Kilimanjaro is one of the largest isolated mountains in the world and is the highest in Africa, dominating the surrounding central plateau country. Mount Kilimanjaro National Park lies above the 2,700 m contour, which is virtually the upper altitudinal limit of forest. Montane forest occurs between 1,700 m and 2,800 m with a downward extension to 1,250 m in the south-west along the Sanya river. In the north there is an 8 km wide corridor of dry woodland linking the forest with bushland in the Longido Game Controlled Area (TZ074). In the east and south the lower slopes are densely cultivated, but in the drier west there are large estates and ranches with some remaining natural habitat. Plantations of exotic pines Pinus dominate the northern and north-western slopes.
See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. Of relatively recent origin, the forest on Kilimanjaro holds few of the rarer species associated with the older forests of the Eastern Arc mountains. Cinnyricinclus femoralis is resident in forest on the southern and western slopes. The western slopes are important for the passage of Falco naumanni, with hundreds and possibly thousands of birds moving through, and for Circus macrourus, with several hundred birds thought to pass through. In addition, Ardeola idae is an irregular visitor to swamps and ponds at the foot of the mountain; Falco fasciinucha is known from two old sight records on the east of the mountain; Crex crex is known from four recent April/May records from the south-western foothills. Among the montane forest birds Bostrychia olivacea is notable as it has a restricted distribution and is rare wherever it occurs. Alpine species include Cercomela sordida and Nectarinia johnstoni, which are restricted to East Africa, and more widespread species such as Gypaetus barbatus and Tachymarptis melba. A range of birds more typical of coastal forest are found along the Sanya river including Telophorus quadricolor, Macrosphenus kretschmeri and Andropadus importunus. Permanent and seasonal swamps fed by the mountain provide breeding habitat for several uncommon species including Thalassornis leuconotus, Circus ranivorus, Porphyrio porphyrio and Gallinula angulata.
Non-bird biodiversity: An isolated population of elephant Loxodonta africana (EN) occurs. There are one endemic species of shrew, four endemic species and subspecies of butterfly, six endemic plants, and 12 endemic mosses and liverworts. Levels of endemism are highest in the moorland and alpine areas.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Huge, regular fires are a key threat in the National Park. There is increasing evidence that montane forest has retreated downslope, by up to 8 km in some localities, as a result of continued burning at higher elevations. Most fires are started close to routes used by tourists. There is continued concern about habitat degradation and loss in the Forest Reserves and illegal cultivation, logging, grazing, unsustainable honey gathering, pole-cutting and collection of firewood. However, the greatest damage to forest in recent years has been the clearance of large areas of natural tree cover to create monocultures of exotic pines.