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Location Malawi, Southern
Central coordinates 35o 2.00' East  16o 4.00' South
IBA criteria A1, A2, A3
Area 1,000 ha
Altitude 1,160 - 1,462m
Year of IBA assessment 2001

Wildlife and Environmental Society of Malawi (WESM) (Affiliate)

Site description 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.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Scarce Swift Schoutedenapus myoptilus resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Bar-tailed Trogon Apaloderma vittatum resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Grey Cuckooshrike Coracina caesia resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Green-headed Oriole Oriolus chlorocephalus resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
White-tailed Crested-flycatcher Elminia albonotata resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
White-winged Apalis Apalis chariessa resident  1999  present  A1, A2, A3  Vulnerable 
Stripe-cheeked Greenbul Andropadus milanjensis resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Yellow-throated Woodland-warbler Phylloscopus ruficapilla resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Thyolo Alethe Alethe choloensis resident  1999  present  A1, A2, A3  Endangered 
Orange Ground-thrush Zoothera gurneyi resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Spotted Ground-thrush Zoothera guttata resident  1999  present  A1  Endangered 
White-starred Robin Pogonocichla stellata resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Bertrand's Weaver Ploceus bertrandi resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Red-faced Crimson-wing Cryptospiza reichenovii resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Swee Waxbill Estrilda melanotis resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Grey-faced Citril Serinus hypostictus resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 

IBA Monitoring

2013 very high not assessed low

Human intrusions and disturbance work and other activities happening now whole area/population (>90%) very rapid to severe deterioration very high

Whole area of site (>90%) covered by appropriate conservation designation  No management planning has taken place  Very little or no conservation action taking place  low 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Thyolo Forest Reserve 1,321 protected area contains site 1,000  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Forest   100%

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture -
forestry -
water management -
other -
Notes: Firewood collection.

References Benson and Benson (1977), Dowsett-Lemaire (1989a, b), Dowsett-Lemaire and Dowsett (1988), Johnston-Stewart (1982).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Thyolo Mountain Forest Reserve. Downloaded from on 28/11/2014

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