Mt. Marsabit National Park and Reserve
National Museums of Kenya
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Mt. Marsabit National Park and Reserve is located in Marsabit County, in northern Kenya. It sits 1703 m above sea level. The forest covered mountain is an extinct Holocene shield volcano characterized by hills and several craters shrouded in mist. The extinct volcano area covers approximately 210,000 ha and is surrounded by expansive low-lying arid plains at an altitude of 300–900m above sea level, formed by weathered lava flow. The volcano rises almost a kilometre above the surrounding arid plains to a summit of 1865 m above sea level with an elliptical shape about 45 km northwest-southeast wide and 70 km northeast-southwest long. The forest has an equatorial climate with rainfall and temperature very different from the surrounding lowlands which exhibit arid and semi-arid conditions.
Marsabit Mountain has permanent forests that are home to many wildlife species. The mountain slopes are inhabited by the Samburu and Rendille pastoralists who depend on the mountain for water and pasture. The mountain has several crater lakes, including Lake Paradise, Lake Marsabit and Lake Horr. These freshwater rain fed lakes are important sources of water for wildlife and the local communities. The mountain has a cool climate with temperatures ranging from 6-26o Celsius. The area receives between 600 and 900 mm of rainfall per year, mostly during the long rainy season of March to May and the short rainy season of October to December. The mountain slopes are covered with forests of Juniperus procera and Olea africana. The upper slopes have bamboo forests and a moorland vegetation.
The mountain is home to various plant species which have adapted to its semi-arid climate. The lower slopes of Mt. Marsabit are covered in acacia woodlands. Species of acacia such as Vachellia tortilis, Vachellia nilotica and Vachellia xanthophloea dominate these woodlands. The acacias are well adapted to the hot and dry climate. They have small leaves that help reduce water loss. Their deep root systems allow them to access groundwater. The mountain forest lies above the acacia woodlands, and is composed of species such as Podocarpus falcatus, Olea capensis, and Juniperus procera. These trees are able to tolerate lower temperatures and higher rainfall than the acacias (Beentje, 1994). They provide shade and habitat for birds and animals. The highest parts of Mt. Marsabit are covered in moorland and Afroalpine vegetation. Plant species such as Lobelia giberroa, Senecio keniensis, and Helichrysum splendidum dominate this zone (Dawson & Were, 1968). They are well adapted to the cold temperatures, high winds, and low oxygen levels. Their small, compact growth helps them conserve heat and withstand the strong winds.
Mt. Marsabit has a diverse population of wildlife, including elephants, buffalos, Greater kudus, spotted hyena, leopards, and lions. The mountain has a rich biodiversity, including the endangered African wild dog (Lycaon pictus), Beisa oryx (Oryx beisa beisa), and Grevy's zebra (Equus grevyi). The Marsabit National Park and Reserve is home to over approximately 550 elephants, 3,000 buffalos, and 800 Greater kudus. The elephant and buffalo populations in the reserve have remained stable over the past decade. However, the Greater kudu population has declined by 30% due to drought and habitat loss. However, the Kenya Wildlife Service is working to restore their habitat and population.
Mt. Marsabit is said to be home to over 250 bird species (“Marsabit National Park Bird Checklist - Avibase - Bird Checklists of the World,” 2022). These birds include charismatic species such as the Somali ostrich (Struthio molybdophanes), vulturine guineafowl (Acryllium vulturinum), Kori bustard (Ardeotis kori) and many more. Various species of birds migrate to the reserve seasonally, including flamingos that come to breed in Lake Paradise within the reserve. The mountain is home to several species of reptiles like the Southern African rock python (Python sebea), Red-necked spitting cobra (Naja pallida), Boomslang (Dispholidus typus) and many species of chameleons and lizards. It also hosts several species of rodents found only in that region.
Justification of Outstanding Universal Value
Criterion (x): The mountain is home to many unique plants, including the Marsabit rose, a rare species of rose found only on the mountain. The mountain also has a unique type of forest called the Marsabit mist forest, which is fed by condensation from the mountain's cloud cover. This forest is home to many rare plants and animals found only in that ecosystem. Mt. Marsabit has unique vegetation zones ranging from acacia woodlands to Afroalpine vegetation. The mountain is home to many plant and animal species, some of which are endemic or endangered (Beentje, 1994; Were et al., 1968). This vegetation provides habitat for wildlife which includes mammals, birds, reptiles and many invertebrate species. Mt. Marsabit also provides a sanctuary to many migrating bird species. Migratory birds include ducks, waders, songbirds and even birds of prey that fly thousands of kilometres from Europe and Asia. Mt. Marsabit is also home to 14 globally threatened bird species including endangered vulture species such as the Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus) and the hooded vulture (Necrosyrtes monachus).
Statements of authenticity and/or integrity
Mt. Marsabit National Park and Reserve is part of the National Parks and Reserves in Kenya and is managed by the Kenya Wildlife Service under the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act (2013). It was gazetted as a National Park in 1979 primarily to protect its population of large tusked African elephants.
Comparison with other similar properties
Mt. Marsabit which is part of the Eastern Afromontane biodiversity hotspot is comparable to the Bale Mountains National Park in Ethiopia. Both mountains are cloud forest that hosts plant communities that have evolved to be fog resistant. They are both ecologically sensitive habitats facing similar threats specifically, climate change. Climate induced stress reduces their capacity to supply ecosystem services, such as water provision, food and wildlife habitats.