinertzhageni), is unsuitable habitat for most other game animals and is less affected by the dry-season burning which keeps the grasslands open in other parts of the reserve.There is one fishing village, Kashaka, on a peninsula projecting into Lake George, which was present at the time of gazetting the reserve and has a quasi-legal status. It has no formal boundary or register of residents. Although there is no encroachment into the reserve, there is settlement and cultivation on the edge of the eastern and southern borders. Residents have the major problem of animals destroying their crops. However, they collect some materials such as firewood from the reserve. A study in 1990–1992 showed an increase in the human population, although this is hard to define since most people are ‘nomadic fishermen’ who move around Lake George with the changing fish numbers. There is no policy controlling the presence of domestic livestock, mainly goats, which graze freely in the reserve. KWR and QENP are now under the same management (Uganda Wildlife Authority), and are jointly managed as part of the Queen Elizabeth Conservation Area.