Ugalla lies 40 km south of the Central Railway and 50 km north-east of Katavi National Park. The Walla river from the north-east and the Katumbiki river from the south-east join in the east central area of the reserve to form the Ugalla river which then flows westwards through the centre of the reserve. The area is mainly miombo woodland with Brachystegia spiciformis, B. longifolia and B. wangermeeana predominating. Julbernardia globiflora is also common, as are the commercially important Pterocarpus angolensis and Afzelia quanzensis. There are extensive grasslands associated with the flood-plain with stands of Afrormosia woodland among raised termite mounds. Average rainfall is 600–750 mm per annum and the river often dries to a series of pools, many of which are permanent. There is little permanent swamp.
See Box for key species. The area is rarely visited by ornithologists. Marupambala, on the north bank of the Msina river at Gombe, Ugalla, is the type-locality of Sarothrura lugens. This is still the only East African record for this Afrotropical migrant. A waterbird survey in January 1995 revealed a previously unknown population of Vanellus albiceps. The site is believed to be the most important in Tanzania for Grus carunculatus. Crex crex has been recorded during February and these records indicate that a wintering population may be present at the site. Three species of the Zambezian biome have been recorded (see Table 3) and more may be expected to occur.
Non-bird biodiversity: A significant population of Loxodonta africana (EN) is associated with the reserve. Both Hippotragus niger (LR/cd) and H. equinus (LR/cd) are seasonally common.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The site was first declared a Game Controlled Area in 1954, designated to protect dry-season concentrations of Hippotragus niger and other large ungulates. With the Game Controlled Areas immediately to the north-west, it is included as part of the Moyowosi complex as the first Ramsar Site in Tanzania (see TZ017). Ugalla is the only Game Reserve to allow licensed fishing and honey-gathering by local villagers. It is hoped that this participation will reduce poaching, uncontrolled fires and timber removal. Commercial fishing is becoming a problem, due to high fish prices in towns as far away as Dar es Salaam. There is a known link between fishing and illegal snaring of large birds. The spread of uncontrolled tobacco farming is the greatest threat to this reserve and the adjacent Game Controlled Areas and over-exploitation of timber is also a concern. Small-scale mining for gold along the Ugalla river downstream of the site is causing serious local pollution and fish-kills.
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Ugalla River Game Reserve. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 29/01/2023.