Leopard Village is a community-run, socioeconomic development initiative which supports cultural and wildlife conservation through ecotourism. The goal is that this initiative will assist in the conservation of the area’s wildlife and support the villagers as they regain their traditional custodianship of the local wildlife and other natural resources. Villagers gain some economic benefit, which helps offset the costs associated with living with carnivores, which sometimes prey on livestock, not to mention elephants, which sometimes destroy crops. It also serves to educate tourists about Uganda’s conservation challenges and its rich cultural traditions.
Muhokya is also known as Leopard Village, due to its exceptional tolerance of neighboring wildlife, in particular the leopards, which have been known to prey on the village’s livestock.
Kim is one such leopard, who has become a symbol of the local people’s great tolerance for wildlife. One night in 2010, she was trapped by some villagers who lost many goats and calves to her over the years. Instead of killing her, they called Dr. Ludwig Siefert and James Kaleywa, who darted and relocated her to an area within the park. However, she returned to her original territory in a matter of weeks, and it was soon discovered that she had a cub.
Today, leopards are regularly seen in Muhokya and other villages. Kim was fitted with a radio collar and was regularly monitored by UCP, along with her male sub-adult cub named Maathai. Tourists can often see them while on the Uganda Wildlife Authority’s lion tracking experience with James or Dr. Siefert.
We are grateful to the villagers of Muhokya for their continued tolerance and coexistence with Kim and other wildlife. Muhokya is now known as Leopard Village as a result!
Community Resource Center in Leopard Village
Muhokya is a terrific example of a local community coexisting with wildlife. By supporting their tourist and cultural activities, you are assisting in the conservation of the area’s wildlife and assisting the villagers as they regain their traditional custodianship of their local wildlife and other natural resources. It also encourages other villages to develop their own community-based conservation and sustainable development initiatives.
With support from global partners, Muhokya and the neighboring villages of Kahendero and Hamukungu are embarking on a new ecotourism venture as a way to offset the damages they face by coexisting with the park’s wildlife, which sometimes prey on their livestock and eat their agriculture.
Leopard Village was built in Muhokya with participation by both Kahendero and Hamukungu. It is a place for both the local community of Queen Elizabeth National Park and the global community of tourists who come to visit the park. It can be visited as part of a short break on the drive to the park or as part of a longer visit.
Leopard Village serves both the local community as well as the tourist community. It is the center of ecotourism activities and includes displays of local culture and natural history, in addition to the performance and market site. It also has a small library for the village children and a meeting space for community members, tourists, researchers, and local, national, and international students.
Tourists can also visit the traditional huts and are welcome to go inside to have a look to learn more about traditional culture:
Other structures on site include a craft building, the reception hut, and tourist latrines:
Please stop by for a quick look on your next trip to Queen Elizabeth National Park!
Activities at Leopard Village
The communities welcome the opportunity to share information about their rich natural resources and their Muhokya Primary School Choir cultural traditions to tourists to the area, which can include sharing folk tales and knowledge about their pastoral and agricultural livelihoods and information about the Albertine Rift.
A short cultural visit can include:
- A brief mental and physical break before continuing the drive to or from Queen Elizabeth National Park.
- Tour replicas of the traditional huts of the Banyabindi, Bakonzo, and Basongora ethnic groups.
- Opportunity to look at and purchase authentic, locally-made traditional crafts that support sustainable livelihoods in a friendly, ‘no-pressure-to-buy’ environment. Proceeds from craft sales go primarily to the individual artists, with a small amount reinvested into the further development of ecotourism activities.
- Short performance by village members and school children from Muhokya, Kahendero, and Hamukungu. Specific groups include Banyabindi Cultural Drama, Basongora Women Cultural Group, Muhokya Primary School choir, and Young Men’s Acrobatic Crew.
A longer visit can also include:
- Conversations with Muhokya, Kahendero, and Hamukungu community members about the challenges and opportunities they face living next to the park or about their traditional pastoral and agricultural livelihoods.
- Visits to the local schools.
- Discussions, debate, and mutual learning about how the global community can work with the local communities on environmental and human-wildlife conflict issues.
We can work with safari operators to create a customized program offering.
We welcome groups of tourists who are interested in working alongside a community in Uganda, either for just a couple of hours or over the course of a few days. We’d like to engage the tourist community in helping us further develop this project.
The Center is also the hub of capacity-building development for the local communities, where they receive training on the production of quality goods and services. Longer-term plans include an affordable tented camp targeting backpackers and students.