Save - Runde junction

Year of compilation: 2001

Site description
Draining a huge part of eastern and south-eastern Zimbabwe are two important rivers, the Save (formerly Sabi) on the east, rising on Charter Estate about 70 km due south of Harare, and the Runde (previously Lundi) in the south, rising at Gweru. Eventually, these two rivers meet in south-east Zimbabwe, to continue through Mozambique as the Rio Save. By the time the two rivers join, each is about 1 km wide, consisting of sandy riverbeds between terraces of riparian woodland. The Save river, in particular, is heavily silt-laden from its journey through the Communal Lands of the Buhera District. The junction is the lowest point in the country, lying at c.180 m.

Between the two rivers, and close to their junction, is the Tamboharta Pan which, in wet years, can flood to a diameter of 2 km or more. Tamboharta Pan is fringed by Acacia trees. South of the Runde and 8 km west of the junction is Machiniwa Pan, which is not a permanently marshy area like Tamboharta, and is fringed by baobabs Adansonia. The rivers flow between terraces (two on each bank) which support a narrow belt of riparian woodland, comprising species such as Trichilia, Diospyros, Kigelia and a lower storey of Combretum and Acacia. The junction is set in woodland and scrub of mopane Colophospermum. Close to the rivers are large numbers of Ilala palms Hyphaene, many of which show the impact of elephants. The Save river holds a long island (5 km by 1.5 km), which is longitudinally divided into national park to the west and communal land to the east.

Key biodiversity
See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. Serinus citrinipectus occurs in the Ilala palm veld and it is suspected that Anthreptes reichenowi is also regularly present. Falco fasciinucha has been claimed from the area, but the nearest known breeding site is at Mount Rudd, 150 km due north, so these records need confirmation. Other species of global conservation concern that occasionally pass through this site are Gyps coprotheres, Falco naumanni, Crex crex and Circaetus fasciolatus.

To date, the Mahenya Safari Lodge (at the rivers’ junction) has at least 357 species on its checklist for the area. The junction area has affinities with the East African Coast biome. For example, Poicephalus cryptoxanthus, Vanellus lugubris, Telophorus quadricolor and Ploceus xanthopterus occur here. In addition, Tauraco livingstonii, Pyrenestes minor, and possibly even Cercococcyx montanus and Lamprotornis corruscus, may occur.

Non-bird biodiversity: None known to BirdLife International.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The Runde river and west bank of the Save river are in the Gonarezhou National Park, and the east bank of the Save is in the Ndowoyo Communal Land of the Chipinge District, under the control of Chief Mahenya. The Communal Land is also devoted to sustainable utilization of wildlife under the CAMPFIRE scheme and has hunting quotas for Loxodonta africana, Syncerus caffer and Panthera leo. The junction is well protected on one side under the Parks and Wild Life Act, and by the wildlife-conservation attitude in the Communal Land on the other. There is a safari lodge on the island devoted to non-consumptive tourism.

The major issues are the silt load in the Save river and the high elephant density in the national park. Poaching occurs—Diceros bicornis was eliminated and there has been heavy poaching of elephant in the past. The international border with Mozambique is fenced and has a minefield along it.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Save - Runde junction. Downloaded from on 16/01/2021.