This vast savanna National Park lies in low, semi-arid country at the eastern edge of the inland plateau, north of the main Mombasa–Nairobi road and railway. Much of the park is level, open country, with scattered rocky outcrops. The Yatta Plateau, a long, flat-topped lava ridge, runs along the western boundary, and beneath it flows the Athi river; this joins the Tsavo river to become the Galana river, a permanent stream that cuts right across the park. The seasonal Tiva and Voi rivers are important features of the northern and southern sectors, respectively. Along the rivers is a narrow fringe of woodland and thicket, dominated by Acacia elatior, the Doum palm Hyphaene compressa and the shrub Suaeda monoica. The northern part of the park is predominantly more-or-less dense Acacia–Commiphora woodland. South of the Galana, this has been opened out over the years by fire and elephants to form open bushed grassland. Common shrubs here include species of Premna, Bauhinia and Sericocomopsis, and scattered trees such as Delonix elata and Melia volkensii. The Yatta Plateau has a cover of dense bushland, with stands of baobab Adansonia digitata. There are scattered seasonal pools, swamps and dams, but relatively few sources of permanent water. The vegetation is generally denser in the west, where rainfall is c.450 mm/year, than in the drier east, which may receive only c.250 mm.
See Box and Table 3 for key species. The enigmatic, Near Threatened Mirafra pulpa probably nests here, with birds recorded singing and displaying in open bushed grassland near Voi Safari Lodge in 1976–1977. The park’s huge area of natural habitat supports important populations of resident species, and is also a very significant stopover and wintering ground for Palearctic migrants. Falco naumanni is one such (regular but uncommon) visitor from December–March. There is likely to be a substantial passage of Acrocephalus griseldis from the Middle East, judging from birds ringed further south in Tsavo West National Park (IBA KE025); some birds overwinter. Regionally threatened species in Tsavo East include Anhinga rufa (occasional visitor); Casmerodius albus (regular visitor); Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis (regular); Trigonoceps occipitalis (resident in small numbers); Polemaetus bellicosus (a stronghold, although the total numbers may be small as home ranges cover a great area); Podica senegalensis; and Phoeniculus granti (uncommon).
Non-bird biodiversity: The park holds substantial populations of a diversity of large mammals. Threatened species include Loxodonta africana (EN) and Acinonyx jubatus (VU). Small herds of the ungulate Damaliscus (lunatus) hunteri were translocated in the 1960s and again in 1996, from Arawale National Reserve, and are managing to sustain their numbers. Two amphibian taxa, Afrixalus pygmaeus septentrionalis and Hyperolius sheldricki, are endemic to the Tsavo area.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Wildlife poaching was a serious problem during the 1980s, when Diceros bicornis were eliminated, but now appears to be under control. Tsavo East is large enough to form a fairly self-contained ecosystem. So long as it remains a National Park managed for wildlife, threats to its biodiversity are minimal.
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Tsavo East National Park. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 21/01/2022.