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The Meru Conservation Area (MCA) lies in the Somali-Maasai Regional Centre of Endemism, an area of some 1.87 million square kilometers, extending from north-eastern Somalia to north-eastern Tanzania and including much of north-eastern Kenya, south-eastern Sudan, parts of Ethiopia and north-eastern Uganda. The MCA is a complex of protected areas along the Tana River that includes the adjacent Bisanadi and Mwingi National reserves, the Kora National Park, and Meru National Park. The complex occupies an area slightly over 5,000 square kilometers. The two parks and the two national reserves constitute an important conservation area in Kenya which is the second largest conservation area after the Tsavo East and Tsavo West and are perhaps one of the remaining true wilderness areas in Kenya and the world. The complex is composed of (i) Meru National Park (MNP) was gazetted in 1966 and is one of the oldest national parks in Kenya. The park is located in Meru North District, and covers 870 km2 (ii) Kora National Park which is 1,787 square kilometers. It is by far the largest protected area in the Meru Conservation Area. The park was initially gazetted as a nature reserve in 1973. It was gazetted as a national park in 1990, following the murder of George Adamson by poachers. Key features include Adamson's falls, Grand Falls and the Kora rapids. The Mwitamvisi River marks its eastern boundary and the park also has seasonal rivers. (iii) Bisanadi National Reserve was gazetted in 1979. The reserve covers 606 square kilometers and its location just north of Meru National Park (MNP), provides an important dispersal area for many wildlife species that concentrate around the permanent swamps in Meru N. P during the dry season.
Meru protected area complex has rainfall that range from 700 mm per year in the North-western sector that is wetter and hilly, with rich volcanic soils. The land flattens towards the east, where grey alluvial volcanic soils appear. This area is crossed by numerous permanent streams, draining from the Nyambene Hills and flowing in parallel between tongues of lava, south-eastwards towards the Tana River. There are several prominent inselbergs of basement rock, notably Mughwango and Leopard Rock. The vegetation on the ridges is Combretum wooded grassland, dominated by Combretum apiculatum (Ament 1975). These grades into Acacia wooded grassland to the east, with Acacia tortilis and A. senegal on the rocky ridges, in riverine thickets and dotted over open country, and Doum Palms (Hyphaene coriacea) in the numerous swampy areas near the rivers. Chloris gayana is the dominant grass in many places, with Cyperus species in the swamps. The south and south-east (rainfall c. 300 mm per year) is an open, semi-arid plain with red lateritic soil. This area is covered with rather uniform Acacia-Commiphora bushland, a hot, dense, thorny habitat. A number of streams cross the area, the Tana river the Ura to the southwest and the Rojeweru to the east. Riverine trees include the palms (Raphia farinifera) and Phoenix reclinata, Ficus sycomorus, Newtonia hildebrandtii, Acacia elatior and A. robusta. Along the Tana River is the Tana River Poplar (Populus ilicifolia).
Wildlife in the Area
Sixty-seven Somali-Masai biome species occur out of the 92 recorded in Kenya. The complex provides a wide rage of species from the wet mountain species to the bushed savannah grasslands to the species of the arid and the semi arid areas. The MCA is generally diverse, with around 500 species recorded. The protected areas hold substantive populations of large mammals, including the threatened African Elephant (Loxodonta africana), Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) and Grevy's Zebra (Equus grevyi)(which is now practically confined to Kenya). Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) and the introduced Square-lipped or White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum). The greatest quality of the system of the protected area is that it provides the most authentic and unique wilderness systems. The lager area and distance from human influence provides wilderness experience that is not comparable to any in the world. Results taken from the Kora Research Project (1982-1985), show that there are some 720 plant species in this park, 49 of which are endemic to the National Park. The park is part of the Meru Conservation Area, which lies in two important bio-geographic zones. This explains its species richness and makes the area to be of such great scientific and conservation value. A joint expedition by the Royal Geographic Society and National Museums of Kenya was also spent between 1983 and 1984 studying the flora, fauna and soils of what turned the endemism could exceed 50 plant species.
Adamson's Grave and camp -George Adamson's move to the then Kora National Reserve in 1970, was to continue with his work of rehabilitating captive and orphaned large cats before releasing them into the wild again. He and his wife Joy are known for their book and Academy Award Winning film 'Born Free', on Elsa an orphaned lioness cub which they raised and later released into the MCA. George Adamson died in 1989, he was killed at his base near Kambi ya Simba. He and his brother Terrance are buried at Kambi ya Simba. The site is currently being restored and will further be developed along with other key sites associated with the Adamsons' life and work.
(ix) and (x): The Meru protected area complex provides unique wilderness experience with a vast variety of biomes not found in any other place in the world. The protected area has over 500 animal species, 280 bird species and over 720 plant species, the high diversity make the area to be of international importance and provide historic information of the diversity of the savannah- forest complex (IUCN 2006).
Meru Conservation Area covering over 3,200 square kilometres is protected by law, with Meru National Park having been gazetted in 1966, Kora National Park in 1973 and Bisanadi National Reserve in 1979.
In Kenya the MCA is comparable to the Tsavos as they both have exquisite land formations i.e. water falls among other exceptional features, they also provide large areas upon which the vast numbers of wildlife contained in the sites can roam around and disperse to incases of drought or otherwise.
Dja faunal reserve in Cameroon is similar to the Meru Conservation area as both sites wildernesses is still pristine and intact; both are rich in biodiversity and contain large populations of mammal species. The Atlantic Forests (Southeast) reserves contain the best and largest remaining examples of Atlantic forest in the southeast region of Brazil. The 25 protected areas that make up the site display the biological richness and evolutionary history of the few remaining areas of the Atlantic forest of southeast Brazil. The area is also exceptionally diverse with high numbers of rare and endemic species. While the Meru Conservation Area is a complex of protected areas along the Tana River that includes the adjacent Bisanadi and Mwingi National reserves, the Kora National Park, and Meru National Park. The complex occupies an area slightly over 5,000 square kilometers. The two parks and the two national reserves constitute an important conservation area in Kenya which is the second largest conservation area in Kenya; its one of the remaining true wilderness area in the world, the area is very rich in biodiversity.