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Location Kenya, Rift Valley Province,Western Province
Central coordinates 34o 37.98' East  1o 0.48' North
IBA criteria A1, A2, A3
Area 110,000 ha
Altitude 2,100 - 4,280m
Year of IBA assessment 2001

NatureKenya



Site description This area comprises montane forest, wooded grassland, bamboo and alpine moorland on the eastern slopes of Mount Elgon, Kenya’s second-highest mountain. Mount Elgon lies c.140 km north-east of Lake Victoria and is bisected by the Kenya/Uganda border. It is an ancient, eroded volcano with a huge caldera and, on its summit, the spectacular flat-topped basalt column known as Koitobos. Another unique feature of the mountain is the ‘lava tube’ caves, some over 60 m wide and frequented by elephants (and other animals) digging for salts. The mountain soils are red laterite, and rainfall is c.1,200 mm on the mid-slopes. The vegetation is zoned by altitude, with wet montane forest dominated by Olea capensis and Aningeria adolfi-friedericii grading into Olea–Podocarpus falcatus forest, a zone of mixed Podocarpus and bamboo Arundinaria alpina, and the Hagenia abyssinica zone with giant heath Erica arborea and E. trimera elgonensis. Afro-alpine moorlands occupy the highest parts of the mountain, with tussock grasses such as Festuca pilgeri, bogs of Carex runssoroensis, giant groundsels and giant lobelias. Open wooded grassland with Erythrina and Combretum covers part of the lower, drier north-eastern slopes. Mount Elgon National Park (16,900 ha, gazetted in 1968) covers a narrow transect up the north-eastern slopes of the mountain, from lower montane forest to the caldera edge. The remaining forest and moorland (73,000 ha) is part of Mount Elgon Forest Reserve. The north-eastern wooded grassland (c.5,000 ha) is unprotected. The Ugandan side of the mountain, above c.2,000 m, is protected within Uganda’s Mount Elgon National Park. Mount Elgon is an important water catchment for the Nzoia river, which flows into Lake Victoria, and for the Turkwel river, which flows into Lake Turkana (IBA KE028).

Key Biodiversity See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. The globally threatened, restricted-range Macronyx sharpei is local and uncommon on the moorland (where it has been collected at 3,400 m). Other restricted-range species are Cisticola hunteri, which is common above 3,500 m, and Francolinus jacksoni known from just one sight record. Mount Elgon has a rich montane avifauna. The wooded grasslands on the north-eastern side hold a number of unusual birds, including the Sudan–Guinea Savanna biome species that all have very restricted ranges in Kenya. Nineteen of Kenya’s 43 Guinea–Congo Forests biome species have been recorded, although as many as 10 of these may now be extinct. Regionally threatened species include Gypaetus barbatus, Stephanoaetus coronatus (resident in small numbers), Francolinus streptophorus (very scarce), Sarothrura affinis (scarce resident), Bubo capensis; Glaucidium tephronotum (uncommon), Indicator conirostris (uncommon), Phyllastrephus baumanni (may be extinct), Kakamega poliothorax (may be extinct), Sheppardia polioptera (uncommon) and Campephaga quiscalina (uncommon).

Non-bird biodiversity: Among mammals, the rare Felis aurata has been recorded in this forest, but its status is unknown, and Loxodonta africana (EN) and Tragelaphus eurycerus (LR/nt; declining and uncommon in Kenya) occur. There is a distinctive endemic subspecies of Tragelaphus scriptus heterochrous, and several endemic small mammals, including Crocidura elgonius (VU), Tachyoryctes ruddi and Mus sorella. The frog Anthroleptides dutoiti (EX) is known only from one specimen collected from the Koitobos river on Mount Elgon in 1980. Notable alpine plants include Senecio johnstoni elgonensis, Lobelia deckenii elgonensis, Lobelia cheranganiensis, Alchemilla elgonsis, A. microbetula and Helichrysum amblyphyllum, all of which are endemic or near-endemic to Mount Elgon.

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 
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 
Caprimulgus poliocephalus resident  1999  present  A3  Not Recognised 
Scarce Swift Schoutedenapus myoptilus 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 
Speckle-breasted Woodpecker Dendropicos poecilolaemus resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Doherty's Bush-shrike Telophorus dohertyi resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Grey Cuckooshrike Coracina caesia resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Yellow-billed Shrike Corvinella corvina 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  A2, A3  Least Concern 
Foxy Cisticola Cisticola troglodytes 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 unknown  1999  unknown  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 
Brown Warbler Sylvia lugens resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Mountain Illadopsis Illadopsis pyrrhoptera resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Grey-chested Babbler Kakamega poliothorax unknown  1999  unknown  A3  Least Concern 
African Hill Babbler Pseudoalcippe abyssinica resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Purple Glossy-starling Lamprotornis purpureus 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 unknown  1999  unknown  A3  Least Concern 
Stuhlmann's Starling Poeoptera stuhlmanni unknown  1999  unknown  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 
Moorland Chat Cercomela sordida resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher Dioptrornis fischeri resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Eastern Double-collared Sunbird Nectarinia mediocris unknown  1999  unknown  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 
Heuglin's Masked-weaver Ploceus heuglini resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Brown-capped Weaver Ploceus insignis resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Sharpe's Longclaw Macronyx sharpei resident  1999  present  A1, A2, A3  Endangered 
Grey-faced Citril Serinus hypostictus 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 very high unfavourable medium
  Habitat
Good - based on reliable and complete / representative data

Agricultural expansion and intensification annual & perennial non-timber crops - agro-industry farming happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) slow but significant deterioration low
Agricultural expansion and intensification annual & perennial non-timber crops - shifting agriculture happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) very rapid to severe deterioration very high
Agricultural expansion and intensification annual & perennial non-timber crops - small-holder farming happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) slow but significant deterioration low
Agricultural expansion and intensification livestock farming and ranching (includes forest grazing) - nomadic grazing happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) moderate to rapid deterioration high
Agricultural expansion and intensification livestock farming and ranching (includes forest grazing) - small-holder grazing, ranching or farming happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Climate change and severe weather drought happening now whole area/population (>90%) moderate to rapid deterioration very high
Human intrusions and disturbance war, civil unrest and military exercises happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) 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%) slow but significant deterioration low
Natural system modifications fire & fire suppression - increase in fire frequency/intensity happening now some of area/population (10-49%) moderate to rapid deterioration high
Over-exploitation, persecution and control of species gathering terrestrial plants - unintentional effects (species being assessed is not the target) happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) slow but significant deterioration low
Over-exploitation, persecution and control of species logging & wood harvesting - unintentional effects: subsistence/small scale happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Residential and commercial development housing and urban areas happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) slow but significant deterioration low
Transportation and service corridors flight paths likely in short term (within 4 years) small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low

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

Most of site (50-90%) covered (including the most critical parts for important bird species)  A management plan exists but it is out of date or not comprehensive  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 Elgon Forest Reserve 73,089 protected area contained by site 73,089  
Mount Elgon National Park 16,923 protected area contained by site 16,923  
Mount Elgon UNESCO-MAB Biosphere Reserve 208,821 protected area contained by site 110,000  

Habitats

IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Forest Montane forest - monodominant  -
Savanna Bamboo - Montane; Wooded grassland  -

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
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 Beck et al. (1987), Britton (1980), Britton and Sugg (1973), Ekkens (1988), Hoefsloot and Onyango (1995), Wily (1993).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Mount Elgon (Kenya). Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 20/12/2014

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