Also known as carnivores, predators are animals that naturally prey on others. Uganda has its fair share of Africa’s wild carnivore species, and you’re most likely to encounter one of the apex predators on a safari game drive in Uganda’s national parks.
About 38 predator species rule Uganda’s wilderness, preying on herbivores and other smaller animals. Some apex predators, such as lions, leopards and cheetah, are somewhat challenging to spot in the wilderness because of sparse populations in vast areas. But a game drive with a local guide or ranger will lead you to some of the know spots or hunting grounds.
Others, like the serval, caracal, lynx, and civet, are obscure from regular sightings. You would have to be fortunate to spot them in the wilderness unless you visit the Uganda Wildlife Education Center to watch them behind cages.
In Uganda, you’ll find five canids or dog-like species—wild dogs, wolves, foxes, and other extant and extinct species.
Seven are feline species—wild cat species, including the cheetah, leopard, lion, lynx, and the golden cat.
Three are from the hyena species—the striped hyena, the spotted hyena, and the aardwolf.
Other species include:
Uganda’s Wild Cats
Lions have special cultural significance in many Ugandan cultures as symbols of royalty, courage, and strength. They enjoy a reputation as ‘king of the beasts.’ You’ll meet these apex predators on a safari game drive in Kidepo Valley, Murchison Falls, and Queen Elizabeth National Park.
The cheetah is a fascinating wild cat to watch on the savanna plain. There’s nowhere else in Uganda you see this predator in action than in Kidepo Valley National Park and Pian Upe Game Reserve, the northeastern Karamoja region.
African golden cat
This close relative of both the caracal and the serval is a rarely seen creature of the west and central African forest. It is widespread in western Uganda and has been seen in every forested national park except Semliki National Park
Jackals are related to domestic dogs, coyotes, foxes and wolves. There are three species of jackals, and the most common of these predators is the side-striped jackal seen in Murchison Falls National Park but also in Queen Elizabeth, Kidepo Valley, Lake Mburo, and Bwindi Impenetrable, and Mgahinga National Parks. The other is the black-back jackal restricted to Kidepo Valley, and the golden jackal is not recorded in any park but has been spotted preying on people’s farms.
Although it barely makes the predator list, this fox-dog is a small but striking silver-grey insectivore (preys on tiny helpless creatures like insects, warms, and invertebrates: poor fellas!). It is generally yellowish-brown with a pale throat and underbelly. In Uganda, it’s commonly seen in Kidepo Valley and Pian Upe Game Reserve.
African wild dog
This long-legged canine with large bat-like ears and an irregular, mottled coat lives in highly effective hunting packs of five to 50 individuals dominated by a female. Unfortunately, humans killed every last of it and it’s just being reintroduced into Uganda’s wilderness. I don’t even know why it’s on the list of predators that rule Uganda’s wilderness. Huh?
Other unmissable predators
Long misunderstood as dim-witted, a greedy scavenger with a demonic laugh, the spotted hyena has a “serious PR crisis on its paws”. It is the most successful hunter in Uganda’s wilderness, intelligent and loving, forming intricate social bonds that rival primates. This apex predator is found in Uganda’s savanna national parks and Mgahinga National Park but is only visible with great regularity in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
They live in burrows and are nondiscriminatory predators, feeding on small animals such as rodents, birds, reptiles, frogs, insects, and worms. Some supplement their diet with fruits, nuts, and seeds. These creative predators are known to break open bird eggs by throwing them with their forepaws toward a solid object. See them in Queen Elizabeth & Murchison Falls National Park.