Tree Climbing Lions in Ishasha Queen Elizabeth National ParkQueen Elizabeth National Park (QENP) is in the Western Region of Uganda, spanning the districts of Kasese, Kamwenge, Rubirizi, and Rukungiri. The park is approximately 400 kilometres (250 mi) by road south-west of Kampala, Uganda’s capital and largest city. The city of Kasese lies to the northeast of the park, while the town of Rubirizi is to the southeast. The park adjoins Kyambura Game Reserve to the east, which itself adjoins the Kigezi Game Reserve (including the Maramagambo Forest) and thus the Kibale National Park to the northeast. The Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo lies across the border to the west. Together, these protected places completely encircle Lake Edward. The Rwenzori Mountains National Park in Uganda lies not far to the northwest.]

Confusingly, during the 1970s and 1980s, Western conservationists usually referred to the park as Rwenzori National Park.

In 1921, a rinderpest epidemic and sleeping sickness among the indigenous inhabitants of the region, the pastoralist Basongora, caused great death and emigration from the region. The epidemic was believed to be caused by the colonial government under the guise of a livestock vaccination campaign. The game increased, and the British colonial government decided to evict the remaining people from perhaps 90% of their lands to create game reserves. Their homes were torched and their livestock slaughtered, causing them to flee across the border and seek refuge in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The park was founded in 1952 as Kazinga National Park by combining the Lake George and Lake Edward Game Reserves. It was renamed two years later to commemorate a visit by Queen Elizabeth II,  and the last remaining communal grazing rights of the Songora herders were rescinded, causing thousands more to move across the border with their herds into the Virunga National Park, most only beginning to return after 1964 due to the strife caused by the Mulele rebellion there.

In 2006 the Basongora were forced to flee across the border from the DRC, settling in the park to the north of Lake Edward with their livestock. Attacks by predators on their property, and lack of compensation when their animals are killed, caused them to leave out carcasses laced with poison out to solve the problem, killing off eleven lions in 2018, among numerous incidents. This caused those in the international tourism and conservation industry to refer to the situation as “national disaster”. Previously, poachers killed six elephants in the park in 2015, triggering both anger and frustration within the Ugandan conservation community.

Queen Elizabeth National Park is one of Uganda’s most popular tourist destinations, annually receiving one of the highest number of visitors of any of the country’s national parks. Popular activities include chimp tracking in Kyambura Gorge, boat cruises, guided game drives including to view tree climbing lions in the Ishasha sector, night drives and nature walks. Visitors can also go on a lion experience with the Uganda Carnivore Program, with proceeds going toward carnivore conservation. Tourists visiting Queen Elizabeth National Park make a 7 hours 30 minutes’ drive from Kampala to reach the park. The park is also connected by daily domestic flights from Entebbe International Airport, which land at Mweya Airstrip, Kihihi Airstrip and Kasese Airstrip. Tourist accommodations at the park include a range of lodges and tented camps.