Kenya is working on the inscription of the Arabuko-Sokoke forest in the coastal county of Kilifi on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It is currently on the indicative list of Unesco.
The 39,100 hectare Arabuko Forest – situated between the north coast tourist centers of Kilifi and Malindi 110 km north of Mombasa – is rich in species diversity and endemism, and important for bird conservation, butterflies, reptiles, plants and wildlife.
It is the largest remaining fragment of tropical forests that once covered much of the East African coast and the remnants of which constitute the East African Coastal Forests. Similar fragments are the Usambara Forest and the Pugu Hills in Tanzania.
Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Reserve and National Park, and Shimba Hills National Reserve are the largest coastal forests in the region, listed as one of the world’s 25 biodiversity hotspots.
Officials of Kenya’s national museums say that Arabuko, which has since been placed on the Unesco Tentative List, has faced difficulties in obtaining resources to prepare the required dossier and that there is a restriction that a country can present only one article per year.
Dr. Mzalendo Kibunjia, Director General of NMK, said East Africa that although the institution has started to prepare the nomination file, it is a huge amount of paperwork, unlike the cultural sites file. It will also cost between $100,000 and $300,000 to prepare.
Kenya has only seven natural and cultural sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List, while some countries with similar attractions have between 20 and 50.
If he was enrolled, Arabuko would join him; Lamu Stone Town, Fort Jesus, Mount Kenya Forest, Rift Valley Lakes of Nakuru, Bogoria and Elementaita Sibiloi, Turkana National Park, Thimlich Ohinga in Migori and Kaya Forests – the sacred forests of the coast used by the Mijikenda.
The natural and cultural sites, once listed, cease to be the property of the host country to become world property, benefiting from funding from Unesco and other donors. Kenya wins financially and technically through education and conservation programs, publicity and international assistance.
Researcher Hosea Wanderi, who is also Chief Wander of the Kenyan focal point on the 1972 World Heritage Convention, says provisional listing does not mean the site has been accepted. Unesco experts verify the information submitted, note the difficulties and determine whether the local communities have been consulted.
The request is then sent to the International Center for Studies for the Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Property at the Unesco Heritage Center, which once satisfied will send it to the Unesco Heritage Committee, which will decide on the registration, postponement or rejection.
Arabuko is rich in rare fauna. Six butterflies endemic to the East African coast are present, as well as three rare and near-endemic mammals: the golden-headed shrew (found only in Sokoke and Zanzibar) and the Sokoke tufted-tailed mongoose, a population of African elephants and the African golden cat, both of which are rare in Kenya. The green-tailed lizard is an unusual reptile and the forest is exceptionally rich in amphibians, including coastal endemics like Bunty’s dwarf toad.
Dr Kibunjia says these qualities qualify Arabuko to be inscribed on the World Heritage List as it shares characteristics with other forests in Tanzania.
Tanzania is home to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, the ruins of Kilwa and Kisiwani; the Serengeti National Park; Selous Game Reserve; Kilimanjaro National Park; The Stone Town of Zanzibar; and the Kondoa rock art site.
In 2018, Selous – which was on the World Heritage List in 1982 in recognition of its outstanding value as one of Africa’s largest remaining wilderness areas – was downgraded to the endangered species list because that the government has failed to convince the committee that the hydroelectric dam under construction at Stiegler’s Gorge will not compromise its universal value.
In the same year, Kenya’s Lake Turkana National Parks (listed in 1997) were downgraded due to the disruptive effect of the Gibe III Dam in Ethiopia on the flow and ecosystem of Lake Turkana downstream, and the proposed development of Kuraz sugar, which poses an additional threat to the site. .
Kenya has submitted its Tentative Lists, properties which it considers to be cultural or natural heritage of outstanding universal value and therefore likely to be inscribed on the World Heritage List. They include the Aberdare Mountains; Great African Rift Valley – Hell’s Gate National Park; the valley of the great African rift – prehistoric site of Olorgesailie; the Great African Rift Valley – the Masai Mara; African Great Rift Valley – Marakwet Escarpment Furrow Irrigation System; Kakamega Rainforest; Meru Conservation Area; Mfangano-Rusinga Island Complex; Tana Delta and forest complex; Tsavo Parks and Chyulu Hills Complex; and now the eastern arc coastal forests – Arabuko-Sokoke Forest and Shimba Hills National Reserve.
A status appeal for the 39,100 hectare forest between Kilifi and Malindi is awaiting verification by experts
Arabuko-Sokoke was designated as a Crown Forest in 1932 and gazetted in 1943.