With its endless skies, sprawling hills, charming cloud-shadowed African Savannah and vibrant culture, the Tsavo ecosystem is not only scenic with a majestic cultural heritage but it is also one of the world’s remaining mega flora and fauna habitats with multiple endangered and endemic species listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Considerably dry climate
The Tsavo ecosystem sits 180-1,000 meters above sea level in the South-west of Kenya, approximately 200 kilometers from the Capital of Nairobi. The region is climatically dry except for the areas around Taita Hills, which are considerably wet.
Wide-array of wildlife
The ecosystem supports the conservation of all the members of The Big Five: lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino and the African Elephant, holding one-third of Kenya’s total elephant population (approximately 12,000).
It is also home to the critically endangered Hirola (Africa’s rarest antelope), the endangered black rhino, Grevy’s zebra, reticulated giraffe and African wild dog, and a crucial habitat for the pangolin (the world’s most trafficked animal). Other mammals found in the landscape include the cheetah, zebra, gazelle, impala, lesser kudu and oryx.
Rarest of Birds
The ecosystem enjoys a prolific bird population. The verdant Taita Hills, in particular, is classified as an Important Bird Area (IBA) with over 300 bird species that include endemic bird species, such as the endangered Taita White-eye (Zosterops silvanus), and the critically endangered Taita Thrush (Turdus helleri) and Taita Apalis (Apalis fuscigularis). The Taita Apalis, one of the rarest birds in the world with only approximately 150 remaining, exists nowhere else on earth.
A mixed habitat of woodlands, savannah grasslands and riverine vegetation,punctuated with palm, baobab and fig trees, the landscape has over 1,000 plant species, about 40 forests and over 20 endemic species, including the critically endangered African violet (Saintpaulia teitensis).
The lush Taita Hills form the northern most part of the Eastern Arc Mountains whose forests are classified as one of the world’s 34 most important biodiversity hotspots, harboring 67 known indigenous plants, not recognizable elsewhere in Africa, such as the wild coffee (coffea fadenii).
A diverse people
A land without its people is devoid of heart. The wonderful collage of tribes consisting of the Taita, Taveta, Akamba, Luo, and Watta, with their diverse heritages is the heartbeat of the Taita Taveta-Tsavo landscape, which has an approximate population of 340,000 (as per the 2019 Kenyan census).
Livestock production, commercial and subsistence farming, mineral exploration and tourism are the mainstays of economic activity in the region, with bananas, cotton, sugarcane and tropical fruits being the main cash crops.
The region is well-known for its cultural heritage sites, such as the historic world war II fighting sites in Salaita-Taveta and its musical legacy, having produced one of Kenya’s most celebrated composers Fadhili Williams, known for popular songs such as ‘Malaika’ produced in the late 1950s.