The Impenetrable Forest, Southwest Uganda

Robert C. Drewes, PhD
Department of Herpetology
California Academy of Sciences

Amphibian List

Reptile List

Abstracted from Drewes, R. C. & J. V. Vindum 1994. Amphibians of the Impenetrable Forest, Southwest Uganda. J. Afr. Zool. 108:55-70. Photos by author unless otherwise indicated.

The Impenetrable Forest, now Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (BINP) is located in extreme southwest Uganda, only a few kilometers from the Congo border and about 25 kilometers north of the Virunga Volcanos.

The Virungas are famous for their populations of mountain gorilla but until the 1994 Hutu-Tutsi genocidal war in Rwanda, few people were aware that fully half of the world’s mountain gorilla are actually found in BINP, along with nine other primate species and over 350 species of birds, many of them endemic. BINP has become the major gorilla-viewing destination since that time.

Scarcely 320 square kilometers, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park lives up to its name; slopes are very steep, the vegetation along trail edges can be extremely dense, and much of the central part of the forest is inaccessible to the average visitor . The forest proper contains a number of aquatic habitats including three different kinds of swamps, several large rivers, many creeks and a few trails.

Bakiga farmland

Park boundary (right)

There were no permanent inhabitants of the Impenetrable Forest even before it became a national park; however the surrounding area is densely populated and farmed by the Bakiga and Banyarwanda, and these people pass through the forest en route to markets. The forest was also traditionally a source of bush meat for Batwa. The biggest dangers to BINP are the burgeoning human population and the high price of certain timber, and the forest rangers must be constantly on the look-out for pit sawyers.

Academy scientists have spent a total of four months doing field work in BINP in 1990 and again in 1996. The base of operations for all research in the Impenetrable is the Institute for Tropical Forest Conservation (ITFC) at Ruhizha; however, most field time is spent "under canvas" in base and fly camps.

More field images

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