Site description Amboseli National Park lies immediately north-west of Mount Kilimanjaro, on the border with Tanzania. Amboseli was established as a nature reserve in 1968, and gazetted as a National Park in 1974. It is surrounded by six communally-owned group ranches that are wet-season dispersal areas for wildlife, and whose management has direct influence on the ecological stability of the park. The park covers part of a Pleistocene lake basin, now dry. Within this basin is a temporary lake, ‘Lake’ Amboseli, that floods during years of heavy rainfall. The Amboseli area is in the rain-shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro and receives only c.300 mm of rain/year on average. However, water flowing underground from Mount Kilimanjaro wells up here in a series of lush papyrus Cyperus papyrus swamps that provide dry-season water and forage for wildlife. Tracts of attractive Acacia xanthophloea woodland flank these. Open Acacia tortilis woodland also occurs on drainage lines in the southern part of the park. Acacia–Commiphora bushland surrounds the basin, while the level floor, with alkaline soils, supports thickets of Salvadora persica and Suaeda monoica. Large concentrations of wildlife occur here in the dry season. This, with the picturesque surroundings (dominated by the imposing Mount Kilimanjaro), has made Amboseli a major tourist destination, attracting over 200,000 visitors each year.
Key Biodiversity See Box and Table 3 for key species. The park has a rich bird fauna, with over 400 bird species recorded, including over 40 birds of prey. Many wetland birds use, and at times nest in, the swamps. Several species of global conservation concern occur, including Falco naumanni (on passage), small numbers of non-breeding Ardeola idae (mainly May–October) and Phoenicopterus minor (present in variable numbers, up to a few thousand). Balaeniceps rex has been recorded once. Regionally threatened species include Anhinga rufa (scarce non-breeding visitor); Casmerodius albus (usually present in small numbers); Thalassornis leuconotus (occasional visitor); Trigonoceps occipitalis (uncommon resident); and Polemaetus bellicosus (resident in small numbers).
Non-bird biodiversity: Amboseli is well known for its populations of large mammals. The park’s population of Loxodonta africana (EN), numbering c.1,000, is the subject of a long-term behavioural and ecological study. The park’s population of Diceros bicornis (CR) has been exterminated.