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Location Zimbabwe, Matabeleland North Province
Central coordinates 26o 30.00' East  19o 0.00' South
IBA criteria A3
Area 1,460,000 ha
Altitude 950 - 1,100m
Year of IBA assessment 2001

BirdLife Zimbabwe

Site description Hwange National Park covers 14,600 km² and is one of the largest protected areas in Africa. It lies in the west of Zimbabwe, bordering Botswana, and extends from 25°45’E to 27°30’E and from 18°30’S to 19°45’S. Hwange is bounded by the Matetsi and Deka Safari Areas in the north, by Forestry Areas and private farms in the east, and by Tsholotsho Communal Land in the south. The park falls within Hwange District of Matabeleland North Province. It is the oldest national park in Zimbabwe, having been proclaimed in 1928. The park is readily accessed off the main Bulawayo–Victoria Falls road. There is an extensive network of tourist roads in the north and eastern parts, while the flatter, less appealing centre and west are a wilderness area with few roads.

Over much of the west and centre of the park, the topography is flat with gentle undulations. There are no surface perennial rivers, but there are numerous shallow calcrete pans. After heavy rains, some of these pans hold water naturally throughout the dry season, while others are augmented by water supplied from deep underground bore-holes. To the north and east, the topography is more broken with ridges and hills, rising to 1,000 m and more. The Deka, Sinamatella and Lukosi rivers drain north-east towards the Gwayi river; they shrink to a series of pools during the dry season. There are several man-made dams in the area, Mandavu Dam being the largest. The increase in artificially supplied water in the dry season has been one of the causes for the increase in herbivore populations, particularly elephant Loxodonta africana. The trees surrounding the pans are often damaged by elephants as the herds congregate during the late dry season.

The west and centre of the park are covered by a mosaic of dry deciduous Baikiaea woodland (the best-developed such woodland in Zimbabwe) with scrub of Terminalia and Burkea, and there is some Brachystegia woodland in the east, and perennial grassland along the fossil drainage lines (with Acacia woodland on the edges). In the north-east there is deciduous mopane woodland and mixed Combretum/Terminalia shrubland. There are several large vleis or marshes that are dominated by grassland and drain into the rivers. The climate is hot (33°C in October) and dry, with an average of 620 mm of rain annually. There is a decrease in rainfall from east to west. Frosts of ­5°C and lower are frequent during June and July. ‘Black’ frosts (below ­7°C) occur every few years and can have a devastating effect on the vegetation.

Key Biodiversity See Box and Table 3 for key species. The dams and the pans form a vital network of aquatic ecosystems for migrant and resident birds. A total of 410 species have been recorded, of which 41 are vagrants. Nationally, Hwange is considered to be of conservation importance for 24 species, including Ciconia episcopus, Oxyura maccoa, Gallinula angulata and Chlidonias hybridus. Hwange contains possibly the largest protected populations of Tockus bradfieldi and Buphagus africanus in the southern African subregion. Other nationally uncommon or threatened species that breed in the park are Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis, Ardeotis kori and Bucorvus cafer. Gyps coprotheres, Gallinago media, Circus macrourus and Glareola nordmanni are occasional visitors. The park is also an important refuge for seven raptor species: Trigonoceps occipitalis, Necrosyrtes monachus, Torgos tracheliotus, Terathopius ecaudatus, Aquila rapax, Polemaetus bellicosus and Hieraaetus spilogaster. Grus carunculatus is a very rare vagrant; a number live fairly close to, but outside, the park.

Non-bird biodiversity: Hwange National Park is well known for its wide variety of mammals (105 species), including Diceros bicornis (CR; numbers are slowly increasing in the Intensive Protection Zone within the park) and the only substantial population in Zimbabwe of Lycaon pictus (EN).

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Dickinson's Kestrel Falco dickinsoni resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Burchell's Sandgrouse Pterocles burchelli resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Racquet-tailed Roller Coracias spatulatus resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Bradfield's Hornbill Lophoceros bradfieldi resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Miombo Wren-warbler Camaroptera undosa resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Barred Wren-warbler Camaroptera fasciolata resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Meves's Glossy-starling Lamprotornis mevesii resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Kurrichane Thrush Turdus libonyanus resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Kalahari Scrub-robin Erythropygia paena resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
White-headed Black-chat Myrmecocichla arnoti resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Miombo Rock-thrush Monticola angolensis resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
White-breasted Sunbird Nectarinia talatala resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Miombo Double-collared Sunbird Nectarinia manoensis resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Broad-tailed Paradise-whydah Vidua obtusa resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Black-eared Seedeater Serinus mennelli resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 

IBA Monitoring

2011 medium near favourable medium
Good - based on reliable and complete / representative data

Agriculture and aquaculture livestock farming and ranching (includes forest grazing) - small-holder grazing, ranching or farming happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) slow but significant deterioration low
Invasive & other problematic species, genes & diseases problematic native species/diseases - named species happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) slow but significant deterioration low
Natural system modifications fire & fire suppression - increase in fire frequency/intensity happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) slow but significant deterioration low
Natural system modifications other ecosystem modifications happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Residential and commercial development tourism and recreation areas happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low

Forest Woodland - mixed  0 0 good (> 90%) moderate (70-90%) near favourable
Grassland Grassland - edaphic, dry  0 0 good (> 90%) moderate (70-90%) near favourable

Whole area of site (>90%) covered by appropriate conservation designation  A management plan exists but it is out of date or not comprehensive  Substantive conservation measures are being implemented but these are not comprehensive and are limited by resources and capacity  medium 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Hwange (Wankie) National Park 1,465,100 protected area contains site 1,460,000  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Artificial - terrestrial   10%
Shrubland   16%
Forest Woodland - mixed  72%
Grassland Grassland - edaphic, dry  -
Artificial - aquatic Other artificial wetlands  -
Wetlands (inland) Ephemeral pools and wetlands  -

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
forestry -
nature conservation and research -
tourism/recreation -
water management -

References Bond (1948), Bond (1953), Bond (1955), Broadley and Blake (1979), Childes and Walker (1987), Childes (1988), Hustler (1986), Davies (1996), Rogers (1993), Smithers and Wilson (1979).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Hwange National Park. Downloaded from on 27/10/2016

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