Draft conservation Education Manual For the guides of Murchison Falls Conservation Area

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Open acacia savannah with a sufficient population of prey (carrion). Denning sites with rocks and caves are desirable. (Kingdon, p. 262)


At one time the direct ancestors of the spotted hyena, probably the size of bears, ranged from Europe to Indonesia. (Kingdon, p. 258)

Currently in many open areas throughout sub-saharan Africa up to 4,000 meters.
Home Range:

In the course of a night may cover as little as one kilometer to as much as 80 km. (Kingdon, p. 263)

Territories average about 30 sq. km. in well-stocked wildlife parks but are much larger in sparser areas. (Kingdon, p. 263)

Opportunistic. Will eat carrion left over from the kills of other carnivores. Will take easy live prey. Young waterbuck are one of the main live-prey species. Will also eat invertebrates, mudfish, and reptiles. Nowadays they are also found feeding at garbage dumps. (Kingdon, p. 262)

May eat up to 13 kg at a time. Eating happens very quickly as up to 50 members of a pack may converge on one kill. Carrion may be cached in bushes, scrapes or under water. (Kingdon, p. 263)

Not water dependent, but will drink when water is available. (Walker, p. 86)

A lone spotted hyena can take down a bull wildebeest, but only as a last resort. Will usually take the easiest available food, esp. carrion. (Estes, p. 339)

Up to four cubs born after a 4-month gestation. Born blind, but grow fast and can join in kills by about 8 months. Will suckle until 18-months. (Kingdon, p. 263)

Female only has 2 teats. (Safari Companion, p. 281)

Young will stay in clan for about 2 years before dispersing, but sons of dominant female may stay almost 4 years.

Males play no role in raising young and are rarely allowed near denning sites. (Estes, p. 339)

Maturity at about 3 years, males generally earlier than females. (Estes, p. 343)

Social Organization:

Forages singly but lives and hunts in groups. May live in groups as large as 100 in areas with abundant food. (Kingdon, p. 263)

No communal suckling of offspring. Nearly every interaction is competitive, including access to kills, mating opportunities, and time of emigration. The need to provide milk to young for so long increases need for access to protein and calcium, possibly leading to the aggressiveness and abundance of testosterone in females. (Estes, p. 338)

Females are completely dominant over males, they lead marking expeditions and hunts as well as battles with other clans. The only exception is sons of the most dominant female, who hold rank over all but the dominant female. (Estes, p. 338)


More often heard than seen. Call can be heard up to 5 km away – repetitive and reverberating “whoo-up”. Usually made while walking with head hanging. Hyenas are famous for their “laugh”, which is a social-appeasement call sounding like a human giggle. (Kingdon, p. 261)

Raised tail signifies aggression. (Kingdon, p. 261)

Clans are built around related females and their offspring. Males generally disperse. As females are about 12% larger, males will only approach during mating time. (Kingdon, p. 263)

Activity Patterns:

Primarily nocturnal. One activity peak last from about an hour before dark to 8 pm, starting with socializing by the den, followed by foraging. Another peak last from a bit before dawn to a couple hours past. This is the best time to observe hunting and foraging behaviors. (Estes, p. 339)

Can run for miles at 10 kph, run several kilometers at 40 – 50 kph, and peak at 60 kph. (Estes, p. 339)

Dens may be found by looking for mounds of excavated and trampled earth, radiating paths and an absence of herbivores. Large dens are often surrounded by a scatter of scrapes and shelters used by peripheral members of the pack. (Kingdon, p. 262)

Entrance holes to dens are ½ - 1 meter wide. The passageways narrow down to about 15 cm within 3 meters of the entrance. (Estes, p. 339)

Feces are green when fresh, but turn white with age due to mineral and bone content. Can be up to 20 cm long. Conspicuous latrine areas found in open areas. Scat often consists entirely of hair. (Walker, p. 88)


They are not preyed upon by any other animals, but they will not stand up to an adult lion or a pack of wild dogs. Their main relationship to other predators is competition for and stealing of kills. (Safari Companion, p. 295)

Conservation/Commercial value:

They are currently being eliminated as a “pest” species. (Kingdon, p. 262)

Lutra maculicollis (Spotted-necked otter)
General Description/Adaptations:

A relatively small otter, smaller than the clawless otter, brown with a light, freckled throat. All four feet are webbed, and each digit has a well-developed claw. The teeth are sharper than the clawless otter, indicating their different food preferences. The spotted-necked otter’s teeth are designed for shearing, as opposed to the clawless having teeth for crushing shells of crabs. (Estes, p. 437)

This otter is “mouth-oriented” rather than “finger-oriented” like the clawless otter. Relies on visual hunting. (Kingdon, p. 237)
Size: (Kingdon, p. 234)

Head and body length: 60 – 65 cm

Tail length: 35 - 40 cm

Weight: 4 – 6.5 kg


Clear water is important – it is primarily a diurnal feeder. Lives in lakes and rivers, especially rocky, undisturbed areas without turbid inflow. Present in mountain streams, but not in shallow, alkaline lakes of eastern Rift Valley. (Kingdon, p. 237)


Found thinly dispersed throughout wetter parts of SSA, but locally common in the lake areas of Uganda. Absent from far west, southwest, northeast and extreme east Africa. (Kingdon, p. 237)

Found south of 10 degrees north latitude in lakes, large rivers and swamps. Oddly lacking in many bodies of water, possibly due to competition from clawless otters. (Estes, p. 437)

Fish, frogs, crabs, mollusks, aquatic insects and larvae, and other vertebrates and invertebrates. Slow-moving fish up to 60 cm are eaten (prefer 10 – 20 cm) and frogs are the main staples. (Kingdon, p. 237)


Gestation of 2 months, up to 3 blind, helpless cubs are born in a sheltered burrow or crevice. Offspring stay with mother for up to one year. (Kingdon, p. 237)

Very little is known about reproduction in this animal. It is thought to be seasonal, with most young born late in the dry season or early in the rainy season. Females with young will ferociously keep other otters away from her young until they are able to travel at 10 – 12 weeks. At that point, the father may join the family for a few months to help raise the young, but this has not been confirmed. (Estes, p. 440)
Social Organization/Behavior:

Most studies on Lutra otters have been done in North America and Europe, so the following information is incomplete and potentially soon to be disproven.

Primarily solitary, but may form small family groups. Sometimes in groups up to 20 in Lake Victoria. Some of the larger groups are composed of males and females, some are groupings of only males. (Kingdon, p. 237)

More aquatic than clawless otter. Leaves the water only to eat, sleep, sunbathe, scent-mark and have young. (Estes, p. 437)

Males and females are apart for at least part of the year, and then come back together for breeding. Mothers raise offspring unassisted until the next litter comes, then the previous year’s young disperse. (Estes, p. 438)

These otters appear to maintain territories. On lakes, they sometimes only control shorelines and share fishing rights, but on rivers they often seem to maintain exclusive rights to a section of river. They use their home ranges in a consistent way and will create well-worn trails. (Estes, p. 438)

Most larger groupings of otters appear to be transitory, with resident otters being more solitary. (Estes, p. 438)

This is a fairly slow otter, with a top recorded speed while fishing of 4 kph. Average dive-length is 15 seconds, with a maximum of 45 seconds. They dive vertically, only going about 2 meters down. They will swim underwater for 3-4 meters, then surface and travel 1-2 meters before diving again. They may do this for 5-10 kilometers. (Estes, p. 439)

They leave the water to feed on anything larger than a snail or a minnow. This is like other Lutra otters, but is another way they are different from the clawless otter. (Estes, p. 439)

Spotted-necked otters have been observed playing both alone and in groups, both in and out of the water. (Estes, p. 441)

A thin, high whistle is most characteristic call. (Kingdon, p. 237)

They have a scolding call very similar to the pied kingfisher but “fuller and less piercing.” It is usually given while on land. They also have a “mewing call” issued on land that is assumed to be a challenge. A squealing whistle is used during play-fights. High-pitched squeak may be a begging call. (Estes, p. 440)
Activity Patterns:

If not threatened by predation, will be most active 2-3 hours after sunrise and 2-3 hours before dark. Otherwise, they may be more active at night, especially under a bright moon. During mid-day they either bask or rest in their “holts”. Most travel tends to take place in the mornings. (Estes, p. 438)


Most fish are eaten completely, starting at the tail. The heads of large fish are discarded. Frogs are eaten legs-first. When crab are eaten, the carapace is discarded, which is a way to tell the difference between spotted-necked and clawless sign since clawless grind up the shell and consume it. (Estes, p. 440)

Conservation/Commercial value:

Hunted somewhat for its pelt, but is more threatened by siltation of waterways due to their need for clear water in order to hunt. Still abundant in many areas, but declining in others. (Kingdon, p. 237)

Kobus kob thomasi (Uganda Kob)
General Description/Adaptations:

Medium-sized antelope, muscular, rounded body and neck and robust limbs. Males have thick, “lyrate” horns. Females are reddish or yellowish ochre with white undersides and white markings on face, ears and hocks. Males range in color from “cinnamon rufous” to pale yellowish brown. (Kingdon, p. 403)

Size: (Kingdon, p. 403)

Head and body length: 160 – 180 cm

Tail length: 10 – 15 cm

Shoulder height: 82 – 100 cm

Weight: Female 60 – 77 kg; Male 85 – 121 kg

Low-lying flats or gently rolling country near permanent water. Favor areas that have been trampled by large ungulates, or where fire has kept growth low. (Kingdon, p. 403)

Floodplains. Not cover-dependent, but use it for shade. Avoids steep slopes. (Estes, p. 99)

Subspecies are found from Senegal to Western Ethiopia, down to the Lake Victoria basin. South of this area, the equivalent antelope is the Puku. (Kingdon, p. 403)

Home Range:

Territories average 50 hectares, but are quite variable depending on habitat. Mostly non-migratory, and must stay within a few km of water source.


Very water-dependent, and will stay associated with a single water hole for years if it is a good source. They eat a variety of grasses, especially whichever is shortest in a given season. (Kingdon, p. 403)


Gestation is 8-months, one young is born at a time. First six weeks are spent in hiding, after which they join the herd at the grazing ground. Females are fertile after one year, males begin to mate at 3 years. (Kingdon, p. 404)

After reaching maturity, females come into estrus every 20 – 26 days until they are bred. Ovulation begins again 21 – 64 days after giving birth. (Estes, p. 101)

During one-day estrus, female may have intercourse up to 20 times by one or more males. (Estes, p. 102)

After 3-4 months, young join female herds and associate with mothers until weaned at 6-7 months (males) or up to 9 months (females). (Estes, p. 102)
Social Organization:

Interesting territorial arrangement. The large herds move daily between watering and grazing areas. Males set up territories in each area. The females approach the watering holes as a large group, which causes intense competition between males. There are gathering spots along the route between grazing and watering sites where up to 40 males will congregate and scramble for matings. Triangular territories radiate out from these hub areas. Males are so engaged in defending their small territories in these assembly areas that they quickly tire and females may mate with several different males. Male possession of these territories may only last a few hours, while the territories in the grazing areas may be possessed for a year or more. (Kingdon, p. 403)

Much of the mating activity occurs around “beacons”, large deposits of female, estrogen-enhanced urine. (Kingdon, p. 403)

At lower densities, they use a traditional territorial system in the grazing areas. In higher concentrations, they use lek breeding. Territories of prime males will include best territory, and all of the areas used by females. The females move in herds of 5 – 15 (up to 40), changing composition and size day-to-day. (Estes, p. 99)

In more densely populated floodplains, 2/3 of males defend traditional territories and the rest cluster in leks shared by 30 – 40 males. Each of these males holds a territory of about 1 hectare, compared to 50 hectares for a traditional territory. (Estes, p. 99)

Territorial challenges are mostly ritualized and rarely involve actual fighting. A dominant male only has to walk in the “erect posture” to turn back potential rivals. Higher-intensity interactions include “low-horn presentation”, touching noses, folled by a single clash. Often joined by object-horning, head-shaking and displacement grazing and grooming. (Estes, p. 100)

Severe, potentially fatal attacks do occur in Uganda kob more frequently than in other kob species when an outsider attempts to take over a territory. Violent “clash-fighting”, “front-pressing” and “twist-fighting” while quickly wagging tails. Turnovers are rare on traditional territories, but more common in arenas and on leks, and tenure is 2 days to 2 weeks as opposed to 2 years in traditional territories. (Estes, p. 100)

Mating “arenas” are round areas where the grass has been almost completely eliminated by activity. 80 – 90% of females come into these arenas for mating, so it is worth it for territorial males to hold these spaces despite their lack of food value. (Estes, p. 100)


They are a food source for most of the predators, but their survival strategy is to move as a group rather than scatter when threatened. This protects them from the smaller predators, and the larger ones are not as present in the open grasslands inhabited by the kob. (Kingdon, p. 404)

Phacochoerus africanus (Warthog)
General Description/Adaptations:

Ugly, although I’m sure they don’t feel that way.

Basically a pig, rusty gray in color, with a reddish mane of long hair down the back. Large tusks which are oversized incisors, and warts on the side of the face. The warts are “callosities”, which are paired masses of skin and connective tissue. Their purpose is to protect the jaws, eyes and muzzle, and are most noticeable on males. (Kingdon, p. 335)

Warthogs lack fur or surface fat, and so need to insulate their burrows with grass and huddle together for warmth. (Kingdon, p. 335)

Our guide in Queen Elizabeth National Park claimed that warthogs have a 45-second memory span, and when they have been chased they will sometimes return to find out what was chasing them.
Size: (Kingdon, p. 335)

Head and body length: 105 – 152 cm

Tail length: 35 – 50 cm

Shoulder height: 55 – 85 cm

Weight: Female 45 – 75 kg, Male 60 – 150 kg

They live in open areas where they rely on natural or self-dug shelters to escape the heat of the day and cold of night. They are mostly found in lightly wooded country with a variety of vegetation types. (Kingdon, p. 335)

This is the only pig adapted for open savannah. They avoid forests and dense undergrowth. (Estes, p. 218)
Home Range:

Clan areas average about 4 sq. km. (Kingdon, p.335)

During a normal foraging day they will cover about 7 km. (Estes, p. 219)

Grass, roots, bulbs and tubers. Eats by resting on its front knees. Requires water daily. (Walker, p. 138)

Prefer short grasses, such as Sporobolus, Cyndon, Panicum and Brachiaria. Also strip the seedheads from grasses. In the dry season they eat leaf bases and rhizomes where nutrients are stored, which they dig out with their nose disc (hard and sharp). They also eat fallen fruit, feces and soil. Somewhat water-dependent they usually stay near water but can satisfy much of their water need through consuming succulent plants. (Kingdon, p. 335)

Gestation is about 5-6 months, and as many as 8 young may be born per litter. They begin grazing by 3 weeks, weaned between 2 and 6 months. (Kingdon, p. 336)

Mating begins near the end of the rainy season or beginning of the dry season, and young are born near the beginning of the next rainy season. In QENP, there is no distinct breeding season, as rain falls at any time of year. (Estes, p. 220)

Puberty is reached at 1.5 years, but males are not yet ready to compete. Estrus females urinate frequently and discharge a fluid from the vulva that discolors the rear end. Estrus lasts up to 3 days. (Estes, p. 220)

Social Organization:

Mother-daughter bond is enduring, and matrilinial “clans” are likely close family groupings. A clan area may have as many as 100 burrows, and any family within the clan can use any of the burrows. They do not share, however, and will avoid occupied burrows. (Kingdon, p. 336)

Males are gradually driven off, and are generally solitary by 4 years, although they possibly remain in the same clan area. Fights between males are probably for mating rights rather than turf. When a male finds a female in estrus, the follows her, champing, salivating and mumbling “in an engine-like chug, chug, chug.” (Kingdon, p. 336)

Fights between males tend to be pushing matches, interrupted by thumping at each other’s faces. The warts are likely an adaptation resulting from this fighting style, but fractures and deaths are still frequent during these duels. (Kingdon, p. 336)

Males leave the family when “secondary characteristics” appear (cheek pads and glands). (Estes, p. 218)

Subadult males often form bachelor groups until they become solitary at 4 years. (Estes, p. 219)


After a separation, group members greet with explosive grunts and nose-to-nose contact and occasionally engage in social grooming. (Estes, p. 219)

Both males and females scent-mark objects and each other – males more frequently. Males also urinate in their wallows, which sows do not do (many warthog behaviors seem to have parallels in humans). (Estes, p. 219)

Dominance strut, lateral presentation, grunting, growling, woooomph warning, head jerk, mock attack, chasing are all threat displays. (Estes, p. 219)

Activity Patterns:

Almost strictly diurnal. Females and young enter burrow before dark, males often stay out an hour or two later. Morning wake-up depends on the weather. On cold, wet days, they get up later. On hot days, they enter shady areas sooner and wallow more. Peak feeding is early morning and late afternoon, but also feed sporadically during the day. (Estes, p. 219)


Up to 18 years. (Kingdon, p. 336)


Hyenas are the main predators, although leopards, wild dogs and other carnivores will also occasionally hunt them. Lions will occasionally wait at the entrances to occupied burrows and wait for them to emerge in the morning. (Estes, p. 218)

Conservation/Commercial value:

Have been eliminated from cultivated areas, both because they destroy crops and carry diseases that can be transferred to livestock. They are abundant in the game parks (they seemed to be everywhere in QENP). (Kingdon, p. 336)

Kobus ellipsiprymnus (Waterbuck)
General Description/Adaptations:

One of the heaviest antelopes. Long body and neck, short stocky legs, shaggy neck mane. Coloration gray to red-brown, darker with age. Lower legs black with white ring above hooves, white rump patch, underparts, throat patch, ear-linings, eyebrows, and snout. Large horns, curved forward. (Estes, p. 107)

They exude a strong turpentine scent. (Walker, p. 188)

Females do not have horns. (Walker, p. 188)

Size: (Kingdon, p. 407)

Head and body length: 177 – 235 cm

Tail length: 33 – 40 cm

Shoulder height: 120 – 136 cm

Weight: Male 200 – 300 kg; Female 160 – 200 kg

Limited to grasslands within 1 km of water. It is the most water-dependent of the antelopes, very subject to dehydration in hot weather. Because of the need for water and for cover as well as grasslands, their distribution is patchy, following drainage lines and valleys


The defassa subspecies lives west of the Rift Valley across to the farthest extent of West Africa.

Home Range:

Depends on quality of habitat, population density, and age of individuals. Range decreases with an increase in age or density. Home range can vary from 100 – 600 hectares or more, territories from 4 – 146 hectares. (Estes, p. 108)

Waterbucks rarely move more than about 1 km per day. (Estes, p. 109)

Feeds on a wide variety of grasses, but needs a high protein intake due to high water intake and urine output. When green grass is not available, it supplements with other herbs and browses acacias and other shrubs. (Estes, p. 107)

Very water-dependent, hence the name.

Females rarely conceive before 3 years of age. Breeding can take place any time of year, with about 10 months between generations. Gestation is 8 – 8 ½ months. Perennial breeding means males defend their territories all year long. (Estes, p. 110)

Two days or so before giving birth, females isolate themselves in dense thickets, where they will give birth to a single fawn, usually early in the morning. Calves can stand in about ½ hour, and can outrun a person within 24 hours and generally bolt rather than freeze when startled. (Estes, p. 110)

Weaned at 6-8 months. Young are often found wandering alone or in groups, but the adult herd is almost always nearby for them to run to if scared or threatened. (Estes, p. 111)

Young stay concealed for 2 weeks. (Kingdon, p. 408)
Social Organization:

Territorial, but not fiercely so. Bachelor males are often tolerated in territory and are even allowed near harem females. (Estes, p. 107)

Female herds of 5-10 are often seen, although the individuals are shifting and there is no clear leader. Females are most often seen singly or in pairs. There may be some persistence in bonds between mothers and daughters. (Estes, p. 108)

Male offspring are forced out of the herd at 8-9 months, when their horns start to appear. They then join bachelor herds until they reach maturity. These herds may be as large as 60, but are amorphous, as with the female herds. There is a hierarchy based on seniority in these groups, and there are frequent challenges and sparring matches. (Estes, p. 108)

Males are at their peak from 7-9 years. They will not attempt to compete for a territory until they are at least 6, even though they reach sexual maturity at 3 years. This may be because the territories are so large that there is fierce competition and they must be very strong to gain and hold a territory. Average tenure is 1 ½ - 2 years. (Estes, p. 108)

It can be difficult to recognize the territorial male due to the presence of satellite bachelors, but generally the darkest male with the largest horns will be dominant. (Estes, p. 109)

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