Shaba National Reserve

Year of compilation: 2001

Site description
Shaba National Reserve consists of a low-lying, semi-arid plain on the southern bank of the Northern Ewaso Ngiro river. It lies 9 km east of Buffalo Springs National Reserve (IBA KE033), from which it is separated by the main Isiolo–Marsabit road. Shaba’s northern section includes a 34-km stretch of the Ewaso Ngiro river; here and elsewhere in the reserve are numerous springs and swampy areas, although some have bitter-tasting water. The starkly beautiful landscape is dominated to the south by Shaba Hill, at the foot of which is a rugged area with steep ravines. The sandy soils are volcanic in origin and rainfall is c.250–500 mm/year. Habitats in the reserve include riverine woodland and thicket with patches of Acacia elatior and doum palm Hyphaene compressa, Acacia tortilis woodland, Commiphora-dominated bushland, open areas of lava rock with scattered grass and shrubs, alkaline grasslands (dotted with springs) and swamps.

Key biodiversity
See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. This is the only protected area from which the enigmatic Near Threatened, restricted-range Mirafra williamsi is known. It occurs locally in rocky lava semi-desert with low Barleria shrubs. The avifauna is generally similar to that of the nearby Samburu-Buffalo Springs National Reserves (IBA KE035). Small numbers of the globally threatened Falco naumanni pass through Shaba on migration each year from the Palearctic. Regionally threatened species include Anhinga rufa (sporadic visitor), Casmerodius albus (sporadic visitor), Trigonoceps occipitalis (resident in small numbers), Polemaetus bellicosus (resident in small numbers) and Buphagus africanus (fairly common resident).

Non-bird biodiversity: Some 17 large mammal species have been recorded, including the threatened Lycaon pictus (EN), Acinonyx jubatus (VU), Equus grevyi (EN) and Loxodonta africana (EN). Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata also occurs.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Shaba was gazetted in 1974 and is administered by the Isiolo County Council. Apart from its diversity of Somali–Masai biome species, Shaba’s chief importance as an IBA is the presence of Mirafra williamsi. Very little is known about this bird, and its habitat selection, numbers and movements need to be studied. However, Shaba and the lark’s habitat are not in any immediate danger. The area north of the reserve is used for military training, causing considerable environmental disruption. Intensification of grazing and firewood collection around the reserve are also degrading habitat, and hunting for meat is rampant. These problems at times spill over into the reserve itself, but their impact on the birds is unclear. Shaba is a popular tourist destination, and is world famous as the location of Joy Adamson’s last adventure, the release of a young Panthera pardus. It is unclear what amount of visitor pressure the reserve can sustain and, in the absence of a management plan, increasing tourist numbers may become a problem in the future.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Shaba National Reserve. Downloaded from on 28/07/2021.