Fauna and flora on Mount Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro flora

There are five distinct ecological zones on Kilimanjaro, each about 1000m in ‘height’. At 800m to 1800m you will find bush land with villages, farms and grassland.

The next ‘level’ of vegetation is the dense rainforest at 1800m – 2800m. This lush green zone receives 1000 to 2000mm of rain yearly. You will see huge tree ferns, sycamore trees, junipers, as well as moss also known as “old man’s beard”. This humid zone is the perfect place for the multitude of plants, some of which are endemic like the “impatiens kilimanjari”.

The semi-alpine heath and moorland zone is found at 2800m to 4000m. Here you will see the strange giant groundsel, Senecio trees, Lobelias and the colourful red hot pokers.

The main source of the indirect precipitation in this zone comes in the form of mist which can envelope you without warning. Temperatures here can drop to 0°C.

Above 4000m you will enter the other-wordly alpine desert zone with little rainfall and extreme temperature variations from night to day. You will not find a wide variety of plants in this arid and desolate landscape, but you might see some everlastings and a few yellow daisies.

From 5000m you will enter the frozen moonscape of the arctic zone. With only rock and ice, nights are very cold and the sun’s radiation is extreme. Virtually no life is found here and the lichens that do survive, grow about 0.5mm a year.

Kilimanjaro fauna

In the lower-lying areas such as the forest zone there are a multitude of birds ranging from tropical Boubous, Hartlaub Turacos, Green Wood Hoopoes, Silvery cheeked Hornbills and more. Look up into the trees you might see (but definitely hear) primates such as blue monkeys, colobus monkeys and olive baboons. Civets, leopards, mongooses, the bush pig, dik-dik, elephants and Abbott’s duikers also live in the mountain’s forest, but sightings are extremely rare.

Just as plants struggle in the higher heath and moorland zone, so do animals. If you are lucky you will spot the four-striped grass mouse, red eyed doves, white necked ravens and Malachite sunbirds. Mole rats and the harsh-furred and climbing mouse are more difficult to spot. In terms of birdlife, there are plenty of ravens around, and you might also see the extremely rare bearded vulture with its vast wingspan.

The alpine and arctic zones are too harsh for any animals to survive comfortably.