Meru is a savanna National Park, 85 km east of Meru town in the north-eastern lowlands below the Nyambeni hills. The wetter north-western sector (rainfall c.700 mm/year) is hilly, with rich volcanic soils. The land flattens towards the east, where grey alluvial volcanic soils appear. This area is crossed by numerous permanent streams, draining from the Nyambenis and flowing in parallel between tongues of lava, south-eastwards towards the Tana river. There are several prominent inselbergs of basement rock, notably Mughwango and Leopard Rock. The vegetation on the ridges is Combretum-wooded grassland, dominated by Combretum apiculatum. This grades into Acacia wooded grassland to the east, with Acacia tortilis and A. senegal on the rocky ridges, in riverine thickets and dotted over open country, and Doum palms Hyphaene coriacea in the numerous swampy areas near the rivers. Chloris gayana is the dominant grass in many places, with Cyperus species in the swamps. The south and south-east (rainfall c.300 mm/year) is an open, semi-arid plain with red lateritic soil. This area is covered with rather uniform Acacia–Commiphora bushland, a hot, dense, thorny and inhospitable habitat. As well as the many streams that cross it, the park is bounded by three large rivers: the Tana to the south, the Ura to the south-west and the Rojeweru to the east. Riverine trees include the palms Raphia farinifera and Phoenix reclinata, Ficus sycomorus, Newtonia hildebrandtii, Acacia elatior and A. robusta. Along the Tana river is found the Tana River Poplar Populus ilicifolia. Meru is part of a complex of protected areas along the Tana river that includes the adjacent Bisanadi and North Kitui National Reserves (to the east and south, respectively), Kora National Park and Rahole National Reserve. These areas are better protected on paper than on the ground, however, and their birdlife (though generally little known) appears less rich than Meru’s.
See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. The park’s avifauna is generally diverse, with around 280 species recorded. The threatened Turdoides hindei, which has a very restricted range in central Kenya, has recently been recorded, near Kindani and Nyati Camps in the south-west part of the park. Regionally threatened species include Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis (known to breed), Polemaetus bellicosus (status unknown), Podica senegalensis, Scotopelia peli and Phoeniculus granti.
Non-bird biodiversity: The park holds good populations of large mammals, including Loxodonta africana (EN), Acinonyx jubatus (VU) and Equus grevyi (EN; now practically confined to Kenya). Poachers have eliminated Diceros bicornis (CR) and the introduced Ceratotherium simum (LR/cd).
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Like other National Parks, the Kenya Wildlife Service protects Meru. An electric fence has been erected along part of the western boundary, to prevent animals moving into farmland. One section of the park has been designated a wilderness area with no developed access roads. Meru has much to attract the visitor, and was a popular tourist destination in the past, but insecurity and poaching (now both under control), poor access roads and dilapidation of facilities has caused visitor numbers to decline. Encroachment by pastoralists remains a problem, but in general this site is under few immediate conservation threats.
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Meru National Park. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 28/02/2020.