Situated near Masindi town on your way to Murchison falls national park is the Budongo Central Forest reserve. Home to a variety of chimpanzees & has abundance of the East African Mahogany trees. An exceptionally large mahogany tree is about 80 meters tall or more and 20 meters wide. The Budongo Royal Mile also found in Budongo Forest is situated at the edge of the Albertine Rift, attached to Murchison falls park in the south. The Budongo Royal Mile is a perfect birding spot with a number of west & central African bird species and a variety of sought-after key species.
The area is composed mainly of moist, medium-altitude, semi-deciduous forest, with patches of savanna and woodland. It covers a gently rolling landscape, sloping down to the East African Rift. Four streams, Waisoke, Sonso, Kamirambwa and Siba, drain the forest and flow into Lake Albert. Annual rainfall in the area is between 1200 and 2200 mm, the rainy season being from March – May and again from September – November, the dry season being December – February.
The nearest town is Masindi, and much of the land around the forest is given over to crops, dwellings and villages, placing continuous pressure on the forest margins, and leading to exploitation for building materials and bushmeat, the snares set by poachers causing mutilation of the chimpanzees and other animals. The mahogany trees that still remain are cut and removed by itinerant pit sawyers.
Wildlife Summary in Budongo forest
Recorded from Budongo are more than 360 bird species, some 290 butterflies, 130 moths, 465 trees, and 24 mammals, of which 9 are primates. Chimpanzee tracking has become an activity popular with eco-tourists, necessitating behavioural guidelines for visitors in order to avoid undue disturbance of both animals and forest. Trails have been cut criss-crossing the forest, initially to ease access for research workers and since then used by eco-tourists, forest animals and poachers.
Vernon Reynolds first studied chimpanzees in this forest in 1962, writing a book about the forest and its chimpanzees in 1965. He was one of a trio of pioneer field researchers – the others being Jane Goodall and Adriaan Kortlandt. During the 1970s and 1980s civil war raged in the country, with an accompanying breakdown of law and order. Chimpanzee mothers were shot and the infants taken from the forest and smuggled to collectors in Asia, Europe and America. Reynolds returned to Uganda in 1990 to determine whether a viable population of chimpanzees still existed in Budongo. By 1995 some fifty individuals had been identified, and this figure remained constant until 2000 when the numbers started rising, thought to be due to an influx of chimpanzees from other areas.
Key birds found in Budongo forest;
Hairy-breasted Barbet, Yellow-spotted Barbet, Yellow-billed Barbet, Brown-eared Woodpecker, Yellow-crested Woodpecker, Black-capped Apalis, Ituri Batis, Chestnut-caped Flycatcher, Grey-headed Sunbird, Western-black Headed Oriole, African Crowned Eagle, Nahan’s Francolin, White-spotted Flufftail, Sabine’s Spinetail, Cassin’s Spinetail, Blue-breasted Kingfisher, Chocolate-backed Kingfisher, Dwarf Kingfisher, Blue-throated Roller, Piping Hornbill, White-thighed Hornbill, Spotted Greenbul, Fire-crested Alethe, Blue-shouldered Robin-Chat, Red-capped Robin-Chat, Lemon-bellied Crombec, Rufous-crowned Elemomela, Yellow-browed Camaroptera,