Mau Narok - Molo grasslands

Year of compilation: 2001

Site description
An extensive area of montane grassland along the crest of the Mau Escarpment, which forms the western wall of the central Rift Valley in Kenya. This high, open plateau runs for c.80 km south-east to north-west, and is bounded on each side (and partially interrupted) by the forests of the Mau forest complex (IBA KE051). Rainfall is c.1,000 mm/year, and the original vegetation is short grassland, with some heather and scrub on the ridges where the soil is deeper. The area has high potential for cultivated agriculture, and has gradually been settled and cultivated since the 1950s; it is now heavily populated, with a landscape severely modified by cultivation. Cereals are the major crops, and much grassland has been converted by ploughing and re-seeding with exotic species to provide better grazing for sheep.

Key biodiversity
See Box and Table 2 for key species. Macronyx sharpei and Cisticola aberdare are both known to occur, but their current status and distribution within the IBA are unknown. Falco naumanni is a formerly regular Palearctic passage migrant, and Gallinago media is an uncommon Palearctic winter visitor. The current status of Euplectes jacksoni is unknown. The restricted-range Francolinus jacksoni was formerly common at forest margins, and Cisticola hunteri is likely to be common in scrubby areas. A bird list was compiled in the 1960s, but there is little recent information on the birds of this area. The present-day avifauna is likely to be similar to that of the Kinangop Plateau (IBA KE004) on the opposite side of the Rift Valley. Regionally threatened species include Neotis denhami (probably extirpated) and Podiceps cristatus (status unknown; may still breed on upland dams).

Non-bird biodiversity: The fauna and flora of these grasslands has been little studied. A number of plant, insect, amphibian and reptile species that are confined to highland grassland probably occur. There are records of two near-endemic frogs, Hyperolius montanus and Rana wittei. Hyperolius montanus was considered secure in 1980, but it is a species of montane grassland and may now be under threat. The snake Bitis worthingtonii, endemic to the central Kenyan Rift Valley above 1,500 m, probably occurs.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Kenya’s unique montane grasslands have no formal protection. This IBA faces similar threats to those on the Kinangop Plateau (IBA KE004), with grassland habitat diminishing and fragmenting rapidly as agriculture spreads. A survey is urgently needed to assess its status and that of the threatened birds.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Mau Narok - Molo grasslands. Downloaded from on 19/10/2021.