Nyungwe National Park

Year of compilation: 2001

Site description
Nyungwe forest is situated in south-west Rwanda between Lake Kivu and the international border with Burundi, where it is contiguous with Kibira National Park (BI002). Nyungwe is divided north–south by a line of mountains that reach 2,600–2,900 m and which form part of the Congo–Nile watershed. As a result, Nyungwe is composed of two areas differing in pedology, vegetation, water-flow and biodiversity. The soils in the western section are schists and support dense forest between 1,700–2,000 m. The eastern part, on granitic soils, lies higher (2,200–2,500 m) and the vegetation here is, characteristically, secondary forest with many clearings. Over 250 tree species have been recorded. The forest is dominated by Chrysophyllum, Entandophragma and Newtonia at lower altitudes. Syzygium guineense, Carapa grandiflora, Parinari excelsa, Strombosia, Symphonia, Beilschmiedia and Ocotea usambarensis are found in mature forest. Macaranga, Maesa and Harungana and Neoboutonia occur in secondary areas, while Hagenia is found along roads and around the eastern depression. On the summits and rocky soils the forest is dominated by Philippia benguellensis and Erica kingaensis. Extensive stands of bamboo Arundinaria alpina occur in the south-east. Numerous montane bogs occur, of which the largest, in Kamiranzovu Crater in the west, is c.900 ha. Average annual rainfall is in the range 1,500–2,500 mm; amounts decline from west to east, with the south-west the wettest.

Key biodiversity
See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. A total of 275 species have been recorded in Nyungwe, reflecting the wide habitat diversity and altitudinal range. The presence or status of some species requires confirmation including, in particular, that of Phodilus prigoginei, Muscicapa lendu and Nectarinia rockefelleri, which are all globally threatened, restricted-range and biome-restricted. An additional six species of the Guinea–Congo Forests biome are known from Nyungwe from one or two records only and may no longer occur (Table 3). After the Itombwe mountains (CD013) in eastern DR Congo, Nyungwe is the probably most important forest for the conservation of montane birds in the region; it is certainly the most important in Rwanda.

Non-bird biodiversity: Although plant diversity is high, the level of endemism is low, with Pentadesma reindersii and a few herbaceous species and orchids currently only known from Nyungwe. Thirteen species of primate occur including Pan troglodytes (EN), Colobus angolensis ruwenzorii (VU), Cercopithecus l’hoesti (LR/nt), C. hamylni (LR/nt) and, although very rare here, C. mitis kandti (EN). One species, Cercopithecus ascanius, is almost extinct locally due to the clearance of the lower-altitude forest; Nyungwe is the only site in Rwanda from which it was known. Nyungwe holds many Albertine Rift endemics, including seven of the 12 species of Soricidae, one species of bat, Rousettus lanosus, two species of squirrels, Funisciurus carruthersi (VU) and Heliosciurus ruwenzori, five of the 12 species of Muridae and the chameleon Chamaeleo johnstoni). An amphibian is endemic to Nyungwe, the caecilian Boulengerula fischeri. Two species of butterfly are endemic to Nyungwe (Bebearia dowsetti and Acraea turlini) while Papilio leucotaenia (VU), restricted to a small area of the Albertine Rift, occurs commonly in Nyungwe.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The forest was reduced in size, from 114,000 ha in 1958 to 97,100 ha in 1979, mainly at the expense of forest below 1,700 m. This led to the local extinction of some animal and plant species. No fewer than 40 bird species are confined to forest below 2,000 m. Several mammals, mainly ungulates, have been much reduced or exterminated by overhunting—Syncerus caffer is extinct, a few Loxodonta africana survived until 2000 when the last one was killed for its ivory, and duikers Cephalophus spp. are very rare. Large carnivores have declined dramatically, probably due to the loss of habitat and prey reduction. Nyungwe also suffers from exploitation for firewood, charcoal and timber for woodwork. Gold mining is a further problem; small alluvial gold lodes, worked by local people, require the cutting of forest along watercourses. Poaching often accompanies the gold mining. A conservation plan for Nyungwe has been drawn up (Stebler et al. 1984), which identified a number of different zones, including a core area (40%) for strict protection. This is in the process of being revised because Nyungwe is currently being considered for National Park status.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Nyungwe National Park. Downloaded from on 02/04/2020.