Nyanga mountains

Country/territory: Zimbabwe

IBA criteria met: A1, A2, A3 (1998)
For more information about IBA criteria, please click here

Area: 29,000 ha

BirdLife Zimbabwe
IBA conservation status
Year of assessment (most recent) State (condition) Pressure (threat) Response (action)
2011 unfavourable high medium
For more information about IBA monitoring, please click here

Site description (2001 baseline)
The Nyanga mountains form the northernmost extent of the Eastern Highlands in Zimbabwe. They lie about 70 km north-east of Mutare in two rural Districts, Nyanga and Mutasa. The mountains are a popular tourist destination, attracting large numbers of visitors. Nyanga National Park (440 km²) forms the core of this site and also part of an adjacent, contiguous IBA, Nyanga lowlands/Honde valley (IBA ZW002). The park is surrounded by privately owned commercial farms, forestry plantations, tea estates and communal lands.

The Nyangani massif peaks at 2,592 m. The topography is very diverse, with a rolling hilly plateau in the west and north giving rise to several large rivers: the Kairezi, Nyangombe and Pungwe. The plateau is deeply bisected by the gorges of the Pungwe and Nyazengu rivers in the south. There are numerous high waterfalls, with the Mutarazi waterfall being one of the highest in Africa, dropping 380 m. The eastern slopes of the mountains, particularly Nyangani mountain, form a steep-sided escarpment, dropping down to 900 m into the Honde valley. The west side has an escarpment that drops from Rukotso (2,405 m) and World’s View to the Nyanga North Communal Land (1,400 m).

The eastern slopes are often covered in mist. Above 1,800 m the temperatures are cool and relatively temperate. Frost (­4°C) is common in winter. The mountains have extensive Afromontane vegetation at high altitude (1,800–2,400 m), comprising fine-leaved dwarf shrubland with a large variety of herbaceous plants, including some Afro-alpine species. Afromontane rainforests are found on the eastern (windward) slopes (the IBA is defined as extending down to the 1,650 m contour, the boundary of the montane forest) and in kloofs on the leeward slopes. Syzygium is dominant in this undisturbed forest. Afrocrania montane forest occurs on wet boulder-screes and in high valleys. These forests have affinities with those further north in Malawi and East Africa. There are small patches of drier Widdringtonia coniferous forest in fire-protected sites. In the drier, flatter west, the grasslands are interspersed with dwarf Brachystegia woodland. Acacia woodlands occur in isolated patches at the base of granite kopjes. There are also extensive plantations and forests of non-native Acacia and Pinus throughout the area. Fire is an important ecological factor, particularly in the grassland environment.

Key biodiversity
See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. Because of its accessibility and popularity with tourists, the Nyanga avifauna is relatively well known and includes 246 species. With respect to the species of global conservation concern, Nyanga’s grasslands are an important breeding ground for Hirundo atrocaerulea. An unpublished field survey in Nyanga National Park estimated the population to be at least 400 birds. Since there are areas of suitable habitat outside the park, the total population could be at least 600 birds. Grus carunculatus (four pairs) breed in the national park and adjacent farms. Circus macrourus is an occasional visitor, and Falco fasciinucha, although seen rarely, may breed in the area. Nyanga is a breeding area for two restricted-range species, Apalis chirindensis and Prinia robertsi.

Non-bird biodiversity: The extensive grasslands contain many herbs and shrubs with restricted/localized distributions. There are five or six endemic plants and a further six species with very localized distributions: Aloe inyangensis, Moraea inyangani, Erica simii, Scadoxus pole-evansii, Aloe rhodesiana, Dierama inyangensis, Euphorbia citrina, E. crebifolia and Protea inyangensis. The unusual grassland species are linked to the northernmost limits of the Drakensberg flora. There are several endemic or restricted-range species of amphibian: Bufo gariepensis inyangae, Probreviceps rhodesianus, Arthroleptis xenodactyliodes, Leptopelis flavomaculatus, Afrixalus fornasinii and Hyperolius tuberilinguis. The snake Bitis atropos occurs in the montane grasslands.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2024) Important Bird Area factsheet: Nyanga mountains. Downloaded from on 21/02/2024.