Chizarira National Park lies on, and south of, the Zambezi Rift Valley escarpment, about 80 km south-east of the small town of Binga, on the southern shore of Lake Kariba. The park is bounded in the north, west and east by Binga, Gokwe and Manjolo Communal Lands, and in the south by the Chirisa Safari Area. It falls within Binga District of Matabeleland North Province and forms part of the Sebungwe region. It is accessible by dirt roads from Binga, Gokwe and Lusulu.The dramatic Chizarira escarpment rises up 500 m from the Zambezi valley, peaking at 1,434 m on Tundazi mountain, and drops gradually down to the Busi river in the south of the park (800 m). The escarpment is deeply dissected by gorges through which flow the Mucheni, Luzilukulu (Rhuziruhuru) and Sengwa rivers. The gorges are up to 460 m deep and form a spectacular sight. Tourists are attracted to the scenery and high wilderness quality of the park.On the top of the escarpment the climate is cooler and wetter than the adjacent Zambezi valley. Rainfall is about 600 mm annually and temperatures can rise to 40°C in the hot dry season. During winter the temperature drops to below 0°C in the river valleys. Along the escarpment the north-facing scree slopes are sparsely vegetated. In contrast, the gentler south-facing slopes are covered withmiombo woodland of Brachystegia and Julbernardia. Fire and elephants help to keep the woodlands open. There are numerous grassy vleis, springs (e.g. Manzituba, Muchininga) and streams originating from the central watershed in the park. Other vegetation-types include mopane Colophospermum woodland, ‘sidaga’ grassland, Combretum/Commiphora thickets (‘jesse’), and riparian woodland/forest of Acacia/Trichilia (also containing elements of the Eastern Highlands vegetation).
See Box and Table 3 for key species. Chizarira provides a wide variety of habitats for birds, with nearly 400 species having been recorded. The escarpment cliffs and gorges provide nesting sites for Ciconia nigra, Falco peregrinus, Falco fasciinucha, Aquila verreauxii and numerous swifts.The area is well known for its large variety of raptors, particularly Hieraaetus ayresii and Spizaetus coronatus. The riverine forest and thickets in the gorges are a major breeding area for Apaloderma narina, Smithornis capensis and Guttera pucherani. Chizarira has the only nest record to date for Erythrocercus livingstonei and is a known regular breeding site for Pitta angolensis.There are regular sightings of Cercococcyx montanus. Species of interest in the vleis in the central part of the park are Rostratula benghalensis and Sarothrura rufa. Along the Busi river, the oxbow lakes and sandy riverbanks provide suitable nesting sites for a variety of swallows, martins and bee-eaters.
Non-bird biodiversity: Chizarira has a good variety of large mammals. It was previously well known for its healthy population of Diceros bicornis (CR), but these are now absent through the combined effects of poaching and recent translocations to other national parks.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Although Chizarira has a high level of protection through its National Park status, there is a continual poaching threat, particularly in the east and west of the park. The high elephant numbers have resulted in the degradation of large areas of miombo woodland, reducing the available habitat for the associated bird species. Extensive hot fires are often uncontrolled and contribute to the loss of woodland. The development of coal mines in the nearby Sengwa Coalfields will undoubtedly have an adverse effect on the park through increased poaching and disturbance.
BirdLife International (2021) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Chizarira National Park. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 14/04/2021.