Pian-Upe Wildlife Reserve

Pian-Upe Wildlife Reserve is the second largest protected area (after Murchison Falls National Park) in Uganda covering about 2788 sq.km (231400 ha) located in the semi-arid Karamoja region north eastern Uganda. The terrain of Pian-Upe Wildlife Reserve is characterized by spectacular landscape comprising of open acacia and woodland savannah, riverine forests, salty springs, wetlands around Lake Opeta and isolated caves and volcanic rocks kopjes (inselbergs) rising above the plains from 1086m to the foothills of Mount Napak and Kadam (3068m) along the eastern boundary of the reserve near the border with Kenya. The reserve’s habitat similar to ones in Amboseli – Tsavo ecosystem of Kenya and Tanzania supports rich biodiversity of flora and fauna. Pian-Upe is home to 44 mammal species of which 6 including cheetahs, roan antelopes, white-eared Kob, Grant ’s gazelles, Bohor and mountain reedbucks are not found in other national parks in western Uganda; over 242 species of birds of which 9 are Somali-Masai biome endemic species including Somali-Breasted bunting, Bristle-crowned starling, three-streaked tchagra, Hemprich’s hornbill, pink-breasted lark, Acacia tit, Hunter’s sunbird, yellow-billed shrike, yellow-vented eromomela, buff-breasted bustard among others such as ostrich and shoebill stork. Pian-Upe is an important natural and cultural site and was recognized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as category IV Species Management Area.

History of Pian-Upe Wildlife Reserve

The reserve was first established in 1958 as Debasien Animal Sanctuary, a government led agricultural project, in an attempt to turn the southern part adjacent to Greek River into fruit farmland. In favor of conservation, the proposal was rejected by the Uganda Game Department. In 1964 the reserve was expanded northwards and renamed Pian-Upe Wildlife Reserve in honor of the rural communities living around the reserve who are majorly semi-nomadic pastoralists and Nilotic ethnic tribes including the Karamojong in Uganda and the Kelenjin from Pokot north-west of Kenya. “Pian meaning good hearted people” is a clan among the Karamojong while ‘Upe’ meaning enemy are Kelenjin speaking people. As the reserve was not properly demarcated, the local people continued to graze and water their cattle. The historical cattle raiding conflicts between the two communities negatively affected the reserve leading to habitat loss and hunting of wildlife. Dealing with encroachment and grazing of domestic cattle by the Karamojong and the Pokot has been a serious challenge to biodiversity. Along with poaching of wildlife during the Uganda civil wars after independence, there was extinction of lions, Eastern Black Rhinos, elephants and giraffes from the reserve. Without being largely affected, Pian-Upe remains untouched wilderness and a must visit gem in Uganda for game viewing and sightseeing.

Managed by Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), the reserve was opened for tourism with development of accommodation facilities including self and non-contained Bandas at Moruajore the park headquarters, creation of Loporokocho game viewing and nature walk trails and hiking Mount Kadam. Moruajore hill, also, is home to striped hyenas and an important cultural site used by the Karamojong warriors as a meeting point for planning cattle raids against the Pokot.
UWA has an ongoing plan of turning the reserve into a fully developed national park by including the Ramsar sites of Lake Opeta and Bisina wetland system famous for harboring Fox’s weaver, the only endemic bird in Uganda. In 2019, 15 Rothschild’s giraffes and several impalas were reintroduced into the reserve and have since been increasing in number.

How to get to Pian-Upe wildlife reserve

Pian-Upe wildlife reserve is 398 km (7-hour drive) north east of Kampala via Mbale-Soroti road. The major towns along the way include Jinja, Mbale city, and Soroti. Stopovers for refreshments and photoshoots include Jinja Nile river bridge, Namawojjoro trading center in
Mabira forest, and Mbale city.

Visitors may choose to drive through Mbale by turning left at
Terinyi or continue direct to Soroti town, which is 110 km (2-hours drive) to the park. Pian Upe is
212 km (3-hour drive) north of Mbale city. The protected area can also be reached by air
through the Pian Upe airstrip.

Those intending to explore the best of north eastern Uganda
destinations can visit Pian Upe wildlife reserve along with Kidepo valley and Mount Elgon
national parks, Sipi falls in Kapchorwa, and hiking in Mount Moroto, Mount Kadam, and Mount
Morungole. Pian Upe is 251 km (5-hour drive) south of Kidepo valley national park via Morot town.

Climate and weather in Pian-Upe
The reserve has a semi-arid climate which characterize much of Karamoja region north-eastern Uganda. Visitors expect hot sunny days with average temperature ranging between 15°C – 17°C and maximum at 30°C. Climate and Rainfall Rainfall is between 1,000 and 1,250mm over most of the reserve, although it decreases to less than 875mm in the far north-east (Department of Lands & Surveys, 1967). The mean annual minimum temperature is between 15.0 and 17.5°C, and the mean annual maximum is over 30°C (Lubwama, 1994).

Explore the hidden gem in Pian Upe wildlife reserve on your Uganda safari with Gorilla Trek Africa, the number one safari company in Uganda, Rwanda and Congo

Attractions in Pian-Upe Game Reserve


Rwanda safaris

The flat terrain (1100m) characterized by open grassland plains dotted with volcanic kopjes makes it easy to spot endangered wildlife species including cheetah, roan antelope, Grant’s gazelles, Bohor and mountain reedbuck, white-eared kob, ostrich, Gunther’s dik-dik which are not found in other protected areas of Uganda. Visitors expect an off-beaten path game experience with a chance to spot among the 44 mammal species found in Pian-Upe Wildlife Reserve the big cats such as the cheetahs, leopards and lions; plains zebras, giraffes, buffalo, eland, impala, ostrich, hartebeest, oribi, klipspringer, waterbucks, Uganda kob, topi, blue and common duiker etc.; small cats, also, found in the reserve include side striped jackals, spotted hyenas, civets, serval and wild cats and primate species including patas monkeys, olive baboons and velvet monkeys. Game drives in Pian-Upe reserve take place along the Loporokocho trucks with abundance of grass that attract large mammals and angulates.
There are several hills and rocks in the reserve offering a chance to enjoy scenery and spot birds and reptiles such as Lomu (twin hills), Moru a bird habitat, Moruangibuin (hill for hyenas) and Kelekede rock which looks like it is nodding as one walks towards it. The see-through rock caves including Napeded and Namorotot caves offer a chance to spot the reptile species such as African rock python, puff adders and savannah lizards.

Bird species in Pian Upe-Wildlife Reserve

Pian-Upe is a must visit bird watchers paradise, with 242 species of birds of which 9 are Masai-Somali biome species including Somali-breasted bunting, Bristle-crowned starling, three-streaked tchagra, Hemprich’s hornbill, pink-breasted lark, Acacia tit, Hunter’s sunbird, yellow-billed shrike, yellow-vented eromomela, buff-breasted bustard among others such as common ostrich, 4-banded Sandgrouse, spot-flanked barbet, Greyish eagle owl, Burce’s Green pigeons, red-cheeked cordon-blue, stone partridge, Marico sunbird, African grey hornbill, silver bird, African paradise flycatcher, white-faced whistling ducks etc. Birding in Pian-Upe offers a chance to visit the nearby Lake Bisina-Opeta wetlands famous for the Fox’s weaver, Uganda’s only endemic bird.






























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