Banti Forest (22.2 km²) is south of the Bvumba Highlands, across the Burma valley. It forms part of the international boundary with Mozambique and is bounded by commercial farms and resettlement farms. It is not easily accessible, but can be reached via dirt roads from Himalaya Police Station, about 30 km east from the Mutare–Chimanimani road. There are landmines along the border, the exact placement of which is not known. Banti Forest is administered by the Forestry Commission. There is no infrastructure and the area is used only for cattle-grazing by nearby farmers. There are about five peasant families resident in the south-west corner of the Forest Land.The mountains of Banti, Tsetsera and the Himalayas rise steeply from the Burma valley, peaking at 1,984 m and 2,211 m outside the forest, and give rise to rivers draining eastwards into Mozambique. There are several cliff-faces and an escarpment that run into Mozambique. The eastern slopes and highest points receive orographic rainfall, presumably similar in volume to that of the Bvumba. The vegetation consists of montane short grassland, with patches of montane forest on scree slopes and in high valleys. There are a few small patches of wetter forest, where Afrocrania is co-dominant with Ilex and Olea. The drier forest contains Podocarpus with Schefflera, Maesa and Ilex. Banti was originally designated as Forest Land because it has the best population of Podocarpus in Zimbabwe. Towards the west, the grassland gives way to well-developed Brachystegia woodland.
See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. Fifty-one species were collected here in 1962 and 1973. The area was also investigated in the 1970s. Since then there have been no extensive surveys, as the area was inhospitable during Zimbabwe’s Independence War, and until the recent peace accord in Mozambique. A brief field trip (two days) in March 1997 listed 48 species, but did not record Hirundo atrocaerulea, although the habitat appeared suitable.
Non-bird biodiversity: There is little information on other important montane species. The 1997 field trip identified 27 species of terrestrial and epiphytic orchid. There is an endemic butterfly, Mylothris carcassoni.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The area does not appear to be under immediate threat of logging or agriculture. The grasslands are used for cattle-grazing. If the number of peasant families residing on the Forest Land (presumably illegally) increases, then the area will be affected through clearing of land for cultivation, cutting of trees, increased soil erosion along cattle paths, etc. The presence of landmines along the border undoubtedly acts as a deterrent to development. The Mozambican forests are more extensive, and clearly any conservation programme should be run jointly in both countries.
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Banti Forest Reserve. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 05/07/2020.