Murchison Falls-Albert Delta Wetland System is situated in the north west of Uganda, 90 km north of Masindi town. The system is situated in Masindi and Gulu Districts along River Nile towards the Lake Albert. The biggest part of the system lies within the Murchison Falls National Park. A small bit (part of the Albert delta) lies outside the National Park.
Murchison Falls Wetland System stretches from the top of Murchison Falls where the River Nile, or a large part of it, flows through a rock cleft some six metres wide, to the delta at its confluence with Lake Albert. The stretch is part of Victoria Nile and it has over 50 tributaries, which flow through thick papyrus swamp towards the lake.
The Murchison Falls make one of the main tourist attractions for Murchison Falls National Park and Uganda as a whole. The convergence zone between Lake Albert and the delta forms a shallow area that is important for water birds, especially the Shoebill, Pelicans, Darters and various heron species. The rest of the park is dominated by rolling savannas and tall grass with increasing thick bush, woodlands and forest patches in the higher and wetter areas to the south and east.
Murchison Falls National Park was gazetted in 1952 and changed name in the 1970s to Kabalega Falls National Park. However, since the new name was not officially gazetted by the government of the day, the park reverted to its former name in 1979. Conservation in Murchison Falls National Park is based on the large mammals, which have the greatest impact on both the ecosystem and the majority of people around the park as well as visitors.
The Murchison Falls Wetland System is of social and cultural importance to the people of the area. The delta is an important spawning and breeding ground for the Lake Albert fisheries. The system contains indigenous fish species, which are of important conservation interest, several of which are related to the lower Nile species.
It contains three globally vulnerable species of birds as well as others among which are migrant birds. It is becoming well-known internationally as one of the best sites in Africa for watching the Shoebills. It forms a feeding and watering refuge for wildlife in the National Park during dry seasons. It is also an important tourism and recreation area, which is important for biodiversity conservation and revenue.
Murchison Falls Wetland system is being proposed for listing because of its importance as a spawning ground for Lake Albert fisheries, its support to globally threatened bird species and its support to biodiversity conservation during the dry seasons.
The system boasts an extensive avifauna with a checklist of over 460 species, due to its large size and wide range of habitats. Noteworthy avifauna includes three globally vulnerable species including Lappet-faced Vulture (Torgos tracheliotos), Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni) and Shoebill (Balaeniceps rex). The system also supports congregatory bird species including the African Skimmer (Rynchops flavirostris) and the Rock Pratincole (Glareola nuchalis). Lesser Flamingo (Phoeniconaias minor) and Great Snipe (Gallinago media) have occasionally been recorded.
Other fauna of global conservation interest includes the African Elephant Loxodonta africana and the Nile Crocodile Crocodylus niloticus. The stretch of river between Murchison Falls and the delta has one of the biggest concentrations of Nile Crocodiles in the world. Poachers seriously persecuted Elephants during the 1970s and early 1980s, reducing the population from more than 13,000 to less than 1,000 in the 1990s; but they are now recovering.
The Lake Albert waters are densely populated by many fish species, the majority of which are typical of the lower waters of the Nile and include important indigenous fish species of important conservation interest.