Mkomazi Game Reserve

Year of compilation: 2001

Site description
This site is effectively two Game Reserves under a single management unit. The site occupies much of the low-lying country north of the South Pare (TZ063) and the West Usambara mountains (TZ071) and up to the Kenyan border where it abuts Tsavo West National Park (KE025). The eastern part of the site is generally flat, with a gentle slope eastwards towards the Umba river, which forms the south-eastern border of the reserve. In the north-western sector there are a number of hills rising to Ndea at 1,420 m which have scrubby forest with affinities to the montane forest of the South Pare mountains. The Tulsa mountains (1,308 m) in the centre of the reserve are dry, rugged hills with remnant gallery forest. The whole area lies in the rain-shadow of the West Usambara mountains and the only significant surface water is behind two small dams. There are a series of rain-fed pools that are usually dry for several months each year. The woodland which covers much of the reserve is dominated by either Combretum or Acacia–Commiphora thorn-tree communities, with scattered baobabs on the well drained, rocky soils. There are extensive grasslands on the poorer soils, some of which develop into swamps following periods of heavy rainfall.

Key biodiversity
See Box and Table 3 for key species. At least 405 species are known from the site. Circus macrourus occurs as a passage migrant. The status of Crex crex is unclear, with recent records suggesting that wet grasslands in the reserve may be important for this species on passage. Several species previously unknown from Tanzania have been recorded here in recent years: Tchagra jamesi, Lamprotornis shelleyi, Phoeniculus damarensis, Mirafra pulpa, Sylvietta isabellina and Eremomela flavicrissalis. Apart from Mirafra pulpa, these are all relatively common in similar habitat northwards through Kenya into Somalia and Ethiopia and reflect Mkomazi’s location at the southernmost tip of this arid ecosystem.

Non-bird biodiversity: There is a resident population of Loxodonta africana (EN) associated with the hill-top forests and a transient population that moves within Mkomazi and Tsavo National Park. Panthera leo (VU) and Acinonyx jubatus (VU) occur in low numbers. A project has been initiated to reintroduce Diceros bicornis (CR). Lycaon pictus (EN) are very rare visitors and a reintroduction programme is being considered.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The site comprises the Umba Game Reserve (established in 1974), which covers the eastern half and Mkomazi, established in 1951, the western section. The site has been the subject of a long-running and highly politicized dispute over land-use between pastoralists and communities who settled in the area while the reserve’s management was neglected in the 1970s. A programme to rehabilitate the reserve’s infrastructure has been undertaken since 1990 by the Wildlife Division, with funding and technical assistance from the George Adamson Trust. Commercial poaching has been a major problem, especially in the eastern sector, and improved anti-poaching measures are required. Uncontrolled fires occur on the hills in the north-western sector of the reserve and may result in major changes in vegetation structure and composition. The reserve is suitable for the development of eco-tourism facilities.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Mkomazi Game Reserve. Downloaded from on 31/05/2020.