The Kazinga Channel – An Amazing Ecosystem

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The Kazinga Channel

The Kazinga Channel is in the Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP) in Uganda.

The Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP)

The QENP is one of the oldest national parks in Uganda. Originally called the ‘Kazinga National Park’, QENP was so named in 1954, to commemorate a visit by Queen Elizabeth II.

The QENP hosts 619 species of birds, considered the second highest of any park in Africa and the sixth highest of any park in the world.

Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius), or hippo (Diponkar Banerjee)

Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius), or hippo, Kazinga Channel (Copyright 2008, Diponkar Banerjee)

The Kazinga Channel Links Lake George and Lake Edward

The Kazinga flows south-west, connecting Lake George to Lake Edward. The change in water level along the 40 km long by less than 1 km wide channel is just 40cm, therefore it moves rather slowly. The two lakes lie in a depression of the western (Albertine) rift valley, surrounded by the Kichwamba and Zaire Escarpments and the Ruwenzori Mountains (Mountains of the Moon).

Crocodiles are relatively recent arrivals to the Kazinga Channel as they were subjected to mass extinction from Lake Edward 8,000  to 10,000 years ago due to toxic ash from the eruption of local volcanoes. The Semliki falls was presumably a barrier to crocodiles, preventing them from recolonizing Lake Edward from Lake Albert via the Semliki river until recent forest clearing on either side of the falls. (McClanahan and Young, Eds. East African Ecosystems and Their Conservation. Oxford university Press 1996. Chapter 8. The Great Lakes).

In 2005, an anthrax outbreak caused large numbers of hippos to be killed in the channel. During my visit to the Kazinga Channel in 2008, however, numerous hippos were observed, indicating a complete recovery.

The channel is now home to a large range of animals and birds, with one of the world’s highest numbers of hippos and Nile crocodiles. Also seen are large numbers of African (Cape) buffalos. Several families of Ugandan fishermen live along the banks of the channel in a small village known as Katunguru.

Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius), or hippo (Diponkar Banerjee)

Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius), or hippo (Copyright 2008. Diponkar Banerjee)

Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus) (Diponkar Banerjee)

Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus) (Copyright 2008. D. Banerjee)

African buffalo or Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer) (Diponkar Banerjee)

African buffalo or Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer) (Copyright 2008. Diponkar Banerjee)

White-breasted cormorant, Phalacrocorax lucidus (Diponkar Banerjee)

White-breasted cormorant, Phalacrocorax lucidus (Copyright 2008, Diponkar Banerjee)

 

A flock of White-breasted cormorants, Phalacrocorax lucidus; taking off together (Diponkar Banerjee)

A flock of White-breasted cormorants, Phalacrocorax lucidus; taking off together (Copyright 2008, Diponkar Banerjee)

Purple heron (Ardea purpurea) taking off. The purple heron is a large bird, 78–97 cm (31–38 in) in length with a standing height from 70 to 94 cm (28 to 37 in) and a 120–152 cm (47–60 in) wingspan. However, it is slender for its size, weighing only 0.5–1.35 kg (1.1–3.0 lb). It is somewhat smaller than the grey heron, from which it can be distinguished by its darker reddish-brown plumage, and, in adults, darker grey back. (Diponkar Banerjee)

Purple heron (Ardea purpurea) taking off.  (Copyright 2008, Diponkar Banerjee)

Village people Kazinga Channel (Diponkar Banerjee)

Village people Kazinga Channel (Copyright 2008, Diponkar Banerjee)

African fish eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_Fish_Eagle (Diponkar Banerjee)

African fish eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer) (Copyright 2008, Diponkar Banerjee)

Heading out to fish (Diponkar Banerjee)

Heading out to fish, Kazinga Channel. (Copyright 2008, Diponkar Banerjee)

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