Nyanga lowlands/Honde valley

Year of compilation: 2001

Site description
This site extends from the montane forests on the slopes of Nyangani mountain down to the lowland rainforests (below 1,000 m) in the Honde valley. It is contiguous with the eastern boundary of the Nyanga mountains (IBA ZW001) and has been split from that site on the basis of its warmer and more tropical environment, with consequently different vegetation and avifauna. The site is bounded in the east and south by the Holdenby Communal Land, part of Mutasa District and two large tea-estates. It is important to note that these two Nyanga IBAs (ZW001 and ZW002) encompass an extensive chain of rainforest spanning 1,000 m of elevation. Forest birds are thus protected in both their high-altitude summer habitat and their lower-altitude winter grounds.

The rainforests on the south and eastern slopes of Nyangani form the largest block of rainforest in Zimbabwe. The area immediately below Mutarazi Falls is one of the few examples of relatively pristine mid-altitude forest, dominated by Aningeria adolfi-friedericii—the only area where this tree species is found in Zimbabwe. The mid-altitude forests, characterized by Chrysophyllum and Croton, and low-altitude forest, dominated by Newtonia, Maranthes and Xylopia, extend along river courses into the two large commercial tea-estates: Aberfoyle and Eastern Highlands. The forests merge into Brachystegia woodland on the lower slopes. The past range of the forests has been severely reduced through clearing of land for tea plantations. The Communal Land is heavily settled and all of the forest cleared except for two very small patches: Pungwe Bridge Forest and Rumbise Hill Forest. The latter is dominated by Newtonia and Aidia.

Key biodiversity
See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. There are small patches of grassland at 1,600 m, interspersed among the forests, which contain Hirundo atrocaerulea. This species occurs regularly in the upper Kairezi river valley within the national park. Other species of interest in these forests are Smithornis capensis, Cercococcyx montanus, Cuculus poliocephalus, Bias musicus, Indicator meliphilus, Pitta angolensis, Apaloderma narina and Gypohierax angolensis. There is an unsubstantiated report of Telophorus zeylonus.

Non-bird biodiversity: There are two Specially Protected Plants that occur in this IBA: a cycad Encephalartos manikensis (Rare) and a staghorn fern Platycerium alcicorne. Rare species of orchid are known in the forests and are threatened by felling of the trees and by plant collectors.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Much of the rainforest is protected within the Nyanga National Park, but there are significant areas on privately owned land: Nyazengu Nature Reserve (c.750 ha) and Gleneagles Mountain Reserve (c.1,800 ha). The present owner of Nyazengu appears to have a commitment to conservation of the forests and they are well protected for the moment. The national park is also protected, although poaching of small ungulates occurs along the boundaries. Cycads are probably being poached from the park, as most outside the park have already been removed and sold, and staghorn ferns are also sold illegally. The court authorities show little concern for these valuable Specially Protected Plants and offenders are given inappropriately low fines, if convicted at all.

The forests on Eastern Highlands Tea Estate have a fairly high level of protection as they occur in sites that are not suitable for planting tea. On Aberfoyle Estate the forests are being cleared for new coffee plantations. Trees are also being removed from the remaining patches of forest for curios and carvings. There is little chance of these forests ever regaining much of their past range. In the Communal Land there is no hope for the long-term survival of the Pungwe Bridge and Rumbise Hill forests. Riparian forest along the Pungwe and other large rivers is now virtually non-existent through illegal clearing for stream-bank cultivation. Reforestation projects in the Communal Land are limited to non-native species such as Eucalyptus, Acacia and Pinus.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Nyanga lowlands/Honde valley. Downloaded from on 07/02/2023.