|Location||Kenya, Coast Province|
|Central coordinates||39o 25.00' East 4o 15.00' South|
|IBA criteria||A1, A2, A3|
|Altitude||120 - 450m|
|Year of IBA assessment||2001|
Ornithological information See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. Shimba Hills has a rich coastal forest bird fauna, including three threatened and two restricted-range species. Both Zoothera guttata and Anthus sokokensis have been recorded in Mkongani. Circaetus fasciolatus, Tauraco fischeri and Anthreptes reichenowi are common to fairly common. Sheppardia gunningi is patchily distributed in tall closed-canopy forest, with records from Mkongani (densities estimated as 0.4 territories/ha); Longomwagandi, where it was fairly common in 1992 but not relocated in 1996; and from Makadara. The relatively large area of forest means that populations of most of these species are likely to be viable. In late March and early April, spectacular concentrations of certain Palearctic migrants such as Cuculus canorus and Oriolus oriolus move through on passage. The grasslands hold localized species such as Francolinus afer, Cisticola natalensis and Euplectes nigroventris. These are not species of immediate conservation concern, but grassland is vanishing everywhere in Kenya and the habitat protected in the Shimba Hills is valuable. Regionally threatened species include Hieraaetus ayresii (status unknown); Stephanoaetus coronatus (several pairs probably resident); Erythrocercus holochlorus (fairly common); Pitta angolensis (rarely recorded non-breeding visitor); and Anthreptes neglectus (probably the Kenyan stronghold of this little-known species).
Site description The Shimba Hills are a dissected plateau that ascends steeply from the coastal plains, some 30-km south-west of Mombasa and just south of Kwale town. The surrounding escarpment rises from around 120 m elevation to c.300 m across the bulk of the plateau, and as high as 450 m at Marare and Pengo Hills. Rainfall ranges from 900–1,200 mm/year, and rivers flowing from the hills supply fresh water to Mombasa and to the Diani/Ukunda area, immediately to the east. The Shimba Hills were gazetted as National Forest as long ago as 1903, being one of the few large areas on the south coast that was still well forested. Grassland areas were incorporated in 1924, and several subsequent extensions took place to bring the reserves to their present size. In 1968, most of the area was double-gazetted as the Shimba Hills National Reserve. Two smaller areas to the west, adjoining the National Reserve and almost entirely forested, remained as Forest Reserves only: these are Mkongani North (1,110 ha) and Mkongani West (1,370 ha). The hills have a heterogeneous mosaic of vegetation, including grassland, scrub and exotic plantations as well as forest. Estimates from aerial photographs suggested that 44% (i.e. 9,500 ha) of the total area was forested, and a further 8,000 ha were forest/scrub formations. Grassland or grassland/scrub covered 3,400 ha, the remainder being plantations (600 ha) and other cover. The hills certainly hold one of the largest areas of coastal forest in East Africa after Arabuko-Sokoke (IBA KE007). At least six major forest types have been described, including tall Milicia forest on the deep soils on the plateau top (in Longomagandi and Makadara forests, and near Kwale town), and on the western escarpment; Afzelia–Erythrophloeum forest, covering much of the eastern and southern escarpment; Paramacrolobium forest on particularly steep scarp slopes to both east and west; and Manilkara–Combretum forest in the lower, western sector of the plateau. The biggest single patch of forest is in the south-western sector, including Mkongani North and West. Further east and north, the forest breaks up into a complex mosaic interspersed with scrub and grassland. Corridors of forest or forest/scrub formations connect most of the forest patches. At least two Kayas, Kwale and Longomwagandi, are situated within the National Reserve. The Kaya forests have spiritual and ceremonial significance to the Mijikenda people of the Kenya coast. A fenced elephant corridor connects the Shimba Hills with Mwaluganji Forest Reserve.
|Species||Season||Period||Population estimate||Quality of estimate||IBA Criteria||IUCN Category|
|Southern Banded Snake-eagle Circaetus fasciolatus||resident||1999||present [units unknown]||-||A1, A3||Near Threatened|
|Brown-headed Parrot Poicephalus cryptoxanthus||resident||1999||present [units unknown]||-||A3||Least Concern|
|Fischer's Turaco Tauraco fischeri||resident||1999||present [units unknown]||-||A1, A2, A3||Near Threatened|
|Mangrove Kingfisher Halcyon senegaloides||resident||1999||present [units unknown]||-||A3||Least Concern|
|African Green-tinkerbird Pogoniulus simplex||resident||1999||present [units unknown]||-||A3||Least Concern|
|Brown-breasted Barbet Lybius melanopterus||resident||1999||present [units unknown]||-||A3||Least Concern|
|Mombasa Woodpecker Campethera mombassica||resident||1999||present [units unknown]||-||A3||Least Concern|
|Chestnut-fronted Helmet-shrike Prionops scopifrons||resident||1999||present [units unknown]||-||A3||Least Concern|
|Green-headed Oriole Oriolus chlorocephalus||resident||1999||present [units unknown]||-||A3||Least Concern|
|Yellow Flycatcher Erythrocercus holochlorus||resident||1999||present [units unknown]||-||A3||Least Concern|
|Fischer's Greenbul Phyllastrephus fischeri||resident||1999||present [units unknown]||-||A3||Least Concern|
|Tiny Greenbul Phyllastrephus debilis||resident||1999||present [units unknown]||-||A3||Least Concern|
|Black-bellied Glossy-starling Lamprotornis corruscus||resident||1999||present [units unknown]||-||A3||Least Concern|
|Spotted Ground-thrush Zoothera guttata||winter||-||present [units unknown]||-||A1||Endangered|
|East Coast Akalat Sheppardia gunningi||resident||1999||present [units unknown]||-||A1, A3||Near Threatened|
|Plain-backed Sunbird Anthreptes reichenowi||resident||1999||present [units unknown]||-||A1, A3||Near Threatened|
|Uluguru Violet-backed Sunbird Anthreptes neglectus||resident||1999||present [units unknown]||-||A3||Least Concern|
|Sokoke Pipit Anthus sokokensis||resident||1999||present [units unknown]||-||A1, A2, A3||Endangered|
|Protected area||Designation||Area (ha)||Relationship with IBA||Overlap with IBA (ha)|
|Shimba||Forest Reserve||18,968||protected area contained by site||18,968|
|Shimba Hills||National Reserve||19,251||protected area contained by site||19,251|
Local conservation groups The local conservation group below is working to support conservation at this IBA.
|Shimba Hills Forest Guides Association (SHIFOGA) and Shimba Suppport Group||0|
|IUCN habitat||Habitat detail||Extent (% of site)|
|Forest||Lowland forest - undifferentiated||45%|
|Shrubland||Scrub - forest||35%|
|Land-use||Extent (% of site)|
|nature conservation and research||90%|
Other biodiversity Kenya’s only population of the ungulate Hippotragus niger occurs in the Shimba hills, which was the major reason for incorporating grassland areas into the National Reserve. The restricted small mammal Rhynchocyon petersi (EN) also occurs here, together with the distinctive Bdeogale crassicauda omnivora. The forest also holds substantial numbers (c.550 in 1997) of Loxodonta africana (EN). The rare bat Myonycteris relicta (VU) has been collected here. Two frog species, Afrixalus sylvaticus and Hyperolius rubrovermiculatus, are endemic to the Shimba Hills forests and believed to be endangered; the little known and range-restricted Afrixalus changamwensis also occurs. The butterfly fauna is very diverse, with some 295 species (35% of Kenya’s total), including the rare Acraea aubyni and Neptis rogersi, and the endemic Charaxes acuminatus shimbaensis. The flora of the hills is exceptionally rich and important. A total of 1,100 plant taxa are recorded, c.280 of which are endemic to the Shimba Hills area and nearly 20% considered rare globally or in Kenya. This qualifies Shimba as a Centre of Plant Diversity, according to the criteria of the Association pour l’Etude Taxonomique de la Flore d’Afrique. Notable tree species include Diospyros shimbaensis, Cephalosphaera usambarensis, Pavetta tarennoides, Synsepalum kassneri, Bauhinia mombassae, Phyllanthus sacleuxii and undescribed species of Polyceratocarpus and Uvariodendron.
Management considerations Like other coastal forests, Shimba Hills has suffered drastic habitat modification over many years from commercial extraction of timber. Milicia excelsa has been a particular target, while Combretum schumannii and Afzelia quanzensis have been heavily exploited in the drier forest to the west. Commercial exploitation has now largely stopped, but some licenses were (controversially) issued in 1997. A timber inventory in 1992 concluded that the forest had no further potential for timber production and that no logging should be countenanced in any part. The soils on the hills are generally marginal for plantation forestry (or indeed agriculture), and existing plantations have performed very poorly. Demand for timber at the coast is high and growing, so alternative approaches need to be found: two possibilities are plantations on more suitable, disused land, and making better use of existing resources such as coconut trees.Regeneration of some of the logged-over forests seems to be prevented by the large, increasingly confined elephant population. Elephants use the forests for cover and forage during the day, emerging at night to feed in the grasslands and to raid farms outside the reserves. Some forest areas, such as the Milicia forest in Longomwagandi and Combretum forest on the southern edge of the hills, have been severely damaged, as seedlings are eaten and adult trees ring-barked. Chronic elephant damage, causing substantial changes in forest structure, may be the reason that the Sheppardia gunningi (once relatively abundant) appears to have vanished from Longomwagandi. The Shimba elephant herd has also inflicted serious damage on adjacent forests such as Kaya Lunguma and Mwaluganji Forest Reserve. Rather than increasing plant diversity, as has been claimed, elephant browsing appears to alter the natural process of succession and promote nearly mono-dominant stands of non-forest, elephant-friendly species. Elephant raids on the surrounding farms have become a serious menace, and in recent years a number of people have been killed in elephant attacks. Elephants also inflict considerable damage on the Pinus caribaea plantations (which are poorly performing, but nowadays tapped for resin). Fencing off the reserve and/or the plantations would reduce the elephant problem externally, but increase the internal pressure on the forests from a confined and hungry herd. The diversification of ecotourism to include forest-walks, birdwatching and so on, to which Shimba is well-suited, is presently impossible because of the elephant presence. Local use of forest resources is highest on the densely settled eastern fringe. In 1992, removal of Paramacrolobium bark for fibre was causing the death of perhaps 10% of the trees in this area, with c.84% damaged. Hunting pressure is also substantial on this side of the forest. The continued early burning of the plateau grasslands is important to provide grazing for the Sable Antelope and other large herbivores. Burning may also help to check the advance of the exotic weed Lantana camara, which has invaded many of the clearings. However, burning can damage forest if not carefully controlled, and may inhibit forest regeneration. The threats facing Shimba point to the need for a genuinely integrated management programme that deals with forest conservation, grassland management, problem animal control and local use of forest products. The Forestry Department and Kenya Wildlife Service are already joint managers of the reserve, but do not always work effectively together.
References Bennun and Waiyaki (1992e), Bergmans (1980), Blackett (1994d), Davies (1993a, 1994), Duff-MacKay (1980), Glover (1969), Luke (in press), Mlingwa et al. (2000), Nemeth (1996), Robertson and Luke (1993), Rose (1981), Schmidt (1991), Waiyaki and Bennun (2000).
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Recommended citation BirdLife International (2013) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Shimba Hills. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 20/05/2013
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