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Location South Africa, Free State
Central coordinates 28o 40.00' East  28o 31.00' South
IBA criteria A1, A2, A3, A4i, A4ii
Area 36,229 ha
Altitude 1,700 - 2,840m
Year of IBA assessment 1998

BirdLife South Africa

Summary These two parks are situated in the Rooiberg Mountain range in the northeastern Free State, along the border with Lesotho. Two Southern Bald Ibis Geronticus calvus breeding colonies occur within the IBA and also Blue Crane Anthropoides paradiseus and Grey Crowned Crane Balearica regulorum.

Site description These two parks are situated in the Rooiberg mountain range in the north-eastern Free State, along the border with Lesotho. Within the park, there is an altitude difference of some 1,140 m between the lowest point in the Little Caledon river valley (1,700 m) and the highest peak, Ribbokkop (2,840 m). The eastern sector of this IBA is characterized by deep valleys with dense vegetation. The only major feature is Qwaqwa mountain, on an isolated range near the south-east border of Qwaqwa National Park.

Highland sourveld dominates the vegetation, and alpine tussock-grassland is particularly common above 2,000 m. In the deeper valleys and krantzes, woody communities encroach; dominants in the thickets include Cliffortia, Cussonia, Rhus, Diospyros and Protasparagus. On the flatter, deeper soils of the mountain slopes and plateau, Protea woodland dominates. In the steeper, wetter gorges, shrubby patches of Leucosidea, Buddleja and Kiggelaria enter the landscape. An extensive marsh area, dominated by Phragmites, is situated along the Klerkspruit, Rietspruit and Rietvlei drainage lines.

Key Biodiversity See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. Together these parks support at least 188 bird species. Two Geronticus calvus breeding colonies occur within the IBA, including the famous site at Cathedral Cave; they are regularly seen foraging alongside Grus paradisea, Balearica regulorum, Eupodotis senegalensis and E. caerulescens in the grasslands. The short, cropped, high-altitude grasslands also hold Anthus chloris. Gyps coprotheres, Gypaetus barbatus and Polemaetus bellicosus no longer breed in the IBA, but all are regular visitors. The high-altitude rocky outcrops support Chaetops aurantius, Anthus crenatus and Geocolaptes olivaceus. The intervening grassy slopes are home to Turnix hottentotta, Serinus symonsi, Saxicola bifasciata, Monticola explorator, Anthus hoeschi, Sphenoeacus afer and (on Protea-covered slopes) Promerops gurneyi, and Lioptilus nigricapillus occurs in wooded gullies. Falco naumanni is a regular summer visitor to the parks and Circus maurus is a regular winter visitor.

Non-bird biodiversity: None known to BirdLife International.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Southern Bald Ibis Geronticus calvus resident  20-40 breeding pairs  A1, A3, A4i  Vulnerable 
Southern Bald Ibis Geronticus calvus winter  100-200 individuals  A4i  Vulnerable 
Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni winter  500-1,000 individuals  A1, A4ii  Least Concern 
Cape Vulture Gyps coprotheres winter  present  A1  Endangered 
Black Harrier Circus maurus resident  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Blue Bustard Eupodotis caerulescens resident  present  A1  Near Threatened 
Blue Crane Anthropoides paradiseus resident  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Ground Woodpecker Geocolaptes olivaceus resident  present  A1  Least Concern 
Bush Blackcap Lioptilus nigricapillus resident  1998  present  A1, A3  Near Threatened 
Drakensberg Rockjumper Chaetops aurantius resident  1998  present  A1, A2, A3  Least Concern 
Buff-streaked Chat Oenanthe bifasciata resident  1998  present  A1, A3  Least Concern 
Gurney's Sugarbird Promerops gurneyi resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Yellow-breasted Pipit Anthus chloris resident  1998  present  A1, A3  Vulnerable 
Mountain Pipit Anthus hoeschi resident  1998  present  A1, A2  Least Concern 
Drakensberg Siskin Serinus symonsi resident  1998  present  A1, A3  Least Concern 

IBA Monitoring

2013 high near favourable high
Poor - based on little, or potentially unreliable/unrepresentative, data

Residential and commercial development commercial and industrial development likely in long term (beyond 4 years) whole area/population (>90%) very rapid to severe deterioration high
Residential and commercial development tourism and recreation areas happening now some of area/population (10-49%) moderate to rapid deterioration high
Transportation and service corridors roads and railroads happening now some of area/population (10-49%) moderate to rapid deterioration high

Forest   0 0 good (> 90%) good (> 90%) favourable
Grassland Grassland - highveld  0 0 good (> 90%) good (> 90%) favourable
Grassland Grassland - montane  0 0 good (> 90%) good (> 90%) favourable
Rocky areas   0 0 good (> 90%) good (> 90%) favourable
Shrubland Shrubland - bushy Karroo  0 0 good (> 90%) good (> 90%) favourable
Wetlands (inland) Rivers & streams  0 0 good (> 90%) moderate (70-90%) near favourable

Whole area of site (>90%) covered by appropriate conservation designation  A comprehensive and appropriate management plan exists that aims to maintain or improve the populations of qualifying bird species  Substantive conservation measures are being implemented but these are not comprehensive and are limited by resources and capacity  high 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Golden Gate Highlands National Park 11,568 protected area contains site 36,229  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Grassland Grassland - highveld; Grassland - montane  -
Wetlands (inland) Rivers & streams  -
Forest   -
Shrubland Shrubland - bushy Karroo  -
Rocky areas   -

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research 100%
agriculture -

References Bates (1991), Botha (1993), de Swardt and van Niekerk (1996), Earlé and Lawson (1988), Groenewald (1986), Hutsebaut et al. (1992), Kopij (1995), Pocock and Uys (1967), Potgieter (1982), Roberts (1969), Stoltz and Geyser (1973).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Golden Gate Highlands National Park. Downloaded from on 25/10/2016

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