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Location South Africa, KwaZulu-Natal
Central coordinates 31o 25.00' East  27o 30.00' South
IBA criteria A1, A3, A4i
Area 29,653 ha
Altitude 350 - 1,550m
Year of IBA assessment 2001

BirdLife South Africa



Summary Ithala Game Reserve is located 15 km from Louwsburg in the rolling hills south of the Pongola River. Drainage lines and deep valleys, extending predominantly north-south, and opening mostly into the Pongola River basin, cleave the area. The reserve is known to support over 300 bird species. The riverine forest contains Half-collared Kingfisher Alcedo semitorquata and the mountainous cliffs also hold a colony of Southern Bald Ibis Geronticus calvus.

Site description Itala Game Reserve is located 15 km from Louwsburg in the rolling hills south of the Pongola river. Drainage lines and deep valleys, extending predominantly north–south, and opening mostly into the Pongola river basin, cleave the area. This results in an extremely varied topography and rugged terrain, with steep rocky cliff-faces and deep gorges dissected by numerous streams with a network of pools. The area varies in altitude from 350 m at the Pongola river to 1,550 m on the plateau to the west of Louwsburg.

Three woodland-types are recognized: one is found in the valley bottoms, another at intermediate altitudes, and the third on the highest plateau. The lowland community is dominated by trees of Acacia, Combretum, Ficus and Albizia. The middleveld also holds Acacia and Combretum (especially on stony hill-slopes), as well as Faurea, Protea, Pavetta and Cussonia. Along the watercourses Combretum, Ziziphus, Rhus and Catha are found. The region on the high plateau, above 1,250 m, is open and treeless and dominated by grass. Bulbous geophytes are common and the shrub community is dominated by Euclea and Leucosidea.

Key Biodiversity See Box and Table 3 for key species. The reserve is known to support over 300 bird species. This diversity can be attributed to the reserve’s ecotonal nature and the variety of habitats it supports. The riverine forest provides habitat for many of the more secretive, river-dependent species such as Podica senegalensis, Gorsachius leuconotus and Alcedo semitorquata. The mountainous cliffs hold a colony of Geronticus calvus. Several large raptor species that are rare outside South Africa’s large parks occur here, including Gyps africanus, Torgos tracheliotus, Polemaetus bellicosus, Terathopius ecaudatus and Aquila rapax. Bucorvus cafer, Neotis denhami, Eupodotis senegalensis and Tyto capensis occur in the grassland areas in small numbers. The thicket and forest areas support Poicephalus cryptoxanthus and Telophorus quadricolor, both East African Coast specials.

Non-bird biodiversity: Several mammal species have been reintroduced here, including Ceratotherium simum (LR/cd), Diceros bicornis (CR), Loxodonta africana (EN) and Acinonyx jubatus (VU), and there is a naturally occurring population of Hyaena brunnea (LR/nt).

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Southern Bald Ibis Geronticus calvus resident  20-30 breeding pairs  A1, A4i  Vulnerable 
Southern Bald Ibis Geronticus calvus winter  50-80 individuals  A4i  Vulnerable 
Blue Crane Anthropoides paradiseus resident  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Brown-headed Parrot Poicephalus cryptoxanthus resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Four-coloured Bush-shrike Telophorus quadricolor resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Black-bellied Glossy-starling Lamprotornis corruscus resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 

IBA Monitoring

2013 high near favourable high
Habitat
Medium - based upon reliable but incomplete / partially representative data

Climate change and severe weather drought likely in long term (beyond 4 years) whole area/population (>90%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Climate change and severe weather habitat shifting and alteration happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Invasive & other problematic species, genes & diseases invasive non-native/alien species/diseases - named species happening now some of area/population (10-49%) very rapid to severe deterioration high
Invasive & other problematic species, genes & diseases problematic native species/diseases - named species happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Natural system modifications dams & water management/use - small dams happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) slow but significant deterioration low
Natural system modifications other ecosystem modifications happening now some of area/population (10-49%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Pollution industrial & military effluents - seepage from mining happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low

Grassland   0 0 good (> 90%) moderate (70-90%) near favourable
Savanna   0 0 good (> 90%) moderate (70-90%) near favourable

Geronticus calvus Southern Bald Ibis 30 30 breeding pairs 100 favourable
Anthropoides paradiseus Blue Crane 2 3 breeding pairs 100 favourable

Whole area of site (>90%) covered by appropriate conservation designation  A management plan exists but it is out of date or not comprehensive  The conservation measures needed for the site are being comprehensively and effectively implemented  high 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Ithala Provincial Nature Reserve 29,356 protected area contains site 29,653  

Habitats

IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Grassland Grassland - secondary  -
Forest Woodland - mixed  -
Savanna   -

Land use

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

References Rautenbach et al. (1981).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2015) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Ithala Game Reserve. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 01/08/2015

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