This area is located in south-western Swaziland, between the Mahamba border-post and the village of Gege, along the eastern Drakensberg escarpment of southern Africa. Shiselweni Forestry Company owns land east of this IBA. The site is dominated by the Mahamba Mountain, which rises from c.1,000 m to almost 1,400 m. The sides of the mountain are steep, but the plateau is relatively flat. The Mkhondvo river cuts through this mountain to form a spectacular gorge with sheer cliff-faces on both sides. Sour highland grassveld covers most of the mountain, interspersed with narrow drainage lines. Scrubby vegetation occurs patchily along clear mountain streams. Several forest patches are restricted to the more mesic valleys. Also present are rocky outcrops.
See Box and Table 3 for key species. Mahamba Mountain has yet to be properly surveyed. Mahamba holds suitable habitat for many important grassland-dependent species, including Saxicola bifasciata and Geocolaptes olivaceus. The largest breeding colony of Geronticus calvus in Swaziland breeds in the Mahamba Gorge. Several raptors breed here, including Aquila verreauxii and Falco biarmicus. Podica senegalensis and Alcedo semitorquata occur along the Mkhondvo river, while Eupodotis afra has been recorded in an adjoining area. Further ornithological exploration of this site will undoubtedly reveal more key bird species—for instance, it is likely that at least two species of the South African forests EBA and five species of the Afrotropical Highlands biome occur, but have so far been overlooked.
Non-bird biodiversity: Among plants, the near-endemic Cassipourea swaziensis (EN) and the threatened Aloe dyeri occur here. Most of the medium- and large-sized mammals have been hunted to extinction here. This is the only location in Swaziland where the elephant-shrew Elephantulus myurus is known to occur.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Mahamba Mountain was recognized as a protection-worthy area in 1979, but it remains unproclaimed. The mountain is currently owned by three land-owners. However, the largest portion of the area falls within the boundaries of a single owner, who has expressed interest in developing his property for ecotourism. To this end, he has established hiking trails and is developing a rustic camp for overnight accommodation. The long-term conservation of this area, therefore, appears to be fairly secure.The proposed damming of the Mkhondvo river may impact on the Mahamba Gorge, although the dam will be constructed upstream of the gorge. There have been reports of human disturbance of the Geronticus calvus colony breeding in the gorge, the impacts of which are presently unknown.
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Mahamba Mountain. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 05/02/2023.