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Update on the 2023 Kyambura Lion Survey

The Volcanoes Safaris Partnership Trust (VSPT) is working in partnership with the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) to implement its second annual African lion and large carnivore survey. 

The purpose of regular population monitoring is: 

1) to establish strong scientific estimates of a unique tree-climbing population of African lions residing in the Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP); 

2) build the scientific capacity within Queen Elizabeth and Uganda to provide a collaborative scientific wing to UWA for carnivore monitoring in Uganda; and 

3) help support local livelihoods of the people living in the region by involving them in annual carnivore surveys on the ground with VSPT. 

2023 Survey - progress to date 

The 2023 census began on 7 August and ended on 25 November, lasting for 110 days. 

 28 adult lions (14 males, 14 females) were detected 78 times during the survey. These detections were in the following areas of QENP: Kasenyi plains, Mweya, Craters, Dura, Kamulikwizi regions in the north, and the Ishasha sector and Kigezi Wildlife Reserve in the south. 

Florence and her cubs, September 2023

The team recorded 7,405km of cumulative search effort across these regions. The total km driven is around 800-1000 kms less than the 2018 and 2022 surveys, but still adequate for a lion survey of an area this size.

During the survey several cubs below one year were also observed. These cubs are not included in the survey results cue to the high rate of infant mortality. The mortality rate for animals under one year is nearly 50%.

The team reached a number of areas of the park that were previously unsurveyed, including the more remote crater lake region and the Dura sector. The team also recorded sightings of lions that had not been seen as part of the previous surveys in 2028 or 2022.

Johnson, VSPT Lion Team field assistant, using a VHF telemetry device in Ishasha sector of the park. 

Capacity building and team training 

A training workshop, led by field coordinators Orin and Bosco, was held at Kyambura Lodge on 23 and 24 June. 15 Volcanoes Safaris guides, VSPT staff and trainees were trained on data collection field methods and the importance of bust scientific monitoring techniques. 

As part of the 2023 survey the team trained a number of UWA Rangers on lion monitoring, including Nicholas Nuwaijuka and Benjamin Tumuhimbise, who have supported our field staff in the park.

Training workshop at Kyambura Gorge Lodge on 23 June 2023.

2023 Survey efforts

The team spent 20 days surveying the southern sectors of Ishasha and Kigezi. The rest of the days were in the northern part of Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Other achievements from the field team 

The Lion monitoring team keeps an eye open for any wounded animals on their daily missions. In case they site a wounded animal, the team communicates with the UWA veterinary department. 

The team reports its findings to the UWA Research and Monitoring department to provide a wholistic approach to collaborative lion monitoring.

Field team with lions sheltering by the car, in Kasenyi in July 2023 

Next steps for the survey in 2024 

Data collection on for the lion survey has now ended and analysis will be starting in early 2024. We expect the results for this part of the survey to be available by May 2024. 

In January the team will be starting with the camera trapping survey to assess abundance and density of leopard and hyena across the park. This stage of the survey is expected to last 4 months.

Further Information

Read more here about the science which underpins these surveys to watch Tree Climbing Lions on Disney+ which shows the lion counting methods in action.

Please watch and share our new short films featuring Alex and Bosco and Francis and read more about the project here.

Please support the project in 2024 through Empowers Africa or Paypal.

Hope & Julia climbing a tree, November 2023 

VSPT Conservation Centre at Kyambura Gorge Lodge 

Bosco, Field Coordinator, training the team 

The VSPT Lion Monitoring Team with Kyambura Gorge Lodge Management, July 2023 

VSPT Lion Monitoring Team at the UWA Strategic Action Plan meeting in Kampala, May 2023 

The report was prepared on the 9th January 2023 by Volcanoes Safaris Partnership Trust Kyambura Lion Project Team: Bosco Atukwatse, Orin Cornille, Simon Kaweesi, Kevin James, and Alexander Braczkowski.

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Safari Activities

Chimpanzee Tracking

Tracking chimpanzees in their natural habitat, as they swing from the branches in the canopy high above the forest floor is nothing short of exhilarating. The chimps effortlessly cross and scamper through the trees above the gorge, and visitors on the other hand must cross the river using natural bridges in order to keep up with the chimps. So although the walk usually lasts only 2–3 hours, descending the steep gorge and crossing the log bridges over the river requires some agility and fitness.

Chimpanzee tracking is also available in nearby Kalinzu, a forest reserve 30 minutes drive from Kyambura Gorge Lodge where there is a community of about 40 habituated chimpanzees.