|Arabuko-Sokoke Forest and Mida Creek - The Official Guide (KIFCON, 1995, 72 p.)|
Forest cover in Kenya has always been limited. Climatic conditions mean that only 15% of the country can naturally support closed-canopy forest. These areas are confined to the cooler and wetter areas - western Kenya, the highlands flanking the Rift Valley, and the coast. The most recent surveys show that little more than two per cent of Kenya's land is forested today.
Arabuko-Sokoke lies at the northern end of a remarkable arc of special forest which stretches south along the Tanzanian coast to Mozambique. Long isolation has led to the development of distinctive plant and animal communities. Of the threatened forest species in Kenya, a disproportionally high percentage are found in the coastal forests - 50% of the plants, 60% of the birds and 65% of the mammals.
Arabuko-Sokoke, covering an area of 420 sq km, is the largest block of indigenous coastal forest remaining in East Africa. In terms of biodiversity conservation, it is one of Kenya's most valuable forest areas, containing wildlife communities of international importance, especially birds and mammals. The concentration of rare species accounts for its status as the second most important site on the African mainland for bird conservation. It is home to six globally threatened species. One, Clarke's Weaver, is found nowhere else in the world. Another, the Sokoke Scops Owl, is only found here and in a small area of the Usambara Mountains in Tanzania. In addition, East Coast Akalat, Sokoke Pipit, Spotted Ground Thrush and Amani Sunbird occur. For mammals, Arabuko-Sokoke also ranks high-up in the rarity stakes. Ader's Duiker, Sokoke Bushy-tailed Mongoose and Golden-rumped Elephant-shrew are species whose known populations are largely confined to this forest.
The extraordinary concentration of rare species is due to long isolation and the strikingly variable habitat in Arabuko-Sokoke. There are three principal forest types: mixed, Brachystegia and Cynometra. Each of these areas supports differing communities of animals and birds. The mixed forest is rich in plant species, butterflies and mammals; while the Brachystegia area supports the widest range of birds. The Cynometra forest on the red soil has the densest growth, but also holds a wide range of species and is the stronghold for the Sokoke Scops Owl.
The pools in the forest are seasonal. After rain they burst into life, with the dormant plants blooming and dragonflies hunting in the sheltered, sunny conditions, while at night the chorus of myriads of frogs fills the air. When full, these pools also attract large numbers of migrant waterbirds, and provide drinking water for mammals like elephant and buffalo.