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Location Zimbabwe, Mashonaland West Province
Central coordinates 30o 46.00' East  17o 52.00' South
IBA criteria A3, A4i, A4iii
Area 6,180 ha
Altitude 1,370 - 1,515m
Year of IBA assessment 2001

BirdLife Zimbabwe

Site description Situated 30 km west of Harare, in the middle of the Mashonaland plateau, nearly half of this park comprises Lake Chivero (26.3 km² when full; formerly Lake McIlwaine), a water reservoir for the capital which was created by damming the Manyame river. The lake is 9.5 m deep on average and has a triangular shape, with the river entering at the south-east end and leaving at the north-west.

The park has a very attractive appearance, being a mixture of lake, natural woodland, grassland, and some granite kopje outcrops. These culminate in Bushman’s Point at the eastern end. There are many islands in the lake. Several of the kopjes have San (Bushman) paintings on their sheltered surfaces. The topography, however, is basically flat or slightly undulating, except at the north-western side where the Hunyani Hills rise.

The vegetation is almost entirely miombo woodland. The original woodland, particularly on the north bank, was cleared for tobacco farming in the past, but has been regenerating for the past 50 years. Interspersed among the woodlands are many large wooded anthills and areas of grassland. The lake-margins have many patches of reed Phragmites. The waters of the lake have been invaded by several weeds, including the non-native Eichhornia, and also Pistia, Myriophyllum, Lagarosiphon, Azolla and blue-green algae. At times the water seems to be a ‘soup’.

The park is given over mainly to water-sports and activities, in particular motorboats, yachts, skiing, canoeing and fishing. Many sites on the banks are clubs that service these activities. There is a research centre and bird sanctuary on the north bank, and a game park with many introduced game species on the opposite south bank. Both north and south banks have tourist chalets and lodges. Many day-trippers are subsistence fishers, who buy a cheap daily permit. There are 26 species of fish in the lake, including five exotics. Much of the water is drawn off from the lake for the city, and there are tributaries (Marimba, Mukuvisi and Nyatsime) flowing into the Manyame river or the dam itself which have major sewage works on them. Also, the Mukuvisi flows right through the industrial sites of Harare.

Key Biodiversity See Box and Table 3 for key species. No threatened or restricted-range species depend on the park for survival, although Egretta vinaceigula, Falco naumanni and Grus carunculatus do occur very rarely, and Phoenicopterus minor and Circus macrourus may occasionally be seen. There are also c.75 of the nationally vulnerable Struthio camelus. Buphagus erythrorhynchus was successfully translocated to the park in 1991.

The park is on the tourist route for the miombo (Zambezian-biome) specials. Apart from the 11 species in the park that are globally restricted to this biome, another 12 species occur that are restricted to miombo in Zimbabwe at least: Pseudhirundo griseopyga, Coracina pectoralis, Salpornis spilonotus, Hyliota australis, Chloropeta natalensis, Sylvietta whytii (rare), Cisticola brunnescens cinnamomea, Anthus similis, Lamprotornis chloropterus, Nectarinia cuprea, Anthreptes longuemarei and Euplectes macrourus.

Lake Chivero hosts many waterbirds, and c.100 species are on the checklist. At times, thousands occur, as in July 1995, when 15,467 of 52 species were counted, including 2,991 Phalacrocorax africanus, 138 Platalea alba, 3,430 Anas erythrorhyncha, 830 Netta erythrophthalma, 614 Himantopus himantopus and 1,085 Charadrius pecuarius. In the austral winter, many ducks loaf on the dam during their flightless moult. Immediately downstream of Lake Chivero is the larger but shallower Lake Manyame (formerly Robertson) in another recreational park; Manyame usually supports more waterbirds than does Chivero, and in October 1987, for example, 27,077 individuals of 71 species were counted on the two dams, respectively 20,554 and 6,523.

More bird species have been recorded in the park than at any other locality in the country—c.450 species, or two-thirds of Zimbabwe’s avifauna. This is partly because birdwatching has been done there on a regular basis since 1952, and because of its proximity to Harare so that the bird club visits every month. In addition, part of the Ornithological Research Unit of the Parks and Wild Life Conservation Fund has been based at the research centre since 1973.

Non-bird biodiversity: Among mammals, several Ceratotherium simum (LR/cd) occur in the park, and confiscated Manis temminckii (LR/nt), a Specially Protected Species, are usually released into the game park. There is also a wildlife conservancy on the south side which, among other species, supports Alcelaphus lichtensteinii (LR/cd).

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Southern Pochard Netta erythrophthalma winter  830 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Kittlitz's Plover Charadrius pecuarius winter  1,085 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Racquet-tailed Roller Coracias spatulatus resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Miombo Tit Parus griseiventris resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Miombo Wren-warbler Camaroptera undosa resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Kurrichane Thrush Turdus libonyanus resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
White-throated Robin-chat Cossypha humeralis resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Boulder Chat Pinarornis plumosus resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Miombo Rock-thrush Monticola angolensis 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 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds unknown  20,000 individuals  unknown  A4iii   
Whyte's Barbet Stactolaema whytii resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 

IBA Monitoring

2015 very high not assessed low
Good - based on reliable and complete / representative data

Agriculture and aquaculture annual & perennial non-timber crops - small-holder farming happening now some of area/population (10-49%) moderate to rapid deterioration high
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
Biological resource use fishing & harvesting aquatic resources - intentional use: lg scale happening now whole area/population (>90%) moderate to rapid deterioration very high
Climate change and severe weather habitat shifting and alteration happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Energy production and mining mining and quarrying happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) very rapid to severe deterioration low
Residential and commercial development housing and urban areas happening now some of area/population (10-49%) very rapid to severe deterioration high

Wetlands (inland) Freshwater lakes and pools  0 0 moderate (70-90%) very poor (< 40%) very unfavourable

Whole area of site (>90%) covered by appropriate conservation designation  No management planning has taken place  Substantive conservation measures are being implemented but these are not comprehensive and are limited by resources and capacity  low 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Robert McIlwaine Recreation Park 6,180 is identical to site 6,180  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Shrubland   21%
Forest   78%
Wetlands (inland) Freshwater lakes and pools  major

Land use

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

References Couto and Couto (1999), Marshall (1994), Mhlanga and Madziva (1990), Thornton (1982), Tree (1988).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Robert McIlwaine Recreational Park. Downloaded from on 26/10/2016

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