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The granite rocks, inselbergs (locally called ‘dwala’ or ‘whaleback’) and castle kopjes, with their intervening flat grassy plains and vleis, of the Matobo Hills (also known locally as the Matopos) lie 25 km south of Bulawayo. They stretch for 90 km from beyond Mangwe Pass (c.28°E) in the west to Umzingwane Dam (c.29°E) in the east, and for c.30 km from Fort Usher (20°24’S) in the north almost to the Mtshabezi Mission (20°42’S) in the south. The catchment areas of 10 rivers are found in the hills, from the Mangwe and Simukwe in the west to the Chabezi and Lumani in the east. These rivers all flow north–south, and have created the spectacular Lumani falls as well as, in some stretches, gorges. Due to the run-off from the rocks in the rainy season, some grasslands become marshy vleis and ‘sponges’, late into the dry season.
See Box and Table 3 for key species. No threatened or restricted-range species depend on the Matobo Hills, but Gyps coprotheres overfly the area and Crex crex have occasionally been seen in vleis. The national park and its immediate surrounds are world-famous among ornithologists for the raptor assemblage that uses them—59 species have been recorded so far (including owls), of which 32 are known to breed, with a 1978 estimate of 76 pairs per 100 km². The combined richness of species and density of individuals is possibly the highest in the world, and includes 75 pairs of Aquila verreauxii. Many of the raptors nest on rock-faces, as do c.20 pairs of Ciconia nigra. The hills support a considerable population of Pinarornis plumosus, and a few other characteristic species of the Zambezian biome such as Cossypha humeralis and Nectarinia manoensis. In 1975 Buphagus africanus was successfully introduced to the park, and now B. erythrorhynchus is naturally expanding its range there.
Non-bird biodiversity: The shrub Strychnos matopensis and the herb Barleria matopensis are found nowhere else in the country, and the tree Turraea fischeri ehlesii is endemic to the hills. The national park is an Intensive Protection Zone for both species of rhino, Diceros bicornis (CR) and Ceratotherium simum (LR/cd).
BirdLife International (2021) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Matobo Hills. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 15/04/2021.