The paths through these forests have been well worn by animals large and small. The largest creatures you might see here are occasional elephants and buffalos, which use these forests as migration zones as they move from the grassy lowlands up to the higher moorlands. You are more likely to notice the lush vegetation, however, with multitudes of shrub plants, orchids, and tall trees spread throughout the ecoregion.
The forests of this ecoregion are found on the slopes of some of the highest mountains in Africa—stretching from the Imatong Mountains in southern Sudan, through Mount Elgon in Uganda, to Mount Kenya to the east. To the south, the ecoregion includes the forests of Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Meru, and Ngorongoro in northern Tanzania. Some of the characteristic trees at lower elevations are camphor, olive, and Meru oak (found only on Mount Kenya), with the coniferous podo tree and bamboo found at higher elevations. The climate of this area is relatively temperate and seasonal, with temperatures falling below 50° F (10° C) in the cold season and rising to above 86° F (30° C) in the warm season. Rainfall ranges between 47 and 78 inches (1,200 and 2,000 mm) per year.
Because these montane forests are isolated from each other like islands in the sea, local bird species are also distributed in patches. Some species, such as Hinde’s pied-babbler, are found only on Mount Kenya. Other species, such as the Aberdare cisticola and Kenrick’s starling, live on only two or three of the ecoregion’s mountain ranges. These montane forests are also home to 19 species of endemic mammals, including white-toothed shrews and other shrew species, African bush squirrels, Jackson’s mongooses, and sun squirrels. Rats are common too: African mole-rats, grass rats, and groove-toothed creek rats can all be found here.
Cause for Concern
At lower altitudes, native forests have been destroyed to make way for tea, coffee, and conifer plantations. At higher altitudes, increased rates of human-caused fire are believed to have destroyed forest habitats, such as the cloud forests that have been lost on Mount Kilimanjaro.
For more information on this ecoregion, go to the World Wildlife Fund Scientific Report.All text by World Wildlife Fund © 2001