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Location South Africa, North-West Province
Central coordinates 27o 5.00' East  25o 15.00' South
IBA criteria A1
Area 50,000 ha
Altitude 1,000 - 1,669m
Year of IBA assessment 2001

BirdLife South Africa

Site description Pilanesberg National Park (called a national park because it used to belong to the homeland of Bophuthatswana) is managed by North-west Nature Conservation. It lies c.160 km north-west of Johannesburg, and is the fourth-largest protected area in South Africa. The park covers a wide range of habitats, including vleis, lakes, streams, thick bush, broadleaved and Acacia woodland, koppies, open grasslands and former farmlands. The park encompasses the Pilanesberg mountains. The resulting structure is a ring-complex of concentric koppies, the highest being 1,669 m, interspersed in a matrix of low-lying plains.

The Mankwe river and its five major tributaries provide most of the park’s water. In the past, farmers constructed additional water-storage dams for livestock in order to supplement non-perennial streams. The largest impoundment, Mankwe Lake, is in the centre of the park. There is a sharp contrast between the tree-dotted hill-slope vegetation and the pure grassland of the pediments. Areas of secondary grassland occur on old cultivated fields. In the valleys, there are trees of Acacia, Spirostachys, Rhus, Ziziphus and Combretum. The pediment savannas hold trees of Faurea and to a lesser extent Acacia. The hill savanna is wooded mainly with trees of Combretum and Dombeya.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Cape Vulture Gyps coprotheres winter  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Blue Crane Anthropoides paradiseus resident  present  A1  Vulnerable 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Pilansberg Game Reserve Provincial Nature Reserve 46,822 protected area contains site 50,000  

Local conservation groups The local conservation group below is working to support conservation at this IBA.

Name Year formed
Vulture study group 0


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Savanna Bushland & thicket - montane; Wooded grassland  -
Wetlands (inland) Freshwater lakes and pools  -
Artificial - terrestrial   11%
Shrubland   21%
Forest   68%

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research 100%
tourism/recreation -
nature conservation and research 100%

Other biodiversity The spectacular plant, Erythrophysa transvaalensis, is restricted to c.250 individuals, most of which occur within the Pilanesberg. Several threatened species of large mammal were reintroduced through ‘Operation Genesis’, the restocking programme of the early 1980s, including Ceratotherium simum (LR/cd), Diceros bicornis (CR), Loxodonta africana (EN) and Acinonyx jubatus (VU). Owing to their secretive nocturnal habits, Hyaena brunnea (LR/nt) and Manis temminckii (LR/nt) have maintained natural populations in the area without being hunted out.

References Benson et al. (1990), Brett (1989), Hancock (1985), Ryan and Isom (1990).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Pilanesberg National Park. Downloaded from on 10/07/2014

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