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The Great Water Wall: Murchison Falls (Fishy Ugandan Tales: Episode 5)

I have been at Lake Nabugabo in Uganda for over a month now spending most of my time looking for Nile perch, east Africa’s most important fishery.  This fish, locally known as ‘Mputa’, has only been around here since the 50’s, when it in was introduced to the Lake Victoria basin for sport fishing and as a food resource.

Before the 50’s, Nile perch were only found downstream from here, in the waters of the Nile. I had often wondered why this was the case when Lake Victoria would clearly have made an excellent habitat for them. Recently, I found out that Murchison Falls, a powerful waterfall along the Nile, was too difficult for them to swim through, preventing their spread into Lake Victoria.

Curious about these falls, I decided to travel north to visit them.

Murchison Falls
Murchison Falls

During my visit to these falls and the national park that surrounds them, I discovered a number of other animals that inhabit the varied ecosystems of Uganda.

Hippo, Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda

Just below Murchison Falls, these grazers can often be found hanging in the waters of the Nile. At night, this hippo, a nocturnal feeder, will emerge and spend the entire evening searching for grass.

On the banks of the Nile, hundreds of birds can be observed. Although I had imagined this type of diversity, I never would have guessed that birds could also live peacefully alongside buffalos, crocodiles, and elephants.

Buffalo and Hadada Ibis
Buffalo and Hadada Ibis
Yellow-billed stork, great cormorants and… crocodile!
Yellow-billed stork, great cormorants and… crocodile!

Elephant, Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda

Below, this elephant seems to be up to something on this tree. Originally, I thought this individual might be starting to push over this tree to access its leaves for food, and that this type of activity could contribute to changes in forest extent.  After conversing with some scientists that study elephants in Kibale National Park, here in Uganda, I learnt that they can play a role in forest dynamics, but usually only when a number of other factors such as fires, climate change and logging are a play.

In addition to this, apparently elephants rarely push over trees to access their leaves for food. Currently, some researchers believe that they might actually push over trees for “fun”, because they are angry, or simply to practice using their tusks!

Elephants, Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda

 

Giraffe, Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda

Notice how dark the spots on this giraffe are?   In this species, coloration is often correlated with age: the darker the spots, the older the individual.

These two male cobs are preparing to duel, fighting to acquire mating opportunities.

Cob face-off
Cob face-off

 

Cob duel
Cob duel

 

While famous for their hunting, lions are often seen close to cobs. They don’t always pose a threat to antelopes because they spend a great deal of their time resting, and generally only hunt at dusk and dawn. Here, they sit calmly close to a cob breading ground.

Lions, Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda

Lions, Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda

 

Ugandan Sunset, Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda
Ugandan Sunset, Murchison Falls National Park

…Now, back at Lake Nabugabo, more fishy tales to come soon!

 

Comments

  1. Renee and Gary
    Mayo, Qc
    August 5, 2013, 8:35 pm

    Gary and I visited Murchison Falls. In fact we spent a week there. Magical…

  2. Rui Santos de Souza
    Brasil - Curitiba - Paraná
    July 20, 2013, 6:28 pm

    Beautiful and Majestic!

  3. Sanat Kumar Kar
    Howrah, W Bengal, India
    July 19, 2013, 12:17 pm

    Wonderful! Thanks to the photographer and commentator for furnishing these beautiful pictures with notes.

  4. Kimbowa Richard (@rkimbowa)
    Kampala
    July 16, 2013, 2:35 am

    I do not think elephants are one deforestation actors. Rather they are feeding on their natural food sources. As a natural process, the trees normally regenerate, esp if the elephant habitats are not restricted by human influence

    • dalalhanna
      July 24, 2013, 4:12 am

      Thank you for the comment! After hearing your concerns I decided to ask some questions to a scientist studying elephants in the Kibale National Park here in Uganda. I found out that you were indeed right about elephants alone not truly being a source of deforestation. I’ve corrected this post to try and clear up why elephants push over trees and how this can affect forest ecology.