Lengwe lies on the western side of the low-lying Shire plain, along the border with Mozambique. The terrain rises gently from the alluvial plain at 100 m to low hills in the west. There are six main vegetation-types: dry deciduous forest (Pterocarpus antunesii, Newtonia hildebrandtii) and dry deciduous thicket (with Pterocarpus as the main emergent), characteristic of the alluvial plain; riverine semi-evergreen thickets with various dominants (Lecaniodiscus fraxinifolius, Sterculia appendiculata, or Cola mossambicensis) along seasonal watercourses; thicket-clump savanna on termite mounds (Cleistochlamyx kirkii); undifferentiated woodland (Acacia nigrescens, Albizia harveyi, Dalbergia melanoxylon) and other woodland communities in the Lupata uplands in the south-west, including Combretum/Diospyros and a small area of mopane (Colophospermum mopane) woodland; finally there are some seasonally flooded grassy dambos and pans in the lowest-lying sections of the park. The park is bordered to the east by large sugar-cane estates.
See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. Some 330 species of birds are known from Lengwe. There are several records of Ardeola idae between July and November. Of the East African Coast biome species, Telophorus quadricolor became extinct in the 1980s as the thickets were opened up and the area suffered a series of dry years. Similarly, the thicket habitat appears very marginal for Batis fratrum (probably also extinct) and the dense thorn thickets favoured by Apalis ruddi are not well represented in the park. The Apalis belongs to an endemic race (caniviridis) and it is strongly suspected that the main population originated from an area of denser thicket (to the east of Lengwe) that was completely destroyed in the 1970s with the expansion of sugar-cane plantations. Other species with restricted distribution in the country include Guttera pucherani, Neafrapus boehmi and Tockus leucomelas. Bias musicus is no longer recorded outside Lengwe, but is rare or of irregular occurrence there. Although Merops boehmi is recorded elsewhere in southern Malawi, the main population centres of this bee-eater are to be found in Lengwe and Liwonde National Park (site MW014). In Malawi Pterocles bicinctus is confined to Mwabvi Wildlife Reserve to the south of Lengwe, but it is possible that the species occurs in the little-explored sandstone woodland in the western section of the park.
Non-bird biodiversity: Mammals: the site is noted for its large population of Tragelaphus angasi (LR/cd) which today reaches its northern limit of distribution in Lengwe. It is also the only National Park in Malawi in which Neotragus moschatus (LR/cd) occurs.
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Lengwe National Park. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 22/09/2020.