Meru Conservation Area

Date de soumission : 30/06/2023
Critères: (ix)(x)
Catégorie : Naturel
Soumis par :
National Museums of Kenya
État, province ou région :
Meru County
Coordonnées S02 35 E37 50
Ref.: 6681


The Meru Conservation Area (MCA) lies in the Somali-Maasai Regional Centre of Endemism, an area of some 1.87 million square kilometres, 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 which includes the adjacent Bisanadi wildlife reserve in Isiolo County, Mwingi Game Reserve in Kitui County, the Kora National Park in Tana River County, and Meru National Park in Meru County. The complex occupies an area slightly over 5,000 square kilometres. The two parks and the two reserves constitute an important conservation area in Kenya which is the second largest conservation area after the Tsavo East and Tsavo West National Parks, and are perhaps one of the remaining true wilderness areas in Kenya and the world. The complex is composed of:

  • Meru National Park (MNP) was gazetted in 1966 and is one of the oldest national parks in Kenya. The Park is located in Meru County, and covers 870 square kilometres.
  • Kora National Park, which is 1,787 square kilometres, 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 then gazetted as a national park in 1990, following the murder of George Adamson, a Kenyan wildlife conservationist, by poachers in August 1989. 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.
  • Bisanadi National Reserve was gazetted in 1979. The reserve covers 606 square kilometres and its location just north of Meru National Park, provides an important dispersal area for many wildlife species that concentrate around the permanent swamps in the Park during the dry season.

Meru protected area complex has rainfall that ranges 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). This 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 palms (Raphia farinifera) and Phoenix reclinataFicus sycomorusNewtonia hildebrandtiiAcacia elatior and A. robusta. Along the Tana River is the Tana River poplar (Populus ilicifolia).

Justification de la Valeur Universelle Exceptionnelle

The Meru Conservation Area is a wilderness rich in biodiversity with 49 plant species being endemic to the area. Sixty-seven Somali-Masai biome species occur out of the 92 recorded in Kenya. The complex provides a wide range 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, the black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) and the re-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. 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.

Other features

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 was killed by poachers on 20th August,  1989, 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.

Criterion (ix): 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 contains a huge variety of vegetation types, mainly due to variations in soil type and rainfall across the area, including woodland, bushland, grassland, wooded grassland and swamps. As a result, the area provides protection for a diversity of species.

Criterion (x): The protected area is a natural habitat for over 500 animal species, 280 bird species and over 720 plant species. This high diversity makes the area to be of international importance and provide historic information of the diversity of the savannah-forest complex (IUCN, 2006). The Meru Conservation Area falls within the Somali-Maasai region characterized by high endemism coupled with threatened wildlife species.

Déclarations d’authenticité et/ou d’intégrité

Meru Conservation Area (MCA), 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.

Comparaison avec d’autres biens similaires

In Kenya the MCA is comparable to the Tsavo National Parks as they both have exquisite land formations, for example, waterfalls. They also provide large areas upon which the vast numbers of wildlife contained in the sites can roam around and disperse to in cases of drought or otherwise.

The Meru Conservation Area is similar to Dja Faunal Reserve in Cameroon as both sites have wildernesses which are still pristine and intact. Both sites are also rich in biodiversity and contain large populations of mammal species. The Conservation Area has also similarities with the Atlantic Forest reserves in the southeast region of Brazil. These forest reserves represent the best and largest remaining examples of Atlantic Forest. 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. The area is also exceptionally diverse with high numbers of rare and endemic species. On the other hand, 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 two parks and the two national reserves constitute an important conservation area in Kenya which is the second largest conservation area in the country. It is one of the remaining true wilderness areas in the world, and the area is also very rich in biodiversity.