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Location Tanzania, Mbeya,Rukwa
Central coordinates 32o 52.00' East  8o 11.00' South
IBA criteria A1, A4i, A4iii
Area 600,000 ha
Altitude 800 m
Year of IBA assessment 2001

Site description The Rukwa trough is a blocked branch of the Western Rift Valley. It lies parallel to Lake Tanganyika and is connected to the rift in the north-west by the flood-plain of Katavi National Park (TZ002) and the Karema Gap. The valley lies at an elevation of 790 m and is enclosed on both sides by escarpments. To the south-west the land rises steeply to 2,664 m on the Ufipa plateau and to the north-east in a series of smaller scarps and rolling hills to 1,707 m at Mount Sange. The lake has no outlets. Water-levels fluctuate widely with a grassy plain often separating the valley into two lakes, both of which may dry out completely following several years of low rainfall. The lake level is presently higher than at any other time in living memory, having been steadily rising since the 1960s. There is usually an impressive wetland of papyrus Cyperus papyrus and reed Phragmites at the northern end of the lake where the Rungwa river and a number of smaller streams form a wide, shallow delta.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Spur-winged Goose Plectropterus gambensis winter  1955  abundant  A4i  Least Concern 
Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus winter  1955  abundant  A4i  Least Concern 
Great White Pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus winter  1955  40,000-60,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
White-winged Tern Chlidonias leucopterus winter  1995  11,906 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
African Skimmer Rynchops flavirostris winter  1995  1,500 individuals  A1, A4i  Near Threatened 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds winter  50,000-99,999 individuals  unknown  A4iii   

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Lukwati Game Controlled Area 200,000 protected area overlaps with site 100,000  
Mlela Game Controlled Area 30,000,000 protected area is adjacent to site 0  
Rukwa Game Controlled Area 40,000,000 protected area overlaps with site 200,000  
Uwanda Game Reserve 50,000,000 protected area overlaps with site 400,000  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Artificial - terrestrial   3%
Wetlands (inland)   75%
Shrubland   14%
Forest   6%

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture -
fisheries/aquaculture -
nature conservation and research -

Other biodiversity A number of large mammals occur, including Kobus vardoni (LR/cd). Loxodonta africana (EN) probably still occurs. There is an endemic fish Oreochromis rukwaensis.

References Albrecht (1964), Baker (1997), Beesley (1956), Britton (1980), Condry (1967), Dean (1963), Gunn (1954), Hughes and Hughes (1992), Rodgers (1978), Rodgers (1982), Vesey-FitzGerald (1954, 1957a, b, c), Vesey-FitzGerald and Beesley (1960).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Lake Rukwa. Downloaded from on 21/08/2014

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