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Mount Kenya - Lewa Biosphere Reserve, Kenya

Situated on the equator about 180 km north of Nairobi, Mount Kenya is a solitary mountain of volcanic origin. A belt of moist Afromontane forest (1,800 to 3,200 meters above sea level) changes to a zone of tree-like heather at about 3,200 meters, and further up to moorlands and grasslands. Mount Kenya National Park was already established in 1949 and became a biosphere reserve in1978. In 1997, Mount Kenya National Park and adjacent forest reserves were inscribed on the World Heritage List. 

Mount Kenya is also important since it constitutes a major water reservoir for its foothills and adjacent areas. Increasing conflicts over water resources provide the background for an assessment of the complex ecological and socio-economic dynamics of the highland-lowland system of Mount Kenya and the adjacent upper Euaso Ng’iro North Basin.

Designation date: 1978


Regional network:  AfriMAB

Ecosystem-based network: 




    Surface : 568,553 ha

    • Core area(s): 71,500 ha
    • Buffer zone(s): 47,311 ha
    • Transition zone(s): 258,742 ha

    Location: 02˚ 25’N to 03˚ 25’N; 36˚ 30’ to 37˚ 30’E

    Administrative Authorities

    Senior Warden, Kenya Wildlife Service

    Secretary General
    P.O. Box: 69
    Naromoru, Kenya

    Tel.: 0722279502


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    Ecological Characteristics

    The vegetation includes afromontane forest, moorland and grassland.  The Biosphere Reserve is a major water reservoir for adjacent areas.  The major liabilities and land cover types include juniperus procera and cassipourea malosana in the lower zones.  The higher altitude zones are dominated by bamboo (Arundinaria alpine) and a mosaic of bamboo and podocarpus milanjianus.  In the higher altitude, the rain also supports Hagenia abyssinica and Hypericum revolutum grass and moorland zone.  In areas with plenty rainfall, especially on the windward side, giant camphor, Meru oak and other hard woods thrive.  

    Species found exclusively on Mt Kenya and rarely anywhere else include giant grondsel and giant lobelia. The biosphere reserve also hosts endemic wildlife like the river frog, ide-stripped chameleon, the marine viper, king mole rat and the mole shrew. On wildlife, also present are giant forest hogs, leopards, eland, buffalo, duiker *(antelope species) and cobus monkeys. 


    Socio-Economic Characteristics

    Mt. Kenya biosphere reserve host communities with multicultural interest, some are pastoralists, Maasais and other are agirculturalists (Kikuyus and Mereus). There are also significant number of new comers including Europeans with special interests in this mountain ecosystem.

    Since the establishment of the Biosphere Reserve, development has been on an increase in most of the sectors. Agricultural sector increased with the horticultural, dairy and tea sectors recording high growth. Fisheries sector also recorded high growth. This was partly to to the economic stimulus programme adopted by the government. Other sectors such as timber and construction transport, manufacturing and Education recorded appreciable increase.

    Tourism sector on the other hand recorded high increase which saw the expansion of the airstrip and the building of additional tourism facilities in the region. 


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    Last updated: November 2020