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Location Comoros, Ngazidja
Central coordinates 43o 21.00' East  11o 46.00' South
IBA criteria A1, A2
Area 21,000 ha
Altitude 600 - 2,361m
Year of IBA assessment 2001





Site description Mount Karthala is the active volcano that dominates the southern part of Ngazidja. Its summit is the highest point in the Comoro archipelago. The site is centred on the summit crater and comprises all the unaltered vegetation and part of the altered, but still wooded, zone below and surrounding it. The lower limit is set to include the approximate region where threatened or restricted-range bird species that do not occur down to sea-level are still common. This limit is at c.600 m in the south-west, but up to 1,000 m in the north and east. The outer slopes are nowhere very steep and ridges, ravines, valleys, and indeed any permanent surface water, are totally absent. The outer rim of the crater lies at c.2,300 m, and is 2.5–3.5 km across. The crater contains abundant evidence of volcanic activity, with many steaming vents and recent lava-flows. An inner crater, c.1 km across, contains precipitous cliffs.The lower parts of the site support underplanted forest and exotic thickets from abandoned cultivation. Above this lies intact, native mixed montane forest, which can be divided into dense, very humid forest with abundant epiphytes on the southern and western slopes, and drier, more open forest on the northern and eastern slopes. Higher still, up to and including the outer crater, lies high mountain vegetation. This zone is characterized by the ericaceous Philippia comorensis, in places forming a tree-heath taller than 3 m (montane bushland and thicket), but elsewhere lower and sparser (montane shrubland), depending on local conditions such as the age of lava-flows. The inner crater appears bare. The altitudes of the boundaries between these zones vary locally. The lower limit of intact forest is retreating upwards as clearance proceeds. In the west (Boboni) in the mid-1990s, it was at c.1,250 m, in the east (Tsinimouapanga), at least 1,200 m. In the north-east, cultivation reaches at least 1,400 m and the forests have been entirely cleared. On this basis, the unaltered forest area in the mid-1990s may have been c.6,300 ha, compared to 8,658 ha in 1983. The high mountain zone (5,500 ha) typically begins at c.1,800 m, but extends down to 1,200 m on lava-flows in the south-east. The surroundings are mostly cultivated, except to the north, along the island’s axis, where grassland dominates. In addition to agriculture in the lower areas the site is used for logging, cattle-grazing and limited collection of non-timber forest products.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Madagascar Marsh-harrier Circus macrosceles resident  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Comoro Olive-pigeon Columba pollenii resident  1998  present  A1, A2  Near Threatened 
Comoro Blue-pigeon Alectroenas sganzini resident  1998  present  A2  Least Concern 
Grand Comoro Scops-owl Otus pauliani resident  1998  present  A1, A2  Critically Endangered 
Grand Comoro Drongo Dicrurus fuscipennis resident  1998  present  A1, A2  Endangered 
Comoro Bulbul Hypsipetes parvirostris resident  1998  present  A2  Least Concern 
Grand Comoro Brush-warbler Nesillas brevicaudata resident  1998  present  A2  Least Concern 
Mount Karthala White-eye Zosterops mouroniensis resident  1998  present  A1, A2  Vulnerable 
Comoro Thrush Turdus bewsheri resident  1998  present  A2  Least Concern 
Grand Comoro Flycatcher Humblotia flavirostris resident  1998  present  A1, A2  Endangered 
Humblot's Sunbird Nectarinia humbloti resident  1998  present  A2  Least Concern 
Red-headed Fody Foudia eminentissima resident  1998  present  A2  Least Concern 

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture -
forestry -
other -
Notes: Harvesting of non-timber forest products.
not utilised -

Other biodiversity Rich evergreen forest and high mountain flora, with many endemic and threatened species. Mammals: Miniopterus minor griveaudi (LR/nt; Ngazidja-endemic subspecies), Rousettus obliviosus (LR/nt). Reptiles: two Ngazidja- and four Comoro-endemic species: respectively, Phelsuma comorensis, Furcifer cephalolepis, Phelsuma v-nigra, Mabuya comorensis, Lycodryas sanctijohannis, Typhlops comorensis. Butterflies: nine Ngazidja- and two Comoro-endemic species; three threatened: Papilio aristophontes (EN), Graphium levassori (EN), Amauris comorana (EN).

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 Benson (1960), Herremans et al. (1991), Louette (1988), Louette et al. (1988), Louette and Stevens (1992), Safford and Evans (1992), Stevens et al. (1992, 1995).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Mount Karthala. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 30/10/2014

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