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Location South Africa, KwaZulu-Natal
Central coordinates 30o 10.00' East  31o 0.00' South
IBA criteria A1, A2, A3, A4ii
Area 3,257 ha
Altitude 0 - 447m
Year of IBA assessment 2001

BirdLife South Africa



Summary Located 5 km west of Port Edward, Umtamvuna Nature Reserve occupies the eastern side of a steep gorge on the Umtamvuna River. The river gorge meanders through the reserve for 25 km before it enters the Indian Ocean. The Umtamvuna Gorge hold one of the only coastal colonies of Cape Vulture Gyps coprotheres in South Africa as well as Black Stork Ciconia nigra and Blue Crane Anthropoides paradiseus.

Site description Located 5 km west of Port Edward, Umtamvuna Nature Reserve occupies the eastern side of a steep gorge on the Umtamvuna river. The river gorge meanders through the reserve for 25 km before it enters the Indian Ocean, 2 km beyond the reserve boundary. Many precipitous side-streams join the river within the reserve. The river is flanked by evergreen forests, overtopped with up to 240 m of often sheer cliffs of Pondoland sandstone. Above the cliffs, on either side, are gently undulating sandy grassy plains, with scattered and little eroded rocky outcrops. There are many seepages and small vleis.The vegetation is Pondoland coastal plateau sourveld, and consists of forest and grassland, each vegetation-type occupying c.1,500 ha. The forest boasts over 330 woody species. It has typical coastal elements, together with species usually associated with the mistbelt, but many of the dominant trees are near-endemics. Common canopy trees include Celtis, Harpephyllum, Ficus, Pseudoscolopia, Cassipourea, Rhus, Oricia, Vepris and Cryptocarya. Cliff-edges and fire-protected rocky outcrops have dense clumps of Schefflera, Brachylaena, Cassine, Protorhus, Diospyros, Cryptocarya and Rhus. The grassland is also exceptionally diverse and only a third of its species are grasses, the remainder being sedges and forbs.

Key Biodiversity See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. The extensive series of cliffs in the Umtamvuna Gorge hold one of the only coastal colonies of Gyps coprotheres in South Africa. The colony is thriving, and is one of the few in South Africa that is not declining. Typically 20–30 chicks fledge each year. The viewing opportunities, for seeing the vultures at their nests, and cruising around the breeding cliffs, without causing any disturbance, are without parallel in South Africa. The reserve holds a vulture restaurant, where carcasses are provided, without any particular timetable, in order to encourage the vultures to forage near home. The grasslands hold species of conservation concern such as Grus paradisea, Neotis denhami and Circus maurus. The wetlands in the reserve hold Balearica regulorum. The backwaters of the river hold Podica senegalensis. The forest in the gorge supports a small population of Zoothera guttata (in winter), as well as Tauraco corythaix, Campethera notata, Cossypha dichroa, Cercotrichas signata and Serinus scotops.

Non-bird biodiversity: Umtamvuna is an ancient centre of botanical endemism, and is the finest remaining example of the highly diverse Pondoland sandstone flora. Some of the plants are extremely rare and localized. Raspalia trigyna, for example, was at one time thought to be represented by only a single individual plant. This was killed in an accidental fire. Subsequently, the species has been reintroduced, using cuttings from a second plant recently discovered in the former Transkei. The forest is the only, or principal, home of a host of rare trees. Examples are Catha abbottii, Ochna chilversii, Colubrina nicholsonii (EN), Manilkara nicholsonii (EN), Pseudosalacia streyi (VU), Eugenia umtamvunensis (VU), E. verdoorniae (LR/nt), at least three other species of Eugenia awaiting description, Dahlgrenodendron natalensis (EN), Syzygium pondoense (VU), Indigofera braamtonyi, Maytenus abbottii (VU) and M. bachmannii.

Rare grassland plants include Rhus pondoensis, Leucadendron spissifolium, Encephalartos laevifolius, Raspalia trigyna, Podalyria velutina, Psoralea abbottii, Phyllanthus arvensis, Anisodontea scabrosa, Erica abbottii, Brachystelma australe, Selago peduncularis and Helichrysum diffusum. Rock outcrops bear Anthospermum streyi, Apodytes abbottii, Craterostigma nanum, Canthium suberosum and C. vanwykii. The chameleon Bradypodion caffrum, a Pondoland coastal plateau endemic, is present, as are the butterflies Charaxes pondoensis and Durbania amakosa albescens.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Cape Vulture Gyps coprotheres resident  40-48 breeding pairs  A1, A4ii  Vulnerable 
Cape Vulture Gyps coprotheres winter  100-150 individuals  A4ii  Vulnerable 
Black Harrier Circus maurus resident  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Knysna Turaco Tauraco corythaix resident  1998  present  A2, A3  Least Concern 
Knysna Woodpecker Campethera notata resident  1998  present  A1, A2  Near Threatened 
Olive Bush-shrike Telophorus olivaceus resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Grey Cuckooshrike Coracina caesia resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
African Scrub-warbler Bradypterus barratti resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Yellow-throated Woodland-warbler Phylloscopus ruficapilla resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Spotted Ground-thrush Zoothera guttata winter  present  A1  Endangered 
White-starred Robin Pogonocichla stellata resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Chorister Robin-chat Cossypha dichroa resident  1998  present  A2, A3  Least Concern 
Brown Scrub-robin Erythropygia signata resident  1998  present  A2  Least Concern 
Gurney's Sugarbird Promerops gurneyi resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Swee Waxbill Estrilda melanotis resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Forest Canary Serinus scotops resident  1998  present  A2, A3  Least Concern 

IBA Monitoring

2014 high favourable medium
Habitat
Medium - based upon reliable but incomplete / partially representative data

Biological resource use gathering terrestrial plants - unintentional effects (species being assessed is not the target) happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) slow but significant deterioration low
Biological resource use hunting & collecting terrestrial animals - unintentional effects (species is not the target) happening now some of area/population (10-49%) moderate to rapid deterioration high
Human intrusions and disturbance recreational activities happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Human intrusions and disturbance work and other activities happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Invasive & other problematic species, genes & diseases invasive non-native/alien species/diseases - unspecified species happening now whole area/population (>90%) slow but significant deterioration high
Natural system modifications dams & water management/use - abstraction of surface water (agricultural use) happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) slow but significant deterioration low
Natural system modifications dams & water management/use - small dams happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Natural system modifications fire & fire suppression - suppression in fire frequency/intensity happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) slow but significant deterioration high
Residential and commercial development housing and urban areas happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) slow but significant deterioration low
Residential and commercial development tourism and recreation areas happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) slow but significant deterioration low
Transportation and service corridors roads and railroads happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) slow but significant deterioration low

Forest   0 0 good (> 90%) good (> 90%) favourable
Grassland   0 0 good (> 90%) good (> 90%) favourable

Whole area of site (>90%) covered by appropriate conservation designation  A management plan exists but it is out of date or not comprehensive  Substantive conservation measures are being implemented but these are not comprehensive and are limited by resources and capacity  medium 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Umtamvuna Provincial Nature Reserve 2,559 protected area contains site 3,257  

Habitats

IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Grassland   -
Artificial - terrestrial   15%
Forest   84%

Land use

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

References Piper (1985, 1994).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2015) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Umtamvuna Nature Reserve. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 23/05/2015

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