IBA criteria met: A1, A2, A3 (1998)
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Area: 500 ha
Site description (2001 baseline)
This area falls within the Ngorima Communal Land and lies along the international boundary with Mozambique, south of the Chimanimani National Park and the Tarka Forest Area, in the angle between the Haroni and Rusitu rivers. The Haroni and the Rusitu Botanical Reserves are administered by the Parks and Wild Life Conservation Fund.
The reserves were initially designated to protect one of the richest ecological complexes in Zimbabwe. The area has attracted ornithologists and naturalists since 1955. There were several expeditions in the 1960s, but the area remained largely inaccessible until a track was cut into the Rusitu/Vimba Forest in the early 1970s. The area was not visited during the independence war and there are landmines along the international boundary. Since the cessation of hostilities it has recently become a destination for birdwatching tourists.The Haroni river drains the western slopes of the Chimanimani mountains and flows south. It is a fast-flowing perennial river that is joined by the Chisengu and Mukurupini rivers before meeting the east-flowing Rusitu to become the Lucite in Mozambique. The topography is dramatic, with the rivers flowing through steep-sided valleys (up to 1,400 m) dropping to 312 m at the rivers’ junction on the border.The hot, wet climate is responsible for the 50m tall lowland forest, dominated by Newtonia with Maranthes and Xylopia. The forests can be considered as an extension of the low-altitude Mozambican coastal forests, with Congo forest affinities.Most of the small (20 ha) Haroni Botanical Reserve has been illegally cleared for banana cultivation and hardly any forest remains. The 150 ha Rusitu Reserve, 3 km upstream of the confluence of the Haroni and Rusitu rivers is a fragment of a much larger forest. The remaining forest is still relatively intact, but is under threat from land clearance for cultivation. Within the Chimanimani National Park is the Haroni–Mukurupini forest, the largest and best preserved lowland forest in Zimbabwe. Uphill into the Chimanimani mountains it borders on Brachystegia woodland.
See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. A total of 233 species has been recorded in the area, including Cercococcyx montanus, Ceuthmochares aereus, Ceratogymna brevis, Campethera cailliautii, Smithornis capensis, Bias musicus, Apalis melanocephala and Columba delegorguei. The avifauna includes a rich mixture of species from three biomes.
Non-bird biodiversity: The Mukurupini forest is the only known locality for several tree, fern and orchid species. Galago granti (DD) and Myonycteris relicta (VU) are rare mammals found in these lowland forests. Also special to the area are amphibians such as Hyperolius argus, Leptopelis flavomaculatus, L. concolor, Afrixalus fornasinii, Hyperolius tuberilinguis and Ptychadena chrysogaster.