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Location Kenya, Rift Valley Province
Central coordinates 35o 38.88' East  0o 33.00' South
IBA criteria A3
Area 270,000 ha
Altitude 1,800 - 3,000m
Year of IBA assessment 2001

NatureKenya



Site description This forest complex covers a substantial area of the south-western highlands of Kenya, and probably represents the largest remaining near-continuous block of montane indigenous forest in East Africa. The forests cloak the western slopes, and part of the crest, of the Mau Escarpment, a block of raised land that forms the western wall of the Gregory Rift Valley, rising steeply from the floor and sloping away more gradually to the west. There are five main Forest Reserves: Eastern, Western and South-western Mau (c.66,000, 22,700 and 84,000 ha respectively), Trans-Mara (34,400 ha) and Ol Pusimoru (17,200 ha). A sixth large block, the Maasai Mau (c.46,000 ha) is as yet ungazetted. In early 2001, a total of 59,134 ha (35,301 in Eastern Mau, 22,797 ha in South-western Mau, 713 ha in Western May and 1,03 ha in Western Mau) was designated for degazettement. The Mau has deep, fertile, volcanic soils, and rainfall in places is among the highest in Kenya. Annual precipitation ranges from c.1,000 mm in the east, with a seasonal regime, to 2,000 mm in the west, where it is more-or-less continuous around the year. Numerous streams drain the forests west of the scarp crest, forming part of the Sondu and Mara river systems, which flow into Lake Victoria, and the Southern Ewaso Ngiro system, which flows into Lake Natron. The Eastern Mau is the main watershed for Lake Nakuru, through the Njoro, Makalia and Enderit rivers. The surrounding areas are intensively farmed, with human population densities about twice as high on the western side of the forest as on the east. Vegetation patterns are complex, but there is a broad altitudinal zonation from west to east, lower montane forest below 2,300 m giving way to thickets of bamboo Arundinaria alpina mixed with forest and grassland, and finally to montane sclerophyllous forest near the escarpment crest. The lower montane forest is in best condition in the South-western Mau Nature Reserve, where characteristic trees include Aningeria adolfi-friedericii and Strombosia scheffleri. Elsewhere, this zone has been heavily and destructively logged, most recently for plywood from Polyscias kikuyuensis. Logged-over areas are dominated by pioneer species such as Tabernaemontana stapfiana, Syzygium guineense and Neoboutonia macrocalyx, while pockets of less-disturbed forest hold Olea capensis, Prunus africana, Albizia gummifera and Podocarpus latifolius. Substantial parts of the high Juniperus–Podocarpus–Olea forest have been encroached and cleared, although some sections remain in good condition. Large areas of both the Eastern and Western Mau have been converted to plantation forest.

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  A3  Least Concern 
Buteo oreophilus resident  1999  present  A3  Not Recognised 
Hartlaub's Turaco Tauraco hartlaubi 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 
Chubb's Cisticola Cisticola chubbi resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Hunter's Cisticola Cisticola hunteri resident  1999  present  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 
Shelley's Greenbul Andropadus masukuensis resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Joyful Greenbul Chlorocichla laetissima 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 
Mountain Illadopsis Illadopsis pyrrhoptera resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
African Hill Babbler Pseudoalcippe abyssinica resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Sharpe's Starling Cinnyricinclus sharpii resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Waller's Starling Onychognathus walleri resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Slender-billed Starling Onychognathus tenuirostris resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Stuhlmann's Starling Poeoptera stuhlmanni resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Zoothera piaggiae resident  1999  present  A3  Not Recognised 
White-starred Robin Pogonocichla stellata resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Equatorial Akalat Sheppardia aequatorialis 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 
Baglafecht Weaver Ploceus baglafecht resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Black-billed Weaver Ploceus melanogaster resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Brown-capped Weaver Ploceus insignis resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Jackson's Widowbird Euplectes jacksoni unknown  1999  unknown  A3  Near Threatened 
Abyssinian Crimson-wing Cryptospiza salvadorii resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
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 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Eastern Mau Forest Reserve 66,067 protected area contained by site 66,067  
Maasai Mau Forest Reserve 46,373 protected area contained by site 46,373  
Ol Pusimoru Forest Reserve Forest Reserve 17,200 protected area contained by site 17,200  
South-Western Mau Nature Reserve 43,032 protected area contained by site 43,032  
Trans-Mara Forest Reserve Forest Reserve 34,400 protected area contained by site 34,400  
Western Mau Forest Reserve 22,748 protected area contained by site 22,748  

Habitats

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

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research -
forestry -
agriculture -
other -
Notes: honey-gathering; firewood collection
urban/industrial/transport -

Other biodiversity Notable mammals include the rare Cephalophus silvicultor (LR/nt)), the little-known Felis aurata and the very sparsely distributed bat Stenonycteris lanosus. There appears to be a sizeable population of Loxodonta africana (EN) and what was once probably the largest Kenyan population of Tragelaphus eurycerus (LR/nt), now scarce. The butterfly Capys cupreus is endemic to the Mau Escarpment. There is little information on other fauna. With their relatively high rainfall, the Mau forests, and the South-west Mau in particular, are important for orchids. Three rare and unusual species occur in the South-west Mau. Polystachia bella, one of the few Kenyan endemic orchids, grows on the mossy branches of tall forest trees from 1,800–2,000 m in the Kericho area. Another endemic, Bulbophyllum bidenticulatum, is known from only two specimens collected along the Kiptiget river. Chaseella pseudohydra is a near-endemic recorded only from the South-west Mau and from Honde Gorge in Zimbabwe. The Mau is also one of the centres of abundance for the tree Polyscias kikuyuensis, endemic to central Kenya.

Related state of the world's birds case studies

References Bally (1946), Bennun (1991), Bennun and Waiyaki (1992a,b), Betts (1966), Blackett (1994a), Davies (1993b), Davies et al. (1993), ERL (1990), Jackson and McCarter (1994), Kerfoot (1964), Mutangah et al. (1992, 1993), Reuling et al. (1992), Sessions (1966), Toschi (1946), Wilson (1988).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Mau forest complex. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 02/09/2014

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