Nyika National Park (Zambia)

Site description (2001 baseline):

Site location and context
This park lies along the Malawi border in the far north-east of the country. It adjoins the much larger Malawi an park of the same name (site MW002) and is best approached from that side. Together with the Mafinga and Makutu mountains, it forms the eastern highlands, which constitute the only truly montane area in Zambia. The undulating terrain is dominated by montane grassland, but there are scattered patches of montane forest, usually in depressions or along streams. The largest of these are Chowo (90 ha) and Manyanjere (75 ha). Along the western side of the park runs a precipitous escarpment which, in places, supports miombo. At higher levels, this woodland becomes somewhat stunted.

Key biodiversity
See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. Over 40 species are confined in Zambia to the eastern highlands, among them the globally threatened Hirundo atrocaerulea, which occurs as a breeding visitor and passage migrant, as well as eight species with globally restricted ranges (see Table 2). Within the eastern highlands, many of these 40+ species are restricted to Nyika alone, and most are characteristic of the Afrotropical Highlands biome. A number of other species not belonging to this biome assemblage are, nevertheless, restricted in Zambia to this small area, including Accipiter rufiventris, Cossypha caffra, Cisticola lais, Batis capensis, Nectarinia famosa and Serinus canicollis. Other characteristic birds of Nyika include Francolinus hildebrandti, F. levaillantii, Coturnix coturnix, Neotis denhami (occasional; breeds on the Malawian side), Columba arquatrix, C. larvata, Indicator meliphilus and Cisticola ayresii. Of the other species of global conservation concern, Circus macrourus is regular, Falco naumanni occurs in small numbers on passage, Grus carunculatus is an uncommon resident (breeding on the side), Crex crex is occasional, and Cisticola njombe is common. One species occurs that is restricted to the Zambezian biome, Monticola angolensis (see Table 3). The site is the only regular non-breeding area in Zambia for Sylvia atricapilla, and Ceratogymna brevis is an erratic visitor.

Non-bird biodiversity: A wide variety of mammals are known, including Rhynchocyon cirnei (VU), Otomys typus (LR/nt), O. denti (LR/nt) and Rhabdomys pumilio (DD). There are many butterflies unknown elsewhere in the country, including Axiocerces nyika, Iolaus helenae, Lepidochrysops handmani, L. chalceus and L. nyika, all of which are (on present evidence) endemic to the Nyika. Other species known from nowhere else in Zambia include Neptis nina, Cymothoe cottrelli, Charaxes nyikensis, Uranothauma williamsi and indeed much of the flora and fauna is of very limited distribution elsewhere in Zambia.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
There is some illegal hunting of the larger mammals and it would appear that fire-breaks around the forest patches are not being maintained properly. Within Zambia, the total area of mature montane forest is c.200 ha, so the many species restricted to this habitat are very vulnerable on a national scale. However, this is fortunately not the case in neighbouring countries, in which montane forest is more widespread.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2024) Important Bird Area factsheet: Nyika National Park (Zambia). Downloaded from on 22/02/2024.