Toro Semliki Wildlife Reserve

Toro Semliki Wildlife Reserve was established as a game reserve in 1926 and was among the first protected areas to be gazetted. The main reason was to protect the large numbers of Uganda kobs in the area. It covers an area of 542 km2. It is located in western Uganda, with in Ntoroko and Kabarole districts.

Toro semliki wildlife Reserve enjoys a dramatic rift valley setting between the Rwenzori, Kijura escarpment and Lake Albert. The dominant vegetation type is the open acacia-combretum woodland along the main water courses, as well as some extensive swamps towards Lake Albert. The reserve itself is topographically unremarkable, set at a relatively low altitude starting from around 700m above sea level, but on a clear day the setting is truly awesome, with the sheer rift valley escarpment rising sharply from the eastern shore of Lake Albert, the 2500m-high Congolese blue mountains on the western horizon and the mighty glacial peaks of the Rwenzori visible to the south west.

There are four communities living around the reserve and these include; The Karugutu-kyabandara community which is situated in the south of the reserve, about 18 km from fort portal town. The area is mainly inhabited by the Bakonjo who are traditional cultivators. The most important crops grown are maize, cassava, beans, soya beans, rice and bananas some of which is sold in Rwebisengo and Ntoroko markets; The Rwebisengo community located on the west and north western edge of the reserve in the Semliki flats. The community mainly comprises the batuku (batoro-bahuma), who are predominant pastoralists. The batuku are believed to be descendants of the barusula who were the royal army of the king kabalega of bunyoro kitara kingdom; The Ntoroko fishing community who are situated at the south-eastern tip of Lake Albert between the estuaries of  wasa and muzizi rivers. The area, covering approximately 4 km2 has now been excised from the reserve and gazetted as a wildlife sanctuary to offer protection of any wildlife that interface in this area. The ntoroko community depends mainly in fishing; The Kasesenge-kyakabaseke community which is located on the eastern escarpment of the rift valley. The majority of them are the bakiga migrants who originally came to work in the tea estates in 1960s. During the good economic times, tea provided stable income. As the prices of tea deteriorated, they resorted to crop cultivation mainly beans, groundnuts, maize and bananas.

A boat ride can be conducted on the Lake Albert and the main attractions are shoebills, African pygmy goose, blue-breasted and blue-cheeked bee-eaters and blue-headed coucal.

A hike to the Nyaburogo George is an ideal walk for birders that starts right at the reserve headquarters. It is a 7km hike that goes through a diversity of habitats including savanna, woodland and a forest in the gorge. Common birds sighted include: arrow marked babbler, tropical boubal, black-headed bushrike, luhdrers bushrike and primates including black and white colobus, baboons, vervets and occasionary the chimpanzees.

The Toro semuliki plain is predominantly grassy savanna and acacia-combretum woodland echoing Murchison falls national park at the northern end of the Lake Albert. Stands of borassus palms, Lake shore marshland and broad river valleys filled with beautiful galley forest all add variety. Lake Albert lies outside the reserve but can be visited for canoeing and bird watching.

Toro Semuliki contains the same key species as Queen Elizabeth and Murchison falls national parks which are elephant, buffalo, Uganda kob, waterbuck, warthog, giant forest hog, and hippopotamus. Primates include chimpanzees, baboons and monkeys including vervet, red-tailed and black and white colobus. Uniquely, the 200 strong elephant population includes savannah and forest elephant plus a hybrid form from interbreeding.

There are chances of encountering the chimpanzees when you take a primate walk. The reserve boosts of 440 bird species including red-necked falcon, black-billed barbet and the turkey like Abyssinian ground-hornbill. The shoebill is usually sighted in the marshes of Lake Albert.

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