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IUCN Management Category II (National Park)
Biogeographical Province 3.20.12 (Central African Highlands)
Geographical Location On Nyika Plateau in northern Malawi, about 480km by road north of Lilongwe and 35km west of Livingstonia. Extending along part of the Zambia border. 10°20'-11°00'S, 33°30'-34°00'E.
Date and History of Establishment 1 January 1966 under the Game Ordinance (also known as Malawi National Park). Part of the area was previously a non-hunting area. Extended from 93,000ha on 5 June 1978.
Area 313,400ha. About 10km from Vwaza Marsh Game Reserve. Borders some 20km of the Nyika National Park, Zambia (8,000ha).
Land Tenure Government
Physical Features The park lies on a roughly ovoid plateau, with a long north-east to south-west axis, which forms part of the western margin of the East African Rift Valley system. Structurally, the plateau comprises a large intrusion of granite forced into sediments of the Malinga series with several blocks of metamorphosed sediments and younger dolerite intrusions. The area is one of the most important water catchments in Malawi and contains the sources of four large rivers which drain into Lake Malawi, including the North Rukuru which enters the lake at Karonga. Soils are rather poor and tend to be acidic. Temperatures range from below 0°C in winter (June/July) to over 21°C in summer. Mean annual rainfall is 1140mm.
Climate No information
Vegetation Ninety percent of the plateau over 1,800m is covered by short open grassland dominated by Loudetia simplex, red oat grass Themeda triandra and Exotheca abyssinica. Relict evergreen forest covers an estimated 2-4% occurring mainly on valley heads, valley slopes and in hollows. Lower elevations are dominated by mixed Brachystegia woodland and some game migrates to these areas during the cold dry season. The Nyika is one of several highland areas in Central Africa which are remarkable for the high level of local plant speciation. Fifteen endemic species have been reported in the area, but this is thought to be an underestimate. A genus of orchid Cardiochilos is thought to be endemic to the plateau. Several species which occur here are at the extreme south of their range, including Hagenia abyssinica.
Fauna Mammals in the park include: leopard Panthera pardus (T), lion P. leo, spotted hyena Crocuta crocuta, side-striped jackal Canis adustus, samango monkey Cercopithecus albogularis, vervet monkey C. aethiops, zebra Equus burchelli, warthog Phacochoerus aethiopicus, reedbuck Redunca arundinum, bushbuck Tragelaphus scriptus, greater kudu T. strepsiceros, eland Taurotragus oryx, common duiker Sylvicapra grimmia, roan antelope Hippotragus equinus, red duiker Cephalophus natalensis harveyi, Lichtenstein's hartebeest Alcelaphus lichtensteini, klipspringer Oreotragus oreotragus, and puku Kobus vardoni (only vagrants). Fewer than 50 elephants Loxodonta africana (T) have been recorded in the park and numbers are decreasing. Birds include red-winged francolin Francolinus levaillantii, wattled crane Bugeranus carunculatus (of special concern), Denham's bustard Neotis cafra jacksoni and seven species rare in Malawi, including churring cisticola Cisticola njombe, mountain yellow warbler Chloropeta similis and mountain marsh wydah Euplectes hartlaubi psammocromius. More details of the birds are given in Dowsett-Lemaire (1983). The upper South Rukuru contains several fish Barbus and Clarias spp., which do not occur elsewhere in Lake Malawi rivers. There are also several sub-species of reptiles, amphibians and butterflies endemic to the area.
Cultural Heritage No information
Local Human Population No information
Visitors and Visitor Facilities No information
Scientific Research and Facilities There is a permanent wildlife research officer and a general monitoring programme.
An office with minimal equipment, reference books and specimens was reported in 1977, but no recent information is available. A research laboratory was planned at Chilinda.
Conservation Value No information
Conservation Management Total
Zoning is proposed in the 1975/1976 Master Plan according to the five land-use classes developed by the Canadian National Parks Service: Class I Special Areas; II Natural Environment Areas; III Lower Category Natural Environment Areas; IV General Outdoor Recreation Area; and V Intensive Use Areas. Not yet implemented.
There is a management plan, but staff and resources are below that required. The park was extended and more effectively patrolled to enable the Malawian Government to execute control over the large network of waterways, inhibit erosion, and reduce poaching. Burning is used as a management tool.
Management Constraints The greatest threat is wildfire originating in and outside the park. Protection of the remaining forest patches from these annual burns is a critical problem. There is poaching, especially in the dry season. Four major streams (Chilinda, Rumphi, Runyina and North Rukuru) and three dams near Chelinda have been stocked with rainbow trout and fishing is permitted under licence from 1 September to 30 April.
Staff 1984 - 38 full time and 48 temporary workers
Budget 1983/1984 - US$42,512
Senior Parks and Wildlife Officer, Nyika National Park, Private Bag 6, Rumphi.
Chapman, J.D. and White, F. (1970). The evergreen forests of Malawi. Commonwealth Forestry Institute, Oxford.
Clarke, J.E. (1983). Protected areas master plan for the Northern Region. Department of National Parks and Wildlife, Lilongwe.
Dowsett-Lemaire, F. (1983). Ecological and territorial requirements of montane forest birds on the Nyika Plateau, south-central Africa. Gerfaut 73: 345-378.
Lemon, Paul C. (1964). Natural Communities of Malawi National Park (Nyika Plateau). Government Printer, Zomba., Malawi. 70 pp.
Lemon, Paul C. (1964). The Nyika Wildlife. Nyasaland Journal 17 (July): 19-41.
Mill, T.A. (1979). Resource inventory and management plan for Nyika National Park, Malawi. M.Sc. Thesis, University of Calgary.
Tweddle, D. (1981). The fishes of the Malawi northern region Game Reserves. Nyala 7(2): 99-108.
Wye College (1973). Final Report on area north of Nyika Plateau. Wye College, Malawi Project 1972, London University. 151 pp.
Date April 1985
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Revision date: 11-December-2000 | Current date: 14-December-2000