This site comprises two separate Game Reserves joined to form a single unit for management purposes. Lying between Bunkwe Bay on Lake Victoria in the east and Kagera swamps (TZ024) to the west, this site is characterized by a series of north–south ridges, separated by drainage lines and rivers flowing north. In one of these drainage lines is Lake Burigi, 30 km long and 4 km wide. To the east the land slopes towards Lake Victoria where large stands of Acacia xanthophloea dominate on the poorer soils. On the higher ground the woodland is largely Brachystegia speciformis (rather stunted at its northern limits) and B. boehmii in the east, with Protea-Combretum on the drier ridges in the west. On the slopes there are considerable areas of open grassland and, in the steeper valleys and gullies, remnants of Guinea–Congo forest. There is relict sclerophyll forest on some hill-slopes suggestive of more extensive forest cover historically.
See Box and Table 3 for key species. The site is poorly known ornithologically. The only data available are from a 1995 waterbird count and occasional records from the woodland along the Biharamulo–Bukoba road which bisects the eastern part of the reserve. The varied habitat probably supports closer to 400 species than the 60 or so recorded so far. Balaeniceps rex is only known from four birds in 1995, but it is likely to be a regular visitor and possibly a breeding resident. Lybius rubrifacies is known from the periphery of the site and probably occurs in both reserves in reasonable numbers. Considerable areas of habitat suitable for Crex crex and Gallinago media, which are likely to occur on passage, exist. Five species of the Zambezian biome have been recorded (see Table 3)—some, such as Monticola angolensis and Myrmecocichla arnotti, reach their northern limits in this area.
Non-bird biodiversity: There is a healthy population of plains game including Ourebia ourebi (LR/cd), an antelope that is relatively rare in much of northern and eastern Tanzania. Panthera leo (VU) occurs while Loxodonta africana (EN) were numerous as recently as 1975, but have suffered from poaching. The Brachystegia woodland provides habitat for the most northerly population of Hippotragus niger (LR/cd).
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The site includes unprotected lakeside habitats. An increased area of Lake Burigi should be brought within the Game Reserve. This would help control use of the lakes, resources and protect lakeside swamps that may contain breeding Balaeniceps rex. Sustainability should be promoted in the use of the fisheries on Lake Burigi. Following the Rwandan civil war huge numbers of refugees threatened to overwhelm the Burigi Game Reserve; the main refugee camp was on the very edge of the reserve. Meat poaching reached alarming proportions and the threat to the woodlands reached the level of tree stumps being uprooted for fuel. Although the situation has improved considerably and most of the refugees have returned to Rwanda, the potential for further problems remains.
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Burigi - Biharamulo Game Reserves. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 05/02/2023.