Thyolo Mountain Forest Reserve

Country/territory: Malawi

IBA criteria met: A1, A2, A3 (2001)
For more information about IBA criteria, please click here

Area: 1,000 ha

Wildlife and Environmental Society of Malawi (WESM)
IBA conservation status
Year of assessment (most recent) State (condition) Pressure (threat) Response (action)
2013 not assessed very high low
For more information about IBA monitoring, please click here

Site description (2001 baseline)
Thyolo Mountain is the southern outlier of the Shire Highlands, which drop sharply to the Shire river plain (c.50 m a.s.l.) on the western side, from a peak at 1,462 m. Soche Mountain (MW017) is 25 km to the north, and the Mulanje massif (MW018) is 50 km to the east. Thyolo Mountain used to support a single block of mid-altitude rainforest c.6 km in length along the north–south aligned ridge. The Forest Reserve is bordered by Satemwa tea estate on the south-east (where the forest descends to 1,160 m) and heavily populated agricultural land on all other sides, where the edge of the forest is retreating gradually to 1,200–1,300 m. From 1955 to 1980, the total area of forest decreased from c.1,500 to 1,000 ha. Since 1995–1996, the remaining area has been seriously encroached upon for gardens. As with the lower parts of the Misuku Hills and Ntchisi, Thyolo is a fig-dominated forest (with mostly the large strangler Ficus sansibarica); Celtis gomphophylla, Chrysophyllum gorungosanum, Drypetes gerrardii and Macaranga capensis are other common canopy trees.

Key biodiversity
See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. About 81 species have been recorded on the mountain. The forest used to hold important numbers of Alethe choloensis (with densities of c.2 pairs/10 ha), and was the second most important site in the country after Mulanje. Oriolus chlorocephalus and Apalis chariessa were both common on the lower slopes below 1,300 m. A few pairs of Zoothera guttata also occurred. The local, isolated population of Stactolaema olivacea (a fig specialist) belongs to the race belcheri (confined to Thyolo and Namuli in adjacent Mozambique). Inexplicably, Thyolo is also the only locality in the country for Columba delegorguei and Coracina caesia. The montane species Apaloderma vittatum, Bradypterus lopezi, Serinus hypostictus, Ploceus bertrandi (and of course Alethe choloensis) all reach their southern limits of distribution here or on nearby Chiperone Mountain (site MZ010) in neighbouring Mozambique.

Non-bird biodiversity: None known to BirdLife International.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2024) Important Bird Area factsheet: Thyolo Mountain Forest Reserve. Downloaded from on 29/02/2024.