The Nyika Vwaza (UK) Trust works to improve the conservation of both the fauna and flora od the Nyika National Park and the Vwaza March Wildlife Reserve through its programme of education in the communities surrounding the protected areas and its work in applied research to find solutions to significant threats to the ecology of these areas.
The Trust provides funding for these activities largely through the generosity of its supporters.
The six vegetation communities (Brachystegia woodland, pine plantation, montane grassland, dambo, water and evergreen forest) that comprise the park provide a rich variety of habitations for a wide range of fauna and flora.
For the purposes of the text below, "endemic" means the ecological state of being unique to the Nyika plateau and its immediately surrounding areas.
100 species, including 21 species of “game” animals, and the highest density of leopards in Malawi. Famous for its large herds of roan antelope and eland, nowadays much reduced and located primarily close to Chilinda due to extensive poaching.
Rare and endemic (prevalent in or peculiar to a particular locality) species: Nyika National Park is the only known Malawi locality of the Greater Dwarf Shrew Suncus lixus and the Lesser Dwarf Shrew Suncus varilla. Also a very rare bat Plerleirotes anchietae and two species of vlei rats that are endemic to montane areas from the Nyika to Ethiopia (Tanganyika vlei rat Otomys typus and Kemps vlei rat Otomys deni).
430 species have been recorded from the Nyika National Park of which around 60 are vagrants or very rare. The area is listed as an IBA (Important Bird Area).
Denham’s Bustard Neotis denhami are resident on the plateau grassland with occasional sightings of groups numbering 15-24. Also endemic are Red-winged Francolin Francolinus levaillantii crawshayi, first collected in 1895.
Three species of global conservation concern breed on the Nyika : (i) Blue Swallow Hirundo atrocaerulea – Nyika National Park supports 10% (300 pairs) of the total breeding population. Healthy montane grasslands critical for their survival. (ii) Churring Cisticola Cisticola njombe, also dependent upon healthy montane grasslands. (iii) Wattled Crane Grus carunculatus, about 12 breeding pairs in 1986, now thought to be only 3 breeding pairs.
Also of conservation concern are the Pallid Harrier Circus macrouris, the Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni, Great Snipe Gallinago media and the Greater Double-collared Sunbird Nectarinia afra.
For an annotated list and life history of the birds of the Nyika National Park, click here.
For an annotated checklist of Nyika birds, click here.
There are 47 species listed for the area of the Nyika National Park but there are probably more. Three species are endemic to the Nyika: Nyika Variable Skink Mabuya varia nyikae, Hilda’s Skink Mabuya hildae and Goetz’s Nyika Chameleon Chamaeleo goetzi nyikae.
Lake Kaulime and the three man-made dams, together with the four major rivers that rise on the plateau and supply the northern region before flowing to Lake Malawi, as well as numerous streams, provide habitats for 27 indigenous species of fish. Most are found in the lower reaches of the rivers, the most important being Lake Salmon Opsaridium microlepis (known locally as Mpasa) that spawn in the clean waters of the North Rukuru river. The only indigenous species on the plateau itself is the Mountain Catfish Amphilius platychir. Both Rainbow Trout Salmo gairdnerii and Brown Trout Salmo trutta were introduced but sadly the latter did not survive.
At least 15 types of frogs and toads favouring the damp and cool dambos of which two are endemic – the Black-Striped Sedge Frog Hyperolius quinquevittatus merdensi and the Nyika Dwarf Toad Bufo taitanus nyikae.
6a] Insects – Butterflies.
The Nyika supports 223 species of which around 120 are forest species. At least 13 species are endemic, including Charaxes dowsetti, Charaxes nyikensis, Papilio thuraui cyclopis, Mylothris crawshayi crawshayi, Axioceres karinae, Lepidochrysops chalceus and Lepidochrysops nyika.
For a list of the butterflies of the Nyika National Park click here.
6b] Insects – Other.
Little is known of these, although almost 1000 species have been collected and identified.
There is no present list but Dolph van Bruggen and Hazel Meredith are collaborating to produce a checklist.
The Nyika National Park is classified as a Centre of Plant Diversity. In March/April 2000 a SABONET expedition to the Nyika Plateau involving 20 botanists collected 3,343 plant specimens. A comprehensive account of the flora of the Nyika Plateau was published in the SABONET Report Series (see http://www.sabonet.org.za/reports/publications_report31.htm), which lists a total of 1927 species and subspecies, of which 33 are only found on the Nyika, and a further 13 species are only found there and on immediately adjacent mountains
For a plant checklist of the Nyika plateau, click here.
1] Brachysteigia woodlands.
Dominant in the southern foothills
2] Evergreen Forests
2a] Submontane (Ocotea-Ficalhoa) forest.
Confined to the eastern escarpment where it occurs as the largest of the forest remnants extending for 24 kms.
2b] Submontane (Entandrophragma) forests on the Zambia border.
Floristically more luxuriant.
2c] Montane (Juniperus) forest.
Juniperus procera does not occur on the highest, most exposed parts of the plateau. It is found at 7,000–7,500 ft in sheltered valleys, specifically the Uyaghaya valley towards the south-east edge of the plateau. The southern limit of this species. vulnerable to wild fires.
2d] Broad-leaved montane forest.
Found in patches in sheltered valleys. It is thought that these once covered the entire plateau. Vulnerable to wild fires started by lightning, poachers or accident. The southern limit of Hagenia abyssinica.
Pine Plantations. Almost 570 hectares of pines, primarily Pinus patula, and a few bluegums, planted between 1952–1958 at Chilinda. Now past their best, logging by a concessionaire is in progress. Himalayan Raspberry Rubus ellipticus has been introduced.
4] Montane Grassland.
Covers a third of the Park area and comprises hundreds of species of legumes, wildflowers and shrubs as well as over 90 species of short grass. A possible threat is the spread of Bracken Fern Pteridium aquilinum.
5] Wildflowers – Orchids.
The Nyika is renowned for its wildflowers, especially orchids, of which there are both terrestrial (grassland and dambos) and epiphytic (growing on trees). There are 205 species, seven of which are known only from the Nyika.