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Location Kenya, Central Province,Eastern Province
Central coordinates 37o 20.04' East  0o 10.92' South
IBA criteria A1, A2, A3
Area 260,000 ha
Altitude 1,600 - 5,200m
Year of IBA assessment 2001

NatureKenya



Site description An imposing extinct volcano that dominates the landscape of the Kenyan highlands east of the Rift Valley, Mount Kenya lies c.140 km north-north-east of Nairobi, with its northern flanks across the equator. The mountain’s sprawling slopes are cloaked in forest, bamboo, scrub and moorland, giving way on the high central peaks to rock, ice and snow. Mount Kenya is an extremely important water catchment area, supplying the Tana and Northern Ewaso Ngiro systems. The wet south-eastern slopes (with rainfall up to 2,500 mm/year) hold luxuriant rainforest up to 2,400 m, with valuable timber trees such as camphorwood Ocotea usambarensis. Five other main forest-types are recognized, including Newtonia buchananii forest (lower eastern slopes, up to 1,800 m); Juniperus procera–Nuxia congesta–Podocarpus falcatus forest (eastern slopes, to 2,300 m); forest dominated by Croton megalocarpus, Brachylaena huillensis and Calodendrum capense (south-western slopes, up to 1,900 m); more open Juniperus procera–Olea europaea forest (on the drier western and north-western slopes, to c.2,300 m); and mixed Podocarpus latifolius forest (north-western slopes, up to 2,600 m). From c.2,400 m altitude, the forest gives way to dense stands of bamboo Arundinaria alpina, with scattered trees. There is no forest on the dry northern slopes, which receive as little as 800 mm of rain/year and support only scrubby vegetation. Above about 2,850 m, the bamboo merges with an open woodland of Hagenia abyssinica trees and Hypericum shrubs. This in turn grades into Erica heathland above 3,000 m, where ‘everlasting’ flowers, Helichrysum spp., are conspicuous. Above this, the Afro-alpine moorlands are outstanding both scenically and floristically, with giant groundsels Senecio keniodendron and S. johnstonii battiscombei, giant lobelias Lobelia deckenii keniensis and L. telekii, and various tussock grasses. The forest (originally 199,500 ha, of which c.2,520 ha was degazetted in 2001) was gazetted as a Forest Reserve in 1943 and until recently was administered from 15 forest stations in six administrative districts. In July 2000, this area (given in the gazette notice as 21,240 ha) was re-designated as Mount Kenya National Reserve and entrusted to the management of the Kenya Wildlife Service. It has been estimated that c.61,000 ha of the gazetted area was closed-canopy forest. Almost all of this lies between 2,000–2,900 m altitude, with only small fragments on the lowest slopes, down to 1,600 m. Bamboo and bamboo/forest mosaic make up another 63,000 ha, forest and scrub 20,000 ha, with c.20,500 ha of plantations and 35,000 ha of non-forest, including scrub, grassland and cultivation. The National Park covers 71,500 ha, almost entirely above the tree line; it includes all the land above 3,200 m, with two small ‘salients’ extending lower down along the Sirimon and Naro Moru tracks.

Key Biodiversity See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. Mount Kenya has a rich montane bird fauna. It is undoubtedly a stronghold for the threatened and little-known Cinnyricinclus femoralis, even though there are few recent records (probably due to its nomadic nature whilst in search of fruiting trees). Falco naumanni is a passage migrant on the moorland. Euplectes jacksoni can be found in grassland up to 3,000 m, and Macronyx sharpei is known from the north-west slopes, although its present status is uncertain. Regionally threatened species include Bostrychia olivacea (a scarce resident); Gypaetus barbatus (no recent records, but formerly nested on moorland cliffs); Hieraaetus ayresii (a scarce resident); Stephanoaetus coronatus; Tyto capensis (no recent records); Bubo capensis; Campephaga quiscalina (uncommon in montane forest); and Euplectes progne (status uncertain). The rare and little-known race graueri of Asio abyssinicus has been recorded from the high forest. Nectarinia johnstoni is particularly common on the high moorland. Apart from the nearby Nyambeni Hills, Mount Kenya is the only Kenyan site for Poeoptera kenricki.

Non-bird biodiversity: Mammals of global conservation concern include Tragelaphus eurycerus (LR/nt), Diceros bicornis (CR) and Loxodonta africana (EN), together with the uncommon central Kenya race of Cephalophus nigrifrons hooki. Levels of endemism among the small mammals depend on the classification adopted. Notable Mount Kenya taxa include Surdisorex polulus (VU), Tachyoryctes rex (EN), Grammomys gigas (EN), Crocidura allex alpina (VU) and Procavia johnstoni mackinderi. The reptiles Atheris desaixi and Chameleo schubotzi are notable endemics, while Vipera hindii is found only on Mount Kenya and the Aberdare mountains (IBA KE001). The butterfly Capys meruensis is restricted to the Mount Kenya area. Endemics or near-endemics among the alpine flora include Senecio keniodendron (also on the Aberdares), Senecio keniensis keniensis, Lobelia deckenii keniensis and L. bambuseti (also on the Aberdares), Alchemilla argyrophylla and A. cyclophylla (both also on the Aberdares). In the forest, endemics or near-endemics include the rare shrubs Ixora scheffleri keniensis, Pavetta hymenophylla, Maytenus keniensis and Embelia keniensis and the climber Rubus keniensis.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Moustached Green Tinkerbird Pogoniulus leucomystax resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Francolinus psilolaemus resident  1999  present  A3  Not Recognised 
Jackson's Francolin Pternistis jacksoni resident  1999  present  A2, A3  Least Concern 
Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni passage  2010  present  A1  Least Concern 
Buteo oreophilus resident  1999  present  A3  Not Recognised 
Striped Flufftail Sarothrura affinis resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Hartlaub's Turaco Tauraco hartlaubi resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
African Long-eared Owl Asio abyssinicus resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Caprimulgus poliocephalus resident  1999  present  A3  Not Recognised 
Scarce Swift Schoutedenapus myoptilus resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Nyanza Swift Apus niansae resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Bar-tailed Trogon Apaloderma vittatum resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater Merops oreobates resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Campethera tullbergi resident  1999  present  A3  Not Recognised 
Doherty's Bush-shrike Telophorus dohertyi resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Grey Cuckooshrike Coracina caesia resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Black-tailed Oriole Oriolus percivali resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
White-tailed Crested-flycatcher Elminia albonotata resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Hunter's Cisticola Cisticola hunteri resident  1999  present  A2, A3  Least Concern 
Black-collared Apalis Oreolais pulchra resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Chestnut-throated Apalis Apalis porphyrolaema resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Eastern Mountain Greenbul Andropadus nigriceps resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Bracken Warbler Bradypterus cinnamomeus resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Mountain Flycatcher-warbler Chloropeta similis resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Brown Woodland-warbler Phylloscopus umbrovirens resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
White-browed Crombec Sylvietta leucophrys resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
African Hill Babbler Pseudoalcippe abyssinica resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Montane White-eye Zosterops poliogastrus resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Sharpe's Starling Cinnyricinclus sharpii resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Abbott's Starling Cinnyricinclus femoralis resident  1999  present  A1, A2, A3  Vulnerable 
Waller's Starling Onychognathus walleri resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Slender-billed Starling Onychognathus tenuirostris resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Kenrick's Starling Poeoptera kenricki resident  1999  present  A2, A3  Least Concern 
Zoothera piaggiae resident  1999  present  A3  Not Recognised 
Orange Ground-thrush Zoothera gurneyi resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
White-starred Robin Pogonocichla stellata resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Rueppell's Robin-chat Cossypha semirufa resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Moorland Chat Cercomela sordida resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Little Rock-thrush Monticola rufocinereus resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher Dioptrornis fischeri resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Eastern Double-collared Sunbird Nectarinia mediocris resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Northern Double-collared Sunbird Nectarinia preussi resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Tacazze Sunbird Nectarinia tacazze resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Bronze Sunbird Nectarinia kilimensis resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Golden-winged Sunbird Nectarinia reichenowi resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Red-tufted Sunbird Nectarinia johnstoni resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Baglafecht Weaver Ploceus baglafecht resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Brown-capped Weaver Ploceus insignis resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Jackson's Widowbird Euplectes jacksoni resident  1999  present  A1, A2, A3  Near Threatened 
Abyssinian Crimson-wing Cryptospiza salvadorii resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Sharpe's Longclaw Macronyx sharpei resident  1999  present  A1, A2, A3  Endangered 
Yellow-browed Citril Serinus frontalis resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Serinus striolatus resident  1999  present  A3  Not Recognised 
Thick-billed Seedeater Serinus burtoni resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Oriole Finch Linurgus olivaceus resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 

IBA Monitoring

2009 high not assessed medium
  unset
-

Agricultural expansion and intensification livestock farming and ranching (includes forest grazing) - nomadic grazing happening now some of area/population (10-49%) moderate to rapid deterioration high
Climate change and severe weather drought happening now whole area/population (>90%) slow but significant deterioration high
Climate change and severe weather habitat shifting and alteration happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Natural system modifications dams & water management/use - abstraction of surface water (unknown use) happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Natural system modifications fire & fire suppression - increase in fire frequency/intensity happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Over-exploitation, persecution and control of species logging & wood harvesting - unintentional effects: subsistence/small scale happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) slow but significant deterioration low
Residential and commercial development tourism and recreation areas happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low

Forest   0 0 moderate (70-90%) moderate (70-90%) unfavourable

Whole area of site (>90%) covered by appropriate conservation designation  No management plan exists but the management planning process has begun  Substantive conservation measures are being implemented but these are not comprehensive and are limited by resources and capacity  medium 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Mount Kenya Forest Reserve 200,974 protected area contained by site 200,974  
Mount Kenya National Park 58,967 protected area contained by site 58,967  
Mount Kenya UNESCO-MAB Biosphere Reserve 71,759 protected area contained by site 71,759  
Mount Kenya National Park/Natural Forest World Heritage Site 182,400 protected area contained by site 142,020  

Local conservation groups The local conservation group below is working to support conservation at this IBA.

Name Year formed
Mt Kenya Biodiversity Conservation Group 1999

Habitats

IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Forest Montane forest - undifferentiated  -

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture -
forestry -
nature conservation and research -
tourism/recreation -

Further web sources of information 

Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) species/site profile. This site has been identified as an AZE due to it containing a Critically Endangered or Endangered species with a limited range.

References Allan (1981), Beentje (1990), Bennun (1994b), Bennun et al. (in press), Blackett (1994f), Coe (1967), Coe and Foster (1972), Davies and Vanden Berghe (1994), Fairweather (1993), KIFCON (1992), Kokwaro and Beck (1987), Lockwood (1995), Lubanga (1992), Milner et al. (1993), Rehder et al. (1981), Shah and Upadhyaya (1995), Young and Evans (1993).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Mount Kenya. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 28/12/2014

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife