KOTIDO. That Uganda is gifted by nature is an assertion few can dispute, especially when you taste nature by going to Kidepo national park.
Talking about Kidepo Valley National Park, what strikes many people’s minds are the elephants.
However, beyond the elephants, the park is home to the giraffe (Giraffa Camelopardalis) an African even-toed ungulate mammal, the tallest living terrestrial animal and the largest ruminant.
Its species name, Girraffe Camepardalis refers to its camel-like shape and its leopard-like colouring.
“Kidepo Valley National park is a biodiversity park. It is not only about elephants that are there but also the famous giraffes,” says Phillip Akorony, a guide.
Akorony says the giraffe is the tallest mammal in the world with its new born babies being taller than humans.
According to him, it is the only mammal that spends most of its life standing up and even sleeps while standing up and also gives birth standing up.
“Giraffes often spend 4.6 hours asleep and it is the only mammal with the shortest sleep requirements,” added Mr Akorony.
He explained that Adult giraffes rarely sleep for more than five minutes at a time, and have been known to occasionally keep one eye open. “This high-alert power nap strategy is used by many other animals, including dolphins, fruit bats, and birds like mallard ducks and chickens,” he adds.
He said giraffes are sociable, peaceful animals that rarely fight although males perform a behaviour called necking where they hit the necks, however these encounters really last more than a couple of minutes and seldom result in injury.
The warden in charge of information, research and tourism, Mr Herbert Kitimbo, says just like snowflakes and human finger prints, no two giraffes have the same spot pattern.
“Their tongues are huge up to about 45cm long and are especially adapted to allow girraffes to forage trees that other animals would avoid such as acacia which are thorny. The Giraffe is a symbol of Intuition and flexibility,” said Mr Kitimbo.
When it comes to Giraffes, Kidepo Valley National Game Park stands out, this invaluable natural resource has been visited and revisited and the extra-ordinary features on it shape its outstanding beauty, which remain a myth to those who have not visited it and a secret to those who have visited it.
Records at the park indicate it has about 36 giraffes spread all over the area.
“When we visited to do statistics, we found 36 but later when tourists came around to see them, they walked and managed to only get 32 giraffes, so this means that we have between 30 and 38 giraffes at the park,” said Mr Kitimbo.
The Kidepo Valley National Park was established in the 1960s under the first rule of President Milton Obote (1962 – 1971). The forcible eviction of the Ik; a local Karimojong minority ethnic group, out of the fertile Kidepo Valley contributed to the famine they faced. In contemporary protected area management, this case is often used as an example of the unacceptable consequences of not taking community needs into account when designating reserves.
The park, planted on rocks, overlooks expansive grassy plains dotted with big rocky outcrops and flanked by steep jagged mountains with the summit ridges of Napore range, Taan hills and Natera hills, part of Nyangea, Morongole and Zuulia forest reserves are located within the park.
Those few who make the journey north through the wild frontier region of Karamoja to visit it, would agree that it is among the most magnificent in Africa’s finest wilderness.
The area conservation manager Mr Johnson Masereka says Kidepo’s expansive visitors, largely uninhibited by woodland and forest, are a result of the open tree savannah habitat that dominates the park. Hills have been colonised by the dry mountain forest while some water courses support acacia forests.
According to Mr Masereka, the most exciting fauna of any Ugandan national park with 77 species of mammal, several of which are (in Uganda) restricted to Kidepo valley national park are found here.
“Just look at those localised carnivores; the bat-eared fox, the stripped hyena, Aardwolf, Caraca and Cheeta, lion, leopard, spotted hyena and black-backed and side stripped jackal, these are not in any other park,” says Mr Masereka.
He said besides the Giraffes and carnivores, there are other large ungulates animals that make up the main tourist attraction at Kidepo and they include; zebras, bush pigs, warthogs, water bucks, lions, reedbucks, oribi, buffaloes, crocodiles, elands, Jackson’s hartebeest, and five species of primates are also found in the park including the endemic Kavirondo bush baby.
“Actually the park also boasts an extensive bird list of 463 species confirmed and 26 unconfirmed, second only in Uganda to Queen Elizabeth National park,” says Mr Akorony, a guide at Kidepo.
Mr. Edison Birungi and Mr. Tolbert Gumisiriza co- directors at Encounter Africa Safaris just remarked, “this park is really gifted by nature,”
Mr. Birungi said as the government struggles to increase the visibility of Uganda’s tourist attractions globally, Ugandans should also churn out positive stories that can promote the country’s image and attract tourists.
The duo emphasised that while tourism is public sector-led, it is private sector-driven and highly dependent on perceptions.
Kidepo Valley National Park is a 1,442-square-kilometre (557 square miles) national park in the Karamoja sub-region of northeast Uganda, Kaabong to be exact. It is located approximately 220 kilometres (140 miles), by road northwest of Moroto, the largest town in the sub-region.
Kidepo has rugged savannah, dominated by the 2,750 metres (9,020 feet) Mt Morungole and transected by the Kidepo and Narus rivers. Tucked in Uganda’s most remote north-eastern corner, some 700km from Kampala and tucked between borders with Sudan and Kenya, Kidepo valley is an isolated park.
Kidepo experiences semi-arid climate with just one rainy season per year (April – September) and the rainfall is light, with the Valley of Narus River in the south of the park, receiving some 890mm of rain a year, while just 635mm of rain a year falls in Kidepo valley to the north.
Kidepo main attraction
Perennial water makes River Kidepo an oasis in the semi-desert which hosts over 86 mammal species including lions, cheetah, leopards, bat-eared fox, giraffes, spotted hyena and black-backed and side stripped jackal, these are not in any other park in Uganda, as well as almost 500 bird species.