Mozambique ecology & wildlife
Mozambique has a great variety of ecosystems, from mangrove forests and wetlands to mountain habitats in the Gorongosa Massif and the Chimanimani Mountains.
It has four national parks; Gorongosa, Zinave, and Banhine on the mainland, and Bazaruto off-shore.
In addition to the national parks there are five wildlife reserves; Niassa, Marromeu, Pomeme, Maputo and Gilé. Only two of these reserves (Niassa Reserve and Maputo Elephant Reserve) are open to tourists.
Mozambique hosts a huge variety of plant species, with over 5,600 species recorded in the country. Approximately 250 of these species are endemic.
Botanically important areas include the Chimanimani Mountains, the Gorongosa Massif, Mt. Namuli and the Maputaland Centre of Plant Diversity. The Maputaland Centre is located on the border with South Africa, and is considered a site of global botanical significance, due to its coastal forests with over 2,500 vascular plant species.
The most extensive vegetation type, covering large areas of the centre and north of the country, is Miombo woodland. Another notable species is the ancient baobab tree, which can be found in the Tete, Cabo Delgado and Inhambe provinces.
Many of the large mammal populations, such as elephants, buffalos, wildebeest and zebras, were decimated during the war. In certain areas of Mozambique many species are gradually recovering, although numbers remain only a shadow of what they once were. Endemic species include the blue Niassa wildebeest and a sub-species of the Burchell’s zebra.
Due to the varying habitats found in Mozambique, there is an abundance of birdlife, with over 600 species recorded.
Many rare and endangered birds have been recorded including the dappled mountain robin, Swynnerton’s forest robin, the green-headed oriole, east coast akalat, wattled crane, cape vulture and the olive-headed weaver.
Areas that offer the best opportunities for bird-watching are the Bazaruto Archipelago, Gorongosa National Park, Mt. Namuli, the Chimanimani Mountains, and the wetland areas of Banhine National Park.
There are 170 documented species of reptile and 40 documented species of amphibian. The most notable area is the Chimanimani Mountains with 60 reptile species, including 34 species of snake and the endemic flat rock lizard.
Mozambique’s coast, with the abundance of coral reefs, is home to a large number of tropical fish and other marine life. Notable marine species include spinner, humpback, striped and bottlenose dolphins, and the humpback whale.
The coast is an important breeding ground for five species of turtle; loggerhead, leatherback, green, olive Ridley, and hawksbill. The waters surrounding the Bazaruto and Quirimbas archipelagos are home to the largest remaining populations in the Indian Ocean of the endangered dugongs, or sea cow.
Lake Niassa, Africa’s third largest lake, is home to an exceptional diversity of fish, with over 500 species identified. It is known to contain over a third of the world’s population of cichlid, a freshwater fish.