Mafika - Lisiu

Year of compilation: 2001

Site description
This site is centred on cliffs on the front range of the Maloti. 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.

Key biodiversity
See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. The cliffs support the greatest number of breeding Gyps coprotheres in Lesotho. Over 100 breeding pairs (22% of Lesotho’s total) and 240 birds are found at four ‘stable nucleus’ colonies. Undoubtedly some exchange occurs between the colonies. The IBA includes adjacent foraging areas. The rare but widespread Gypaetus barbatus meridionalis forages and breeds widely across the IBA. 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 occurs. Small numbers of Geronticus calvus occasionally forage in this area and it is thought that there may be breeding colonies in the vicinity. In February 2000, the globally threatened Anthus chloris was recorded for the first time at this locality (a displaying individual).

Non-bird biodiversity: The alpine floral communities found in the Maloti/Drakensberg mountains are unique in southern Africa, holding a remarkable number of endemic plant species. 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. Two reptiles endemic to southern Africa, Bradypodion dracomontanum and Pseudocordylus melanotus, are known from this region, and the poorly known endemic and threatened small mammal Chlorotalpa sclateri (VU) may also occur here.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The site is located on communally owned tribal land and is near to the access points of Phase 1A (Katse Dam) of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project; it stands to be negatively impacted by the water scheme. The EarthPlan group is proposing to develop the area for ecotourism, to take advantage of its natural environmental assets, complete with visitor centre and vulture restaurant. Unfortunately, there is (as yet unpublished) information that the Gyps coprotheres colony has recently experienced a 75% decline, possibly because of proximity to the Lesotho Highlands Water Project access road. Vultures are utilized for traditional medicinal and ceremonial purposes and are targeted by rural residents who use either poisoned carcasses or a gin-trap to kill them. 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 used for medicinal purposes. There is no conservation concern for these common and widespread birds, provided 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.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Mafika - Lisiu. Downloaded from on 20/09/2020.