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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

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.

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 

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  


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 -

Other 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).

References Rautenbach et al. (1981).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Ithala Game Reserve. Downloaded from on 25/07/2014

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