Although the remaining forests scattered throughout the Coastal Forests of Eastern Africa Hotspot are typically small and fragmented, they contain remarkable levels of biodiversity. These forests also vary greatly in their species composition, particularly among less mobile species; for example, forests that are only 100 kilometers apart may differ in 80 percent of their plant species.


There are about 4,050 vascular plant species in the Coastal Forests of Eastern Africa Biodiversity Hotspot and approximately 43 percent of the plant species are endemic.

Among the best-known plants in the hotspot are the species of African violets (Saintpaulia spp.). The 40,000 cultivated varieties of the African violet, which form the basis of a US$100 million/year house plant trade globally, are all derived from just three species found in coastal Tanzanian and Kenyan forests. The hotspot also contains 11 species of wild coffee, eight of which are endemic; none of these species has been exploited commercially.


More than 633 bird species occur in the hotspot, 11 of which are endemic. Pemba Island has four endemic species: the Pemba white-eye (Zosterops vaughani), Vulnerable Pemba green-pigeon (Treron pembaensis), Pemba sunbird (Nectarinia pembae) and Vulnerable Pemba scops-owl (Otus pembaensis). The Tana River cisticola (Cisticola restrictus) is endemic to the Lower Tana River, and the Malindi pipit (Anthus melindae) is endemic to the coastal grasslands of Kenya.

Most of the other endemics are found in the mainland coastal forest of Kenya and Tanzania, including the yellow flycatcher (Erythrocercus holochlorus), Endangered Sokoke pipit (Anthus sokokensis), Endangered Clarke's weaver (Ploceus golandi) and Mombasa woodpecker (Campethera mombassica).


Nearly 200 mammals are found in the Coastal Forests of Eastern Africa Hotspot. Eleven of these are endemic, including the Vulnerable Ader's duiker (Cephalophus adersi) and Vulnerable Pemba flying fox (Pteropus voeltzkowi).

This relatively tiny hotspot boasts three endemic monkey species: the Endangered Tana River red colobus (Piliocolobus rufomitratus), Endangered Tana River mangabey (Cercocebus galeritus) and Endangered Zanzibar red colobus (Procolobus kirkii).

There are also two endemic species of galagos (out of a total of four occurring in the hotspot): the Critically Endangered Rondo dwarf galago (Galagoides rondoensis) and Kenya coast galago (G. cocos).

The hotspot also still supports considerable populations of threatened large African herbivores, including the Critically Endangered black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) and Vulnerable savannah elephant (Loxodonta africana), especially in the larger protected areas and wilderness regions of southern Tanzania and northern Mozambique. There are also populations of the Endangered African wild dog (Lycaon pictus).


There are about 250 reptile species in the Coastal Forests of Eastern Africa Hotspot, more than 50 of which are endemic. The hotspot has one endemic reptile genus, Scolecoseps, which is represented by three species.


The hotspot also has over 85 amphibian species, six of which are found nowhere else—the Endangered Mafia Island toad (Stephopaedes howelli), Vulnerable Shimba Hills banana frog (Afrixalus sylvaticus) and Endangered Shimba Hills reed frog (Hyperolius rubrovermiculatus) among them.

One species largely confined to the hotspot is Loveridge's snouted toad (Mertensophryne micranotis), the only member of its genus. This species is remarkable in that it is one of the few amphibians to breed by internal fertilization, although it still lays eggs, rather than giving birth to live young.

Freshwater fishes

Nearly 220 fish species live in the fresh waterways of the Coastal Forests of Eastern Africa, and more than 30 of these are endemic. Of the 34 families represented in the hotspot, minnows (family Cyprinidae) are dominant, followed by killifishes (Nothobranchius spp.). Some species of fish have remarkable adaptations to survive in the hotspot's temporary coastal swamps and floodplains. For example, the air-breathing lungfishes Protopterus amphibious and P. annectens can survive in a dormant state for over a year in cocoons underneath dried mud.


About 80 percent of the millipedes and 68 percent of the mollusks are found nowhere else. The hotspot is also home to a Gondwana relict dragonfly species (Coryphagrion grandis) that has its nearest relatives in Central and South America.

Read about species in the former Eastern Arc Mountains and Coastal Forests Hotspot in our ecosystem profile (PDF - 3.4 MB), which lies within two newly classified hotspots: the Coastal Forests of Eastern Africa and the Eastern Afromontane.