The Kinangop Highland Grassland Important Bird Area (IBA) is found in the Central Province, Nyandarua District, with a small section in Rift Valley Province, Nakuru District, Kenya. It covers an area of 77,000 ha at an elevation of 2,400 - 2,700 m.
The montane grasslands of the Kinangop Plateau are represented by a wide stretch of land bounded by the forests of the Aberdare Mountains and Kikuyu Escarpment to the east and south, and by a steep scarp dropping to the Rift Valley floor to the west. Historically, the entire plateau was covered with almost treeless, tussock grassland, including many tussock bogs. Since the 1960s, the Kikuyu people, whose livelihood revolves around small-scale farming, have settled in the area. Large areas of land have been ploughed for cultivation (mainly maize, wheat, cabbage and potatoes) or to remove the tussock grass species which livestock find unpalatable. Woodlots of introduced trees now dot the landscape. Many of the wetlands have been drained directly or indirectly by planting water-thirsty exotic trees.
The Kinangop Highland Grasslands Important Bird Areas (IBA) is key for several globally-threatened bird species: Sharpe’s Longclaw (Macronyx sharpei) (EN) is confined to grasslands, preferring short grass fields with tussocks, with densities of 0.8 individuals/ha in good habitat; Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus) (NT) occurs as passage migrant; Aberdare Cisticola (Cisticola aberdare) (EN) is expected to occur in the higher parts of the plateau; Jackson’s Widowbird (Euplectes jacksoni) (NT) is a seasonal visitor that nests in Tussock Grasslands. Also several restricted-range bird species occur, including the Hunter’s Cisticola (Cisticola hunteri), common in scrubby areas. Regionally threatened bird species include Long-tailed Widowbird (Euplectes progne) a resident that nests in tussock grasslands.
In general, the other fauna and flora of these grasslands have been studied very little. Very few large wild mammals survive on the Kinangop, but many smaller species confined to highland grassland still occur. The Mountain Reed Frog (Hyperolius montanus), Kinangop Puddle Frog (Phrynobatrachus kinangopensis), and the Kenya Horned Viper (Bitis worthingtonii) are confirmed to be endemic to this area and a few other sites in the Kenyan highlands. The Mountain Reed Frog was considered secure in 1980, but it is restricted to montane grassland and is now under severe threat.
The Friends of Kinangop Plateau (FoKP) is a Site Support Group, established to promote the conservation of characteristic grassland birds of Kinangop, and the surrounding environment of the Plateau. The group aims to raise awareness among farmers and the wider public of the importance of species such as Sharpe’s Longclaw and Jackson’s Widowbird, and of the links between grassland management and bird and biodiversity conservation. The group aims to conserve Kinangop for current and future generations. The Friends of Kinangop Plateau is a very stable and committed group that Nature Kenya is using as a model for Site Support Groups at other IBAs in Kenya.
Support is being sought to conduct the following:
Purchase 50 acres for incorporation into the Sharpe’s Longclaw reserve.
Restore the purchased property to Sharpe’s Longclaw habitat.
Secure new reserve habitat with fencing to prevent overgrazing.
Construction of a basic education center and conduct of community outreach.
Monitor threatened wildlife populations.
To date, some 95 acres of a reserve have been purchased. The Jensen Foundation supported the purchase of 45 acres, while IUCN Netherlands supported 40 acres. These two pieces of grassland reserve present a major contribution to the survival of the Sharpe’s Longclaw. However, the purchased reserve can only safeguard around 20 pairs of Sharpe’s Longclaw. More Sharpe’s Longclaw habitat is urgently needed if the long-term survival of the species is to be guaranteed. If funded, the current proposal would effectively protect an additional 10 pairs of Sharpe’s Longclaw through habitat restoration and protection, and community education.
© 2012 Global Wildlife Conservation