Ecosystem Overview

A mosaic of swamps and savannas teeming with wildlife and culture

The intricate Amboseli Ecosystem, whose protection and restoration for the benefit of all is at the heart of AET’s work, is one of the most popular visitor destinations in Kenya.

It spans from Africa’s highest peak Mount Kilimanjaro to the rugged wilderness of Chyulu Hills and the fauna-rich Tsavo West National Park, all the way back to the Kenya-Tanzania savanna borderlands.


A Unique Biosphere of Habitats & Wildlife

The ecosystem is typically hot and dry with a habitat mix of wooded grassland and shrubland with spots of riverine and natural forest cover.

It is referred to as the “Land of Giants” for its large herds of elephants, which include those with impressively huge tusks (“Tuskers”).

The ecosystem has an estimated elephant population of about 1,800 and is also home to large carnivores such as lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena, jackal and civet.

It has a rich herbivores population of giraffes, gerenuks and lesser kudus and supports zebras, gazelles and wildebeests that migrate to the landscape in search of water and pasture during the dry season.

The exceptional intersection and coexistence of ecology and the indigenous socio-culture of pastoralism is what has made the ecosystem recognized as a Unesco Man and Biosphere Reserve.

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An Important Bird Area

Classified as an Important Bird Area (IBA), the landscape enjoys a rich birdlife with over 400 species recorded — approximately 40 birds of prey, such as the lanner falcons and Kenya’s national bird, the “lilac-breasted roller”.

The ecosystem has a host of migratory birds, a range of water birds, including pelicans and hamerkop, and a keen birdwatcher can be rewarded with the sighting of the endangered Malagasy pond heron.

Henry Kosgei, a Kenya Wildlife Service Ranger, Meru National Park, Kenya monitoring the Black Rhino,s (Diceros bicornis) at Meru National Park. Meru National Park is home of there endangered Black Rhinos

Stunning Sceneries

The ecosystem’s backdrop to the south is the snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak at 19,600 feet, adorning three scenic peaks: Shira, Kibo and Mawenzi.

The mountain, popular with local and international mountain climbers, towers over the relatively flat arid bushlands of the habitat that is dotted with undulating rangelands, swamps, springs and seasonal lakes.

To the east is the young volcanic Chyulu range and lava forests that stretch into Tsavo West National Park, while up north is a series of hills, including the Losoito, Lemipoti, Ilng’arunyoni and Lemomo hills that extend into the Kenyan highlands.

At the heart of the ecosystem is the Amboseli National Park, one of Kenya’s premier parks thanks to its rich biodiversity as well as its accessibility from the rest of Kenya and Tanzania through all-weather roads and highways.


A Web of Crucial Corridors

The ecosystem is a delicate balance of ecological corridors and dispersal areas, connecting the Amboseli National Park with adjacent group ranches and neighbouring conservation areas like Chyulu Hills, Tsavo West and Kilimanjaro West in Tanzania. These crucial corridors include:

  • The ANP-Olgulului South-Kitenden-Kilimanjaro Corridor: Facilitates movement between the montane forests of Kilimanjaro and Amboseli National Park of large mammals, including elephants, elands, buffaloes, African wild dogs, zebras, impalas, and carnivores such as lions, cheetah, leopard and hyena.
  • Amboseli-Kimana-Kuku-Chyulu West Corridor: Connects several conservancies, including Osupuko, Nailepu and Kilitome in the former Kimana Group Ranch and Motikanju in Kuku Group Ranch.
  • Amboseli-Olgulului North-Selengei Corridor: Diverse wildlife, such as elephants, wildebeest and zebras, use this corridor, connecting Amboseli National Park with Olgulului north and Selengei, to access wet-season grazing areas. 
  • Amboseli-Olgulului North-Mbirikani Corridor: Connecting the Amboseli National Park to Mbirikani and Chyulu through Olgulului North, this corridor is used by a myriad of wildlife species, such as elephants, wildebeests and zebras that utilize the grassland plains in Mbirikani during the wet season.
EarthWatch Maasai Mara 2018 Copyright Anthony Ochieng (116)

A Culture of Coexistence with Nature

The Amboseli Ecosystem is predominately home to the world-renowned Maasai, whose rich cultural heritage and pastoral practices have shaped the ecological ethos and coexistence with wildlife for millennia.

The local culture is one of the greatest assets in the ecosystem, enhanced by the rich geographic features of the soaring Mount Kilimanjaro and tales of the perennial swamps that acted as gathering points for slave traders on the Kilimanjaro slave route, which started from the Nairobi area passing through Amboseli and Rombo then to Mombasa.

Other cultural sites in the ecosystem include the numerous Maasai Moran Manyattas and the Chyulu caves.


Amboseli Adventures

Discover the wondrous fusion of wildlands and culture of the Amboseli