Selous Game Reserve

Year of compilation: 2001

Site description
To the south-east of the Eastern Arc mountain range the land slopes, relatively gently, towards the coast. The central area of this coastal zone includes the 50,000 km² Selous Game Reserve which is separated from the Udzungwa mountains (TZ011, TZ066) by the valley of the Kilombero river (TZ025) and the Mahenge massif. The Selous is predominately miombo woodland with considerable areas of grassland along drainage lines and large areas of open Terminalia woodland in the north. Within the northern and eastern areas are several medium-sized freshwater lakes and substantial seasonal swamps. The Rufiji river system flows from west to east through the reserve, draining the mountains of the Udzungwa escarpment and the Mahenge massif. The principal rivers flowing into the Rufiji include the Great Ruaha and the Kilombero from the west, the Luwegu, Luhombero and Mbarangandu from the south-west and the Lukuiro complex which drains the Kichi Hills to the east.

Key biodiversity
See Box and Table 3 for key species. There is no species list for this site. Ardeola idae is a widespread and common winter visitor. Circus macrourus and Falco naumanni have been recorded, while Crex crex (rare) and Acrocephalus griseldis (single record) may occur more frequently than is currently known. The endemic Ploceus burnieri is only known from the area where the Kilombero river forms the north-western boundary of the Selous, but its distribution may extend further into the reserve. A waterbird count in January 1995 included some of the northern lakes and a significant stretch of the Rufiji river, but coverage for the majority of the site is lacking. The Selous is expected to hold important numbers of species such as Gorsachius leuconotus, Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis, Scotopelia peli and Rynchops flavirostris and may contain seasonally important numbers of many other wetland species. The most northerly breeding site for Pitta angolensis in East Africa is in riverine forest on the south bank of the Rufiji/Kilombero river system. Drainage lines within the miombo woodland provide habitat for the localized Pyrenestes minor and Glareola nuchalis is known in eastern Tanzania only from Siguri Falls along the Luhombero river.

Non-bird biodiversity: The Selous holds more than 50,000 Loxodonta africana (EN). There are a few Diceros bicornis (CR), but the population have been decimated by commercial poaching. The site contains the largest concentration of Syncerus caffer (LR/cd) in Africa and an important population of Lycaon pictus (EN). Panthera leo (VU) also occur.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Protection of the Selous began in 1905 and, by 1912, most of the area covered by the present Game Reserve was already under some form of protection. The present boundaries were last altered in 1975, when a tract of land north of the railway was annexed to Mikumi National Park. The key issues centre around the use of water that flows through the Selous. The proposal to dam the Ruvu river at Steigler’s Gorge, to provide water for Dar es Salaam, is controversial—the environmental impacts are unknown. Human densities around the borders of the Selous are still low; the land for the most part is of marginal for agricultural purposes. As timber resources outside the reserve dwindle there will be pressure to exploit commercially stands of African blackwood (mpingo) Dalbergia melanoxylon and Pterocarpus angolensis. A proposed cattle road through the reserve from Mahenge to Liwale would, if allowed, have damaging consequences.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Selous Game Reserve. Downloaded from on 08/12/2022.