Stapleford Forest is south of the Honde valley, c.50 km north-east of Mutare, near the village of Penhalonga and forms part of the eastern border of Zimbabwe with Mozambique. It is under commercial forestry plantations controlled by the Forestry Commission of Zimbabwe, and falls within the Mutasa Rural District Council. The Mutasa Communal Land forms the northern and western borders of Stapleford. The highest point of 2,030 m (Mt Rupere) in the west of Stapleford forms a watershed, with the Odzani river flowing south-west and the Nyamahwarara river flowing north-east.The site includes the three areas of indigenous rainforest and Brachystegia woodland found within Stapleford. There is a fairly large patch of montane rainforest on the south-eastern slope of a steep-sided valley beneath Mt Rupere, next to the John Meikle Forest Research Station. It contains six different forest-types and many interesting species. The upper region consists of mainly Syzygium, with Podocarpus further down the slope and Craibia forest on boulder-scree. The area has not been checked from the ground so the exact size and site descriptions are not known. From vegetation maps, the forest and Brachystegia woodland appear to cover an area of c.1,400 ha.On the eastern border is a prominent mountain, Gurungwe, which peaks at 1,885 m and drops steeply to the Nyamahwarara valley at 700 m. This has a good example of mid-altitude forest with Maranthes and Khaya. Breonadia grows along stream banks.The top and eastern slopes of Mt Chinyamariro, to the south of Stapleford, have a well-developed Syzygium forest. Most of this forest belongs to Border Timbers, a commercial forest estate.
See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. The area of Nyamahwarara valley has been a well-known site for past avifaunal collections. Stapleford is the type-locality for six subspecies of bird endemic to Zimbabwe. Stapleford supports six globally threatened or restricted-range species. About eight pairs of Hirundo atrocaerulea are known to breed on nearby Mountain Home Estate, but it is not known how many birds breed on Stapleford. One pair of Grus carunculatus was sighted in an aerial survey in 1983. There is no known checklist of birds for this estate and records have been taken from the Atlas Records.
Non-bird biodiversity: Little is known of the occurrence of non-bird species and this is clearly an area for more fieldwork and research. There are numerous specimens of the cycad Encephalartos manikensis (Rare) at the forest-edge.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The Forestry Commission of Zimbabwe is entrusted with the protection of indigenous forests through the Forestry Act. Stapleford therefore has a fair level of protection. However, more insidious threats to the avifauna and general conservation of the area are: increased afforestation, cultivation and cattle-grazing; non-native trees invading montane grasslands and stream banks; and accelerated soil erosion following the felling of plantations.
BirdLife International (2019) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Stapleford Forest. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 22/07/2019.