Ngoye Forest Reserve

Year of compilation: 2001

Site description
Ngoye Forest is located c.11 km inland of Mtunzini and c.20 km east of Eshowe. Most of the forest is situated on a range of gneiss rock. The range is drained by the Umhlatuzana river and its tributaries to the north, and the tributaries of the Umlalazi river to the south. The climax forest has a continuous canopy of large trees (25–30 m high) and poorly developed shrub and field layers. Trees of Chrysophyllum, Millettia and Margaritaria are dominant. Epiphytic ferns and orchids are common. Some of the valleys hold open Syzygium woodland. The open, wind-exposed ridges of the reserve hold extensive patches of grassland, with a very diverse forb community.

Key biodiversity
See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. This is the only forest patch in southern Africa holding Stactolaema (olivacea) woodwardi. Pending a full investigation of this taxon’s status, it should be regarded as a valid species. In ideal habitat, in the higher-lying parts of the western half of the forest, it occurs at a density of one pair per 4–5 ha, but very few live in the eastern half of the forest. The forest also holds small breeding populations of Columba delegorguei and the globally threatened Zoothera guttata, and supports good populations of Stephanoaetus coronatus, Smithornis capensis, Telophorus olivaceus, Tchagra tchagra, Cossypha dichroa, Cercotrichas signata, Lamprotornis corruscus, Estrilda melanotis and Serinus scotops.

Non-bird biodiversity: Ngoye is especially noted for its plants. The only known example of the cycad Encephalartos woodii was found here. This species is now extinct in the wild, but up to 500 plants exist in collections around the world (no female plant exists). Encephalartos ngoyanus is near-endemic; another population occurs around Pongolapoort Dam. Other Red Data and rare plants present include Bolusiella maudiae, Corymborkis corymbosa, Stenoglottis woodii, Asclepias gordon-grayae, Dahlgrenodendron natalense (EN), Olinia radiata, Phyllanthus cedrelifolius, Cryptocarya wyliei, Ficus bizanae (VU), Loranthus woodii, Streptocarpus wendlandii, Alchornea hirtella and Asastasia vara. Ngoye is one of the few forests in the country that has its own endemic mammal, Paraxerus palliatus ornatus (VU). The reptile Bradypodion nemorale (LR/nt), a localized KwaZulu-Natal endemic, is abundant in Ngoye.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
This reserve is state land, administered by the KwaZulu-Natal Nature Conservation Service. In principle it is run as a reserve, but in practice there is not much control over casual exploitation. Cattle graze the grassland, and adversely affect forest undergrowth in places. Collection of firewood has been implicated as a potential reason for the absence of breeding hole-nesters, such as barbets and woodpeckers, from forest-edge habitat, and this needs closer analysis.Because Stactolaema (olivacea) woodwardi is globally restricted to Ngoye, it is essential that the forest be properly managed as a reserve, with some management action being planned around the species. The probable reason that it is found only in Ngoye, and not in other apparently similar forests in the vicinity, is a function of fig Ficus diversity. Ngoye has eight species, while few other forests have more than three. Figs are the staple diet for both adults and young, and diversity of fig species guarantees a year-round food supply. Two fig species brought to nestlings come from the bush clumps outside the forest proper. This suggests that the barbets are not afraid to cross open space, and are not ‘trapped’ in remnant habitat.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Ngoye Forest Reserve. Downloaded from on 26/05/2022.