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Location South Africa, Free State,KwaZulu-Natal
Central coordinates 29o 1.00' East  28o 27.00' South
IBA criteria A1, A2, A3
Area 17,770 ha
Altitude 1,700 - 2,328m
Year of IBA assessment 2001

BirdLife South Africa

Site description The northern boundary of this reserve lies 13 km south-west of Harrismith, while the southern edge lies along the border with KwaZulu-Natal, just west of Oliviershoek Pass. Most of the eastern boundary runs along the Free State section of the road (R74) through the pass. The reserve lies in the grassland and alpine belt between 1,700 and 2,328 m, and consists of rolling sour grassland surrounding the state-owned Sterkfontein Dam, which receives most of its water from the Tugela river. The vegetation is primarily high-altitude montane grassland. The western portion of the reserve includes part of the northern end of the ‘Little Drakensberg’ section of the escarpment, holding cave sandstone cliffs that are dissected by streams to form valleys and gorges. High-altitude shrubs form a heath of Protea, Erica, Chrysocoma and Helichrysum. Stands of Leucosidea occur on some of the slopes and small patches of Afromontane forest are found in a few gorges.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Southern Bald Ibis Geronticus calvus resident  present  A1, A3  Vulnerable 
Cape Vulture Gyps coprotheres resident  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Blue Bustard Eupodotis caerulescens resident  present  A1  Near Threatened 
Ground Woodpecker Geocolaptes olivaceus resident  present  A1  Least Concern 
Rudd's Lark Heteromirafra ruddi resident  1998  present  A1, A3  Vulnerable 
Bush Blackcap Lioptilus nigricapillus resident  1998  present  A1, A2, A3  Near Threatened 
Buff-streaked Chat Oenanthe bifasciata resident  1998  present  A1, A3  Least Concern 
Gurney's Sugarbird Promerops gurneyi resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Forest Canary Serinus scotops resident  1998  present  A2, A3  Least Concern 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Sterkfontein Dam Nature Reserve 18,490 protected area contains site 17,770  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Grassland Grassland - montane  -
Wetlands (inland) Rivers & streams  -
Rocky areas   minor

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture -
water management 60%
agriculture -
nature conservation and research 14%

Other biodiversity The reserve is known to hold the following threatened or endemic herptiles: Cordylus giganteus (VU), Tetradactylus breyeri (VU) and Bradypodion dracomontanum. The mammal Myotis lesueri (VU) is known to occur in the surrounding grassland.

References Colahan (1992a,b, 1993a,b, 1994a,b), Herholdt and Grobler (1987).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Sterkfontein Dam Nature Reserve. Downloaded from on 23/07/2014

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