Dzalanyama Forest Reserve

Year of compilation: 2001

Site description
Dzalanyama Forest Reserve, 60 km south-west of Lilongwe, is almost entirely covered with Brachystegia–Julbernardia woodland. It forms part of the Dzalanyama Range, a series of rocky hills running north-west–south-east along the border with Mozambique, which marks the watershed between Lake Malawi and the Zambezi river system. The eastern side of the reserve is relatively flat, at about 1,300 m. The hills to the west rise above 1,500 m with several peaks over 1,600 m. A few small patches (c.75 ha) of mid-altitude forest occur on the highest ridge near Kasito Rock. Dambos occur along many of the drainage lines, breaking the continuity of the woodland cover. A PinusEucalyptus plantation has been established in the reserve and covers about 5% of the land area. On the Mozambique side, the woodland extends uninterrupted over a much larger area with little sign of human settlement evident.

Key biodiversity
See Box and Table 3 for key species. Over 290 species have been recorded. There are a few records of Falco naumanni. The Zambezian biome species include Dendropicos stierlingi and Ploceus olivaceiceps, both of which are widespread in the reserve. A dambo in Dzalanyama is the only site in Malawi where Sarothrura lugens has been recorded, and Pinarornis plumosus is known from few other localities in the country. In addition, one species of the Tanzania–Malawi mountains EBA, five of the Afrotropical Highlands biome and one of the East African Coast biome have been recorded at this site (see Tables 2 and 3).

Non-bird biodiversity: Butterflies: an isolated population of Cymothoe coranus occurs (the most westerly known).

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Lying close to Lilongwe, in an area where fuelwood is in ever decreasing supply, Dzalanyama is under pressure from burgeoning, illegal timber-extraction activities. Some legal wood-cutting is sanctioned for the few remaining small communities who tend cattle in the reserve. Cattle-ranching at Dzalanyama was once considered to have great potential, but this has not proved to be the case and is being phased out. Fires, both natural and man-made, are annual features of the reserve’s ecology, but their impact on the vegetation, and hence on the woodland’s avifauna, is not known. The importance of Dzalanyama as a catchment area for Lilongwe’s water-supply is well-recognized and, together with its growing potential for ecotourism development (wilderness hiking and camping), the area will probably command high conservation priority for at least the short-term future.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Dzalanyama Forest Reserve. Downloaded from on 30/03/2023.