East Usambara Mountains

Country/territory: Tanzania

IBA criteria met: A1, A2, A3 (2001)
For more information about IBA criteria, please click here

Area: 39,000 ha

Nature Tanzania
IBA conservation status
Year of assessment (most recent) State (condition) Pressure (threat) Response (action)
2013 not assessed very high medium
For more information about IBA monitoring, please click here

Site description (2001 baseline)
The East Usambara mountains comprise a steeply scarred plateau on which the main ridges run from north to south. At less than 130,000 ha, they are one of the smallest mountain ranges in Tanzania and are separated from the much larger West Usambara mountains (TZ071), to the north-west, by the wide Lwengera river valley, which flows south to join the Pangani river. The mountains themselves are drained by the catchment of the Sigi river, entering the Indian Ocean at Tanga. The forest of the range became fragmented some time ago, first by clearance for coffee plantations and latterly by tea plantations. Some of the better-quality lowland forest has been replaced with plantations of teak Tectonia grandis. The 19 main Forest Reserves are in the process of being reorganized into larger blocks, with the inclusion of important lowland forest that has survived on public land. The Amani Forest Nature Reserve was set up in May 1997.Although the mountains are not particularly high, since they are situated within 35 km of the coast they receive typically 2,000 mm of rain annually, spread across all months. Submontane forest exists at lower altitudes in the East Usambara than any other comparable mountain block in Tanzania. There are also areas of lowland forest in the East Usambaras. Some 12,916 ha of submontane forest and 29,497 ha of lowland forest are included in the IBA. To the north of the highland block there are extensive areas of Brachylaena woodland.

Key biodiversity
See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. The East Usambara mountains are one of the most important sites on the African mainland for the conservation of globally threatened birds. Bubo vosseleri, Otus ireneae, Orthotomus moreaui, Modulatrix orostruthus, Swynnertonia swynnertoni and Ploceus nicolli all occur here. The endemic races Hyliota australis usambarae and Spermophaga ruficapilla cana occur at low densities in only a few localities. Other important species in an East African context are such forest-edge specialists as Indicator meliphilus and Lonchura fringilloides, while Campethera mombassica is locally common. Bostrychia olivacea is seen rarely.

Non-bird biodiversity: There are many endemic and near-endemic species in these forests. Seven plants (African violets) Saintpaulia species are endemic. About 3% of the plants in the East Usambaras are strict endemics, and 22% are near-endemics. Some 15 species of amphibia and 13 reptiles occur that are endemic to Tanzania. About 85% of the millipedes are endemic, 45% of the molluscs, and 40% of the butterflies. The mammals Cephalophus spadix (VU), Rhynchocyon petersi (EN) and Myonycteris relicta (VU) all occur.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: East Usambara Mountains. Downloaded from on 06/12/2023.