Echuya Forest is one of a few tropical rain forests that still exist in Uganda. It is a magical rain-forest in Kisoro and Kabale districts Southwestern Uganda. This rain-forest is found along the popular Kigezi highlands which border Rwanda and it is also famous as a bamboo forest. Echuya Forest Reserve is perched along the Albertine rift area of the Eastern afro-montane hotspot, a region rich with endemic species.
Echuya forest was first gazetted as undemarcated crown forest of 41.4km2in the Laws of Uganda in 1951. All Crown Forests in Uganda were then regazetted as Central Forest Reserves. Echuya forest was regazetted in 1964 by Statutory Instrument No. 11 of 1963. All these regazettement events reflect the forest cover loss events that started then and are still prevalent up to date.
Where is Echuya Forest?
Echuya CFR has 20 percent of its area situated in Bufumbira County in Kisoro District and the remaining 80 percent in Rubanda County in Rubanda District. The southern end runs along the north-eastern border of Rwanda. It lies between 1°14 ́ – 1°21 ́S and 29°47 ́ – 29°52 ́E, covers an area of 34 km2, with an altitudinal range of 2,270 – 2,750 m asl. It is situated on a high altitude ridge running between Lake Bunyonyi, 5 km to the east, and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, 13 km to the south west. It is 11 km east of Kisoro Town. The main Kabale to Kisoro road passes through the northern end.
Echuya Forest Reserve is located in one of the most populated areas and majority depend on farming. Its long-time existence has been largely depended on the support from its surrounding communities. This forest reserve occupies 35sq.kms of land area between Kisoro and Lake Bunyonyi. It is also the least explored reserves by visitors on Uganda safari thus guaranteeing you authentic wilderness experiences.
Echuya Forest supports a vast montane habitat which include ever green forest and bamboo. It features a high-altitude swamp also well-known as Muchuya which is also one of the best spots to sight over 30 to 50 pairs of the endangered grauer’s swamp warblers. Entirely, Echuya forest is listed among the many Important Bird Areas in Uganda. It boasts of an estimated population of about 153 bird species, 18 of these are endemic species. It also served as a home to the Batwa pygmies who spent their time hunting small animals, gathering fruits and firewood.
Echuya as dominated by bamboo, Sinarundinaria alpina, and where this is less dense there are woody and herbaceous plants. A total of 20 species of trees have been recorded in the whole forest. Most of the tree species are early pioneers or ‘secondary’ species and late ‘secondary’ species implying that Echuya is a secondary forest. Macaranga capensis is the most dominant tree occupying 65% of the forest cover. Seventy two species of herbs and 46 of shrubs have been recorded in the forest.
Large Mammals of Echuya Forest
Ten species of mammals, including humans have been recorded to be living in the Echuya Forest. Most of these species were forest-dependent species.
Three medium sized carnivore species also recorded were the African Golden Cat (Caracal aurata), Serval Cat (Leptailurus serval) and the Side-striped Jackal (Canis adustus).
Three Albertine Rift endemics were recorded: rodents – Lophuromys woosnami and Delanymys brooksi and shrew Ruwenzorisorex suncoides. Delanymys brooksiis a rare Albertine Rift endemic restricted to montane swamps in the Kigezi area of Uganda and the bordering areas of DR Congo and Rwanda. The most abundant small mammal species were Lophuromys flavopunctatus and Mastomys natalensis
A total of 94 species of birds were recorded for the whole forest of which 15 were Albertine Rift endemics. Other than the globally threatened Grauer’s warbler, other birds to expect to sight on birding tour in Echuya forest include the red throated alethe, collared apalis, mountain masked apalis, kivu ground thrush, red faced woodland warblers, dwarf honeyguide, archer’s robin chat, strange weavers, Doherty’s bush shrike, regal sunbird, Rwenzori batis, white eyed slaty flycatcher to mention but a few.
Because of the forest harboring a substantial number Albertine Rift endemics and globally threatened bird species, it has made the forest a biodiversity hotspot in terms of species rarity both nationally and within the Albertine Rift.
Other species that Echuya Forest Reserve protects include 53 butterfly species, 43 moth species, 127 tree species mainly dominated by moist montane forest, hagenia, bamboo and herbaceous plants which occupy areas with less bamboo and woody vegetation.