Kalahari-Gemsbok National Park

Year of compilation: 2001

Site description
Situated in the sliver of land between Botswana and Namibia, 320 km north of Upington, the Kalahari-Gemsbok National Park (KGNP) forms a relatively small but vital part of the large semi-arid southern Kalahari ecosystem. The park adjoins Botswana’s Gemsbok National Park and the Mabuasehube Game Reserve (IBA BW012), forming a huge area (3.6 million hectares) under official conservation. The vegetation is largely Kalahari thornveld, occurring as open tree-, dune- or shrub-savanna. Tree- and dune-savanna are found adjacent to the Nossob and Auob rivers, with scattered trees of Rhus, Terminalia, Boscia and Acacia. Occasionally, narrow dune-belts separate the extensive flat plains that occur between the two rivers. Locally, the broad plains hold shallow, grassy depressions. The Nossob and Auob rivers are important features of the park, holding the greatest densities of tall trees. All along the river course, trees of Boscia and Acacia dominate, with grassy ground-cover. The park’s abundant calcareous and salt pans are mineralogically richer than the surrounding sandveld and consequently support different vegetation.

Key biodiversity
See Box and Table 3 for key species. The park supports over 214 bird species. Only 75 of these are resident; the large majority of the remainder are characteristically nomadic. This park supports important populations of several raptor species, especially vultures. Gyps africanus and Torgos tracheliotus occur in good numbers.The vultures show a preference for the Nossob and Auob riverbeds as both have large trees suitable for nesting and roosting. Other breeding raptors include Terathopius ecaudatus, Polemaetus bellicosus and Aquila rapax. The wide plains of the reserve are home to Ardeotis kori, Neotis ludwigii and Eupodotis vigorsii. Waterholes attract Pterocles burchelli and P. namaqua, which occasionally gather in very large numbers. The Kalahari thornveld holds typical Kalahari basin birds, such as Cercotrichas paena, Laniarius atrococcineus, Lamprotornis australis, Vidua regia, Mirafra passerina, Bradornis mariquensis and Philetairus socius, which constructs huge communal nests in the larger trees. Wherever seeding grasses sprout, Amadina erythrocephala, Estrilda erythronotos and Uraeginthus granatina are found. Eremalauda starki and Eremopterix australis are nomadic species that sporadically occur in the park when conditions are favourable.

Non-bird biodiversity: Typhlosaurus gariepensis is endemic to the vegetated sand ridges in the dune fields of the southern Kalahari, and is almost restricted to the park. The southern African endemic Dipsina multimaculata, Monopeltis leonhardi, Meroles suborbitalis, Colopus wahlbergii and Zelotomys woosnami are all common within the park.The KGNP is the second largest national park in South Africa and one of a few remaining wilderness areas in the country supporting natural populations of large mammals. The park supports important populations of Acinonyx jubatus (VU), Hyaena brunnea (LR/nt) and Manis temminckii (LR/nt).

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The KGNP was established on 3 July 1931. The erection of game and cattle fences in Botswana has prevented the migration of the Kalahari’s larger mammals. The only way these animals can now survive during drought periods is from the water provided at human-constructed pumps and reservoirs. Vultures tend to nest close to these water-points, which attract them; they occasionally slip into the water while attempting to bathe, and invariably drown. Measures to curtail this mortality are being investigated. Raptor monitoring projects have been undertaken.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Kalahari-Gemsbok National Park. Downloaded from on 26/06/2022.