|Location||South Africa, Mpumalanga,Northern Province|
|Central coordinates||30o 50.00' East 24o 40.00' South|
|IBA criteria||A1, A2, A3, A4ii|
|Altitude||1,100 - 1,832m|
|Year of IBA assessment||2001|
Ornithological information See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. This is the only site in South Africa that supports breeding Falco fasciinucha. At least one pair inhabits the gorges and there is potential habitat for several more birds. The cliffs at Manoutsa hold over 660 pairs of Gyps coprotheres, making it the world’s fourth-largest colony. The gorges also hold breeding Ciconia nigra, Falco peregrinus and Bubo capensis. The surrounding grassland supports Turnix hottentotta, Sarothrura affinis, Saxicola bifasciata, Neotis denhami, Grus paradisea, Bucorvus cafer, Tyto capensis and Geronticus calvus, which breed within the reserve along the cliff gorges. The proteoid hillslopes hold Promerops gurneyi. The forest and forest edge support Stephanoaetus coronatus, Buteo oreophilus, Lioptilus nigricapillus, Tauraco corythaix, Bradypterus barratti, Telophorus olivaceus, Cossypha dichroa, Cercotrichas signata, Estrilda melanotis and Serinus scotops.
Site description Located approximately 8 km north of Graskop and 18 km south-west of Hoedspruit, the Blyde river canyon (700 m deep in places) stretches for nearly 20 km as it cuts a spectacular path through the granite of the great South African escarpment. The site includes the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve and the Swadini and Manoutsa portions of the Mpumalanga Drakensberg escarpment, which fall outside the reserve, and the forestry-owned areas of Mariepskop, Salique, Hebron, Welgevonden and Onverwacht State Forests. Marakalala (1,133 m) and Mogologolo (1,746 m) peaks, and their associated sheer cliff-faces to the north of the reserve’s border, dominate the landscape. At the confluence of the Blyde and Origstad rivers, in the northern portion of the reserve, an impoundment forms the Blydepoort Dam. The spectacular gorge is flanked by some remarkable peaks (up to 1,749 m).Large patches of Afromontane forest are found in valleys, along scarp basins, and in moist areas throughout the Blyde river canyon. Forest trees of general occurrence include species of Xymalos, Podocarpus, Trichocladus, Rhus and Halleria. Ferns, shrubs and small trees such as Rapanea are often abundant along the forest edges. Forest-related bush clumps occur on the edge of the escarpment, with woody species of Psychotria, Myrica, Vaccinium and Englerophytum dominating. Away from the moist gullies, the open tree-savanna is dominated by Terminalia, Combretum, Acacia, Ficus and Strychnos. Montane grassland dominates on open, exposed slopes where frost and fire are regular. Protea bushes dominate the woody component.
|Species||Season||Period||Population estimate||Quality of estimate||IBA Criteria||IUCN Category|
|Southern Bald Ibis Geronticus calvus||resident||1998||present [units unknown]||-||A1, A3||Vulnerable|
|Cape Vulture Gyps coprotheres||resident||-||660-773 breeding pairs||-||A1, A4ii||Vulnerable|
|Cape Vulture Gyps coprotheres||winter||-||1,400-1,500 individuals||-||A4ii||Vulnerable|
|Mountain Buzzard Buteo oreophilus||resident||1998||present [units unknown]||-||A3||Least Concern|
|Striped Flufftail Sarothrura affinis||resident||1998||present [units unknown]||-||A3||Least Concern|
|Blue Crane Anthropoides paradiseus||resident||-||present [units unknown]||-||A1||Vulnerable|
|Knysna Turaco Tauraco corythaix||resident||1998||present [units unknown]||-||A2, A3||Least Concern|
|Olive Bush-shrike Telophorus olivaceus||resident||1998||present [units unknown]||-||A3||Least Concern|
|Four-coloured Bush-shrike Telophorus quadricolor||resident||1998||-||-||Least Concern|
|Grey Cuckooshrike Coracina caesia||resident||1998||present [units unknown]||-||A3||Least Concern|
|Blue Swallow Hirundo atrocaerulea||breeding||1998||unknown [units unknown]||-||A3||Vulnerable|
|African Scrub-warbler Bradypterus barratti||resident||1998||present [units unknown]||-||A3||Least Concern|
|Yellow-throated Woodland-warbler Phylloscopus ruficapilla||resident||1998||present [units unknown]||-||A3||Least Concern|
|Bush Blackcap Lioptilus nigricapillus||resident||1998||present [units unknown]||-||A1, A2, A3||Near Threatened|
|Orange Ground-thrush Zoothera gurneyi||resident||1998||present [units unknown]||-||A3||Least Concern|
|Kurrichane Thrush Turdus libonyanus||resident||1998||-||-||Least Concern|
|White-starred Robin Pogonocichla stellata||resident||1998||present [units unknown]||-||A3||Least Concern|
|White-throated Robin-chat Cossypha humeralis||resident||1998||-||-||Least Concern|
|Chorister Robin-chat Cossypha dichroa||resident||1998||present [units unknown]||-||A2, A3||Least Concern|
|Brown Scrub-robin Erythropygia signata||resident||1998||present [units unknown]||-||A2||Least Concern|
|Buff-streaked Chat Oenanthe bifasciata||resident||1998||present [units unknown]||-||A1, A3||Least Concern|
|White-breasted Sunbird Nectarinia talatala||resident||1998||-||-||Least Concern|
|Gurney's Sugarbird Promerops gurneyi||resident||1998||present [units unknown]||-||A3||Least Concern|
|Swee Waxbill Estrilda melanotis||resident||1998||present [units unknown]||-||A3||Least Concern|
|Forest Canary Serinus scotops||resident||1998||present [units unknown]||-||A2, A3||Least Concern|
|Protected area||Designation||Area (ha)||Relationship with IBA||Overlap with IBA (ha)|
|Kruger to Canyons||UNESCO-MAB Biosphere Reserve||2,474,700||protected area contains site||50,000|
|Motlatse Canyon||Nature Reserve||53,731||protected area contained by site||25,161|
|IUCN habitat||Habitat detail||Extent (% of site)|
|Grassland||Grassland - montane||-|
|Forest||Montane forest - mixed||-|
|Land-use||Extent (% of site)|
|nature conservation and research||55%|
|nature conservation and research||59%|
Other biodiversity Flora: the grassland in this reserve holds many localized South African endemic or near-endemic plant species. Well-represented are members of the Liliaceae, Iridaceae, Compositae, Lamiaceae and Orchidaceae. Spectacular species endemic to northern South Africa include Protea laetans (VU), P. rubropilosa, Aloe minima, Dombeya autumnalis, Gladiolus varius, G. vernus, Watsonia transvaalensis and Clivia caulescens. The cycad Encephalartos cupidus is endemic to the catchment of this river and also occurs within the reserve. The cycad E. inopinus is another rare and localized plant occurring within the reserve. Amphibians: the forests are known to hold highly localized populations of Bufo pardalis and Breviceps verrucosus. The fish Barbus treurensis (LR/cd) is restricted to a 4.5 km stretch of river on the Blyde river outside the IBA, where it is highly localized and threatened, having already lost most of its global range—this is the last remaining population. Reptiles: a new, as-yet-undescribed subspecies of the endemic Afroedura multiporis was recently found here. Lygodactylus nigropuncatus and L. ocellatus, endemic to the Soutpansberg and Mpumalanga/Swaziland Drakensberg, have been recorded in the reserve’s rocky montane grassland areas.
Management considerations The Mpumalanga Parks Board owns the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve, which was proclaimed in 1965. The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) own Mariepskop, Salique, Hebron, Welgevonden and Onverwacht State Forests. The privately owned Manoutsa Raptor Conservancy is on the escarpment to the north of the reserve. The greatest threat in this region is afforestation of the escarpment grasslands with non-native Pinus and Acacia trees. Attention should be focused on monitoring and combating proposed afforestation. Surrounded by some of the most spectacular scenery in Africa, this area has potential to become one of South Africa’s primary ecotourism hubs. The spectacular God’s Window and Bourke’s Luck Potholes, combined with the dramatic canyon, offer fantastic ecotourism opportunities. Potential development of additional recreational facilities within the park should be carefully considered. The active tufa waterfall in the reserve is threatened by water pollution from upstream villages.
References Allan (1988), Allan et al. (1987, 1997), Benson and Dobbs (1984), Benson et al. (1990), Tarboton (1997b,c), Wagner and Jenkins (1996).
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Recommended citation BirdLife International (2013) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Blyde river canyon. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 22/05/2013
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