The site includes three Forest Reserves, a dairy farm and an as-yet-undefined area of village/government land. The Kitulo plateau is an area of montane grassland that lies between a lower plateau around Matamba village to the north-east and the Livingstone Forest Reserve, which lies along the escarpment above Mwakaleli town, to the south. To the north the highland block on which the Kitulo sits is bordered by the Usangu flood-plain. To the south lies the deep trough of Lake Nyasa while eastwards the ground slopes gently downwards towards Njombe town at 1,850 m. Immediately to the west is Mount Rungwe (TZ065) and beyond that the Umalila mountains (TZ069). The montane grassland is too high for tree growth and is renowned for its highland plants, especially orchids. The area of grassland has been given as 27,300 ha, of which 18,500 ha is managed by the dairy farm. The Chimala Scarp Forest Reserve (17,575 ha) to the north is largely miombo woodland on the dry northern face of the Chimala escarpment. The Ndumbi Valley Forest Reserve (2,736 ha) is largely grassland and, in theory, offers some protection to the habitat. To the east is the long, narrow Ndukuduku Forest Reserve (3,265 ha) which also contains areas of grassland, but of a steeper, more rocky nature. To the immediate south and south-west lies Livingstone Forest Reserve (26,365 ha) which is mainly montane forest and was designated to protect the slopes of the Livingstone Escarpment above the tea-growing area around Mwakaleli town.
See Box and Table 2 for key species. Falco naumanni has also been recorded and the area is likely to hold a wintering population of Circus macrourus. The Kitulo plateau holds the only remaining viable population of Ardeotis denhami in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania. Important populations of the near-endemic Mirafra africana nigrescens are found on the plateau, as is Anthus brachyurus. Coturnix coturnix and Francolinus shelleyi breed and so might Pseudhirundo griseopyga and Hirundo angolensis. Falco biarmicus and Buteo augur nest in the experimental plots of exotic pine Pinus. Four species of the Afrotropical Highlands biome have been recorded from this site (see Table 3).
Non-bird biodiversity: The montane grassland is important botanically; three endemic plants and a further 14 near-endemics are known.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The presence of the dairy farm has offered some protection to the remaining grassland habitat, but it does not appear to be commercially viable. This is of serious concern for the future of the remaining habitat. Large areas of the Forest Reserves and the dairy farm are illegally cultivated with potatoes. In recent years commercial collectors from Zambia are reported to have devastated the orchid population of the plateau. Recent initiatives, led by government, seek to develop some form of long-term protection for at least part of the IBA.