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Location Kenya, Coast Province
Central coordinates 39o 55.00' East  3o 20.00' South
IBA criteria A1, A2, A3
Area 41,600 ha
Altitude 0 - 210m
Year of IBA assessment 2001

NatureKenya



Site description Arabuko-Sokoke lies a few kilometres inland on the Kenyan coast, between the towns of Kilifi and Malindi and some 110 km north of Mombasa. It is the largest extant fragment of the forests that once covered much of the East African coast, and whose remnants constitute the East African coastal forests Endemic Bird Area. Arabuko-Sokoke was proclaimed a Crown Forest in 1932 and gazetted in 1943, covering an area of 39,100 ha. The Kararacha extension (2,700 ha) to the south-east, which includes important tracts of key habitats, was added in 1968. Part of the forest, containing sections of the three main habitat types, was gazetted as a strict nature reserve (covering 4,300 ha) in the late 1960s. Average annual rainfall ranges from 900 mm (in the relatively dry and scrubby north-west) to 1,100 mm (in the east). The relatively flat eastern section lies on Pleistocene lagoonal sands and clays, separated by a wide band of apparently riverine sandy deposits from the ridge of red Magarini sands that forms the western part of the reserve. Three very distinctive forest types, each with its own special flora and fauna, correspond to these soil types:

Mixed forest (7,000 ha) in the east, on grey sands. This habitat is relatively dense, tall and undifferentiated, with a diversity of tree species. Characteristic trees include Combretum schumannii, Drypetes reticulata, Afzelia quanzensis, Dialium orientale, Hymenaea verrucosa and Manilkara sansibarensis. Brachystegia woodland (7,700 ha) runs in a strip through the approximate centre of the forest, on white, very infertile soil. This relatively open habitat is dominated by Brachystegia spiciformis. In the west, on red Magarini sands, is Cynometra forest and thicket, dominated by Cynometra webberi with Manilkara sulcata, Oldfieldia somalensis and (formerly) Brachylaena huillensis. The transition between white and red soil is sudden, and marked by a chain of seasonal ponds. There are two areas of relatively tall Cynometra forest, with a canopy height of up to 20 m, in the north (3,300 ha) and the south (6,600 ha) of this zone. Between these is a lower, scrubbier formation of intermediate Cynometra (11,300 ha) with a canopy height of 7–8 m. The dry north-western part of the reserve is covered by a low, dense, and often almost impenetrable Cynometra thicket (2,300 ha), with the canopy no more than 5 m high. Altogether, the area of indigenous forest or thicket at this site totals c.38,200 ha.

Key Biodiversity See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. Arabuko-Sokoke has been ranked by BirdLife International as the second most important forest for bird conservation on mainland Africa. More than 230 bird species are recorded including nine globally threatened species. Ploceus golandi is known only from Arabuko-Sokoke and the little-studied Dakatcha woodland (IBA KE009). It occurs mainly in Brachystegia woodland, although its numbers fluctuate. The species’ nest is unknown. Otus ireneae is known only from this forest and one other site in north-east Tanzania. It is confined to Cynometra forest and (at much lower densities) intermediate Cynometra. Arabuko-Sokoke holds by far the bulk of the world’s population, with an estimated 850–1,200 pairs. Arabuko-Sokoke may also hold the world’s largest population of Sheppardia gunningi, with as many as 9,000 pairs thought to be present, primarily in the Cynometra forest. It is also a world stronghold for Anthus sokokensis, with around 3,000 individuals estimated to occur in the Brachystegia woodland alone; its status in other habitat types is not well-known. Zoothera guttata is a scarce but regular intra-African migrant from March–October, and Anthreptes pallidigaster is very local, occurring principally in the Brachystegia woodland, with an estimated population of 2,800 birds. Regionally threatened species include: Casmerodius albus, Thalassornis leuconotus and Podica senegalensis (all recorded occasionally on forest pools); Hieraaetus ayresii (a scarce resident); Stephanoaetus coronatus; Pitta angolensis (a scarce non-breeding visitor, with few recent records); Turdoides squamulatus (local and rarely recorded); and Erythrocercus holochlorus.

Non-bird biodiversity: Arabuko-Sokoke is rich in rare and endemic wildlife, especially among the fauna. Six taxa of butterfly endemic to the EastAfrican coast are present, as well as three rare, near-endemic mammals: Rhynchocyon chrysopygus (EN), Cephalophus adersi (EN; found only in Sokoke and Zanzibar) and the distinctive small carnivore Bdeogale crassicauda omnivora. There is also a small population of Loxodonta africana (EN), and Felis aurata, rare in Kenya, may occur. Unusual reptiles include the lizard Gastropholis prasina, and the forest is exceptionally rich in amphibians, including coastal endemics such as Mertensophryne micrannotis. Arabuko-Sokoke supports at least 50 globally or nationally rare plant taxa.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Eastern Green Tinkerbird Pogoniulus simplex resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Brown-breasted Barbet Pogonornis melanopterus resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Southern Banded Snake-eagle Circaetus fasciolatus resident  1999  present  A1, A3  Near Threatened 
Brown-headed Parrot Poicephalus cryptoxanthus resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Fischer's Turaco Tauraco fischeri resident  1999  present  A1, A2, A3  Near Threatened 
Sokoke Scops-owl Otus ireneae resident  1999  present  A1, A2, A3  Endangered 
Mangrove Kingfisher Halcyon senegaloides resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Mombasa Woodpecker Campethera mombassica resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Pale Batis Batis soror resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Chestnut-fronted Helmet-shrike Prionops scopifrons resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Four-coloured Bush-shrike Telophorus quadricolor resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Green-headed Oriole Oriolus chlorocephalus unknown  1999  unknown  A3  Least Concern 
Yellow Flycatcher Erythrocercus holochlorus resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Fischer's Greenbul Phyllastrephus fischeri resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Tiny Greenbul Phyllastrephus debilis resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Scaly Babbler Turdoides squamulata resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Black-bellied Glossy-starling Lamprotornis corruscus resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Spotted Ground-thrush Zoothera guttata winter  1999  present  A1  Endangered 
East Coast Akalat Sheppardia gunningi resident  1999  present  A1, A3  Near Threatened 
Plain-backed Sunbird Anthreptes reichenowi resident  1999  present  A1, A3  Near Threatened 
Amani Sunbird Anthreptes pallidigaster resident  1999  present  A1, A2, A3  Endangered 
Mouse-coloured Sunbird Nectarinia veroxii resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Violet-breasted Sunbird Nectarinia chalcomelas resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Clarke's Weaver Ploceus golandi resident  1999  present  A1, A2, A3  Endangered 
Sokoke Pipit Anthus sokokensis resident  1999  present  A1, A2, A3  Endangered 

IBA Monitoring

2013 high favourable high
Habitat
Medium - based upon reliable but incomplete / partially representative data

Climate change and severe weather drought happening now whole area/population (>90%) slow but significant deterioration high
Climate change and severe weather storms and floods past (and unlikely to return) and no longer limiting small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Energy production and mining mining and quarrying likely in long term (beyond 4 years) small area/few individuals (<10%) slow but significant deterioration low
Human intrusions and disturbance recreational activities happening now some of area/population (10-49%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Invasive and other problematic species and genes invasive non-native/alien species/diseases - named species 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 small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Over-exploitation, persecution and control of species gathering terrestrial plants - unintentional effects (species being assessed is not the target) happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Over-exploitation, persecution and control of species hunting & collecting terrestrial animals - unintentional effects (species is not the target) happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) slow but significant deterioration high
Over-exploitation, persecution and control of species hunting & collecting terrestrial animals - unintentional effects (species is not the target) likely in short term (within 4 years) majority/most of area/population (50-90%) very rapid to severe deterioration high
Over-exploitation, persecution and control of species logging & wood harvesting - unintentional effects: subsistence/small scale likely in short term (within 4 years) some of area/population (10-49%) moderate to rapid deterioration medium
Pollution excess energy - noise pollution happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Residential and commercial development tourism and recreation areas happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) no or imperceptible deterioration low

Forest Woodland - monodominant  0 0 good (> 90%) good (> 90%) favourable

Whole area of site (>90%) covered by appropriate conservation designation  A comprehensive and appropriate management plan exists that aims to maintain or improve the populations of qualifying bird species  Substantive conservation measures are being implemented but these are not comprehensive and are limited by resources and capacity  high 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Arabuko Sokoke National Reserve 0 is identical to site 41,600  
Arabuko Sokoke Nature Reserve 4,332 protected area contained by site 4,332  

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

Name Year formed
Arabuko Sokoke Forest Guides Association 1997

Habitats

IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Forest Lowland forest - undifferentiated; Woodland - monodominant  85%
Savanna Bushland & thicket - evergreen  6%

Land use

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

References Bennun (1995), Bennun and Waiyaki (1992d), Blackett (1994b), Britton and Zimmerman (1979), Collar and Stuart (1988), Drewes (1997), Fanshawe (1992, 1994, 1995), FitzGibbon et al. (1995), Gordon and Depew (1995), Kanga (1996), Kesley and Langton (1984), Mann (1976), Matiku et al. (2000), Mogaka (1991), Nemeth and Bennun (2000), Robertson and Luke (1993), Taylor (1984), Turner (1977), Virani (1993, 1994, 1995, 2000a,b), Wass (1994).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Arabuko-Sokoke Forest. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 25/12/2014

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