Semliki National Park
The Semliki Valley contains numerous features associated with central rather than eastern Africa. Thatched huts are shaded by West African oil palms; the Semliki River (which forms the international boundary) is a miniature version of the Congo River, the forest is home to numerous Central African wildlife species, and the local population includes a Batwa pygmy community that originated from the Ituri. As a result, this park provides a taste of Central Africa without having to leave Uganda.
While Semuliki’s species have been accumulating for over 25,000 years, the park contains evidence of even older processes. Hot springs bubble up from the depths to demonstrate the powerful subterranean forces that have been shaping the rift valley during the last 14 million years.
Semuliki National Park lies on Uganda’s border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The Rwenzori Mountains are to the south-east of the park, while Lake Albert is to the park’s north. The park lies within the Albertine Rift, the western arm of the East African Rift. The park is located on a flat to gently undulating landform that ranges from 670 to 760 m (2,200 to 2,490 ft) above sea level.
The park experiences an average rainfall of 1,250 mm (49 in), with peaks in rainfall from March to May and from September to December. Many areas of the park experience flooding during the wet season. The temperature at the park varies from 18 to 30 °C (64 to 86 °F), with relatively small daily variations.
The park borders the Semuliki and Lamia Rivers, which are watering places for many animals. The park has two hot springs in a hot mineral encrusted swamp. One of the springs – Mumbuga spring – resembles a geyser by forming a 0.5 m high fountain. These hot springs attract a large number of shorebirds and they are a source of salt for many animals.
From 1932 to 1993, the area covered by Semuliki National Park was managed as a forest reserve, initially by the colonial government and then by the Ugandan government’s Forest Department. It was made a national park by the government in October 1993 to protect the forests as an integral part of the protected areas of the Western Rift Valle
The area that Semuliki National Park covers is a distinct ecosystem within the larger Albertine Rift ecosystem. The park is located at the junction of several climatic and ecological zones, and as a result has a high diversity of plant and animal species and many microhabitats. Most of the plant and animal species in the park are also found in the Congo Basin forests, with many of these species reaching the eastern limit of their range in Semuliki National Park.
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The vegetation of the park is predominantly medium altitude moist evergreen to semi deciduous forest. The dominant plant species in the forest is the tree Cynometra alexandri. There are also tree species of a more evergreen nature and swamp forest communities.
The park has more than 400 bird species, for example the lyre-tailed honey guide. 216 of these species (66 percent of the country’s total bird species) are true forest birds, including the rare Forest Ground Thrush (Turdus oberlaenderi) and Sassi’s Olive Greenbul (Phyllastrephus lorenzi). Nine species of hornbills have been recorded in the park.
The park has over 60 mammal species, including forest buffalos, leopards, hippos, mona monkeys, water chevrotains, bush babies, civets, elephants, and the pygmy flying squirrel (Idiuus zenkeri). Nine species of duikers are found in the park, including the bay duiker (Cephalophus dorsalis). The park has eight primate species and almost 300 butterfly species.