Kitobo Forest of Kenya, a unique hotspot of herpetofaunal diversity
Herpetologically, the remoteness of Kitobo forest in south-eastern Kenya has partly contributed to it remaining virtually un-explored until 2007. Three surveys were conducted in December 2007, December 2009 and April 2010 aimed at generating a comprehensive list of the forest amphibians and reptiles. Using largely timed-species count method, 13 species of amphibians representing eight families and 32 reptiles belonging to 11 families were recorded. Overall species diversity was highest during the 2007 sampling. The richness and abundance of amphibians was highest during the April 2010 sampling period when the amount of rainfall was also highest. The results of species accumulation curves of the three sampling periods did not plateau demonstrating that more species occur in this forest. Pressure on this forest fragment from the adjacent local people is high which in addition to the annual floods threatens its long-term survival. For example the distribution and abundance of some forest associated species such as the tree frogs Leptopelis flavomaculatus and Hyperolius puncticulatus appear to fluctuate with flood events and may decline in future. Considering the forest associated herpetofanua recorded, Kitobo forest is zoogeographically assignable to the East African coastal forest biodiversity hotspot. The documentation of high species richness and diversity in this small forest fragment strongly highlight its biodiversity importance and place it among the most important sites for the conservation of reptiles and amphibians in Kenya.