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Location South Africa, Western Cape
Central coordinates 18o 28.00' East  32o 23.00' South
IBA criteria A4i
Area 1,700 ha
Altitude 0 - 343m
Year of IBA assessment 2001

BirdLife South Africa

Site description Verlorenvlei is an estuary, fed by an intermittently flowing river, on the Atlantic Ocean, 3 km east of Elands Bay and 25 km south of Lambert’s Bay. It is connected to the sea via a shallow, narrow, 2.5-km-long channel, but a rocky sand-covered bar at the mouth and other artificial obstructions make Verlorenvlei a virtually closed system. Because of its intermittent connection with the ocean, Verlorenvlei can be regarded as a coastal lake and reed-swamp system. It is one of the largest natural wetlands along southern Africa’s west coast, and it is one of the few coastal freshwater lakes in South Africa.The lake is located north of a ridge of rugged hills with high krantzes near the sea. The main body of the lake is approximately 13.5 × 1.4 km, with an average depth of c.3 m and a maximum depth of c.4.5 m during the wet season. During winter the lake fills and overflows into the sea near Eland’s Bay, but during summer it gradually desiccates, reaching its lowest levels at the end of the dry season.

Large masses of filamentous green algae are common in the channel, where the water is often stagnant and hyper-saline. The vlei is dominated by aquatic vegetation, including Myriophyllum which, at times, occupies large areas, e.g. in the upper reaches below reedbeds. Marsh vegetation of Typha, Phragmites, Cyperus and Juncus is common and widespread on the fringes of the lake. The terrestrial vegetation surrounding the vlei is transitional between karroid and fynbos vegetation, resulting in a high diversity of ecotonal communities.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
South African Shelduck Tadorna cana winter  288-470 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Cape Shoveler Spatula smithii winter  103-600 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus resident  5-20 breeding pairs  A4i  Least Concern 
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus winter  87-123 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta non-breeding  78-452 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Hartlaub's Gull Larus hartlaubii winter  209-377 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Verlorenvlei Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar) 1,500 protected area contained by site 1,500  

Local conservation groups The local conservation group below is working to support conservation at this IBA.

Name Year formed
Elands Bay environmental group. 0


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Wetlands (inland) Estuarine waters; Saline lakes  -
Shrubland Shrubland - Cape (fynbos)  -

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture -
tourism/recreation -

Other biodiversity Rare plants include Ferraria foliosa, F. densepunctulata, Cerycium venoum (presumed extinct) and Cullumia floccosa. The fish Barbus burgi (CR) has a global range restricted to the Verlorenvlei system and some of the upper catchment streams of the Berg river. Among reptiles, the IBA lies in the centre of the ranges of several Namaqualand endemics, most of which have been recorded in the vicinity and may be present in the succulent Karoo terrestrial vegetation surrounding the wetland: Homopus signatus, Bitis schneideri (VU), B. cornuta, Acontias litoralis, Typhlosaurus caecus, Scelotes sexlineatus, Meroles knoxii, Cordylus cataphractus (VU), C. macropholis, Gerrhosaurus typicus (LR/nt), Bradypodion occidentale and Pachydactylus austeni.

References Baxter and Davies (1994), Cooper et al. (1976), Cowan (1995), Cowan and Marneweck (1996), Grindley and Grindley (1987), Sinclair et al. (1986), Summers et al. (1977), Taylor (1997a,b), Underhill and Cooper (1984).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Verlorenvlei Estuary. Downloaded from on 02/08/2014

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