This site is centred on the 60–90-m-high cliffs of the Mechachaneng Ridge, which runs for c.1 km. The tributaries of the Senqu (Orange) river system have incised deeply into the basalt, creating near-vertical cliffs. The surrounding highlands support a traditional pastoral economy with a low-density population. Approximately 15% of the surrounding area (within a 25-km radius) is cultivated, the remainder being open pasture. The vegetation is primarily montane grassland. High-altitude shrubs form a heath of Erica, Chrysocoma and Helichrysum. The summits are generally rocky, with bare, shallow soil patches and rock sheets near the escarpment.
See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. This site is centred on an important colony of Gyps coprotheres (at c.3,000 m), which forms a stable nucleus of the national breeding population, regularly holding at least 25 pairs and over 75 individuals. The rare Gypaetus barbatus meridionalis also forages widely across this area. Other cliff-nesting species include Buteo rufofuscus, Falco biarmicus and Ciconia nigra. The high-altitude, rocky, boulder-strewn slopes and outcrops (above 2,000 m) support Chaetops aurantius, and the surrounding grassy slopes and plateau hold Anthus hoeschi, which breeds in large numbers during the austral summer (especially above 3,000 m). Serinus symonsi occurs commonly above 1,500 m, and has become commensal with humans, occupying and foraging in villages and among fallow and harvested crop fields.Anthus crenatus, Monticola explorator and Geocolaptes olivaceus occur commonly in the vicinity of rocky outcrops. Cercomela sinuata hypernephela, Sylvia layardi barnesi and Circus maurus are uncommon. The small, isolated, Lesotho subspecies Parus afer arens also occurs. Small numbers of Geronticus calvus occasionally forage in this area, and it is thought that there are breeding colonies in the vicinity.
Non-bird biodiversity: The alpine floral communities found in the Maloti/Drakensberg mountains are unique in southern Africa, holding a remarkable number of endemic plants. A recent botanical survey of three valleys in the Maloti yielded many species that could not be identified and some may be new to science. The high-altitude streams and seepages hold the Drakensberg-endemic frog Strongylopus hymenopus.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The IBA is located on communally owned land. The breeding colony of Gyps coprotheres may be declining. It is a relatively small colony, but still one of the largest in Lesotho. All activity to and from the colony is in the direction of the KwaZulu-Natal escarpment, and the birds forage there, thus placing themselves at risk to poisoning by commercial small-stock farmers. Geronticus calvus may occasionally be taken by local people for food or medicinal purposes. Buteo rufofuscus and Falco biarmicus are sometimes persecuted as chicken thieves, and Bubo capensis is occasionally taken for medicinal purposes. There is no conservation concern for these common and widespread birds, provided that levels of persecution and utilization do not increase. Overgrazing, trampling, agriculture, and other human activities have not seriously affected any of the globally near-threatened, restricted-range or biome-restricted birds. Some species, such as Serinus symonsi, benefit from an association with humans.
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Liqobong. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 17/01/2022.