The site is located 32 km west of Mooi river, in the foothills of the Drakensberg. Highmoor, a division of the Natal Drakensberg Park (IBA ZA048) bounds it on one side, and the other boundaries abut onto private land. The terrain is almost flat. The vegetation consists of grasslands and wetlands classified as Highland Sourveld. The original grass community has been severely modified by past use as farmland. Permanent wetlands are dominated by Phragmites and Typha, with species of Cyperus, Pycreus and Juncus on the fringes.
See Box for key species. The vlei and surrounding grasslands hold Grus carunculatus, Balearica regulorum and Grus paradisea. Botaurus stellaris is regularly recorded, and is a speciality of the vlei, which also holds Circus ranivorus and Ciconia nigra. Neotis denhami, and Tyto capensis frequent the surrounding grasslands.
Non-bird biodiversity: None known to BirdLife International.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The South African Crane Foundation (ZACF) and Mondi Forests established this reserve as the Hlatikulu Crane, Waterfowl and Wetland Sanctuary. The ZACF has a lease that extends until 2020. Initially the ZACF concentrated on rehabilitation of the wetland area. In the past it had been severely impacted by the construction of drains, and by ridge-and-furrow agriculture. These practices interfered with the passage of water through the upper reaches of the western arm of the vlei. Hundreds of damlets have now been built in the furrows, together with three larger dams to raise the water-table. Cranes nesting on adjacent farms now move into these wetlands when not breeding. Subsequently, holding and breeding pens have been set up for captive cranes, as well as rehabilitation facilities for sick or wounded cranes and an education centre. None of the birds held has been taken from the wild; all derive from rescues of injured cranes, or confiscations of cranes illegally held.The main threat to the sanctuary comes from uncontrolled human access, and the accompanying grazing of cattle and snaring practised by a section of a neighbouring community. Stock-grazing, in particular, disturbs the wetland rehabilitation process. In 1996 the sanctuary was declared a national ‘Site of Conservation Significance’ (number 126).
BirdLife International (2019) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Hlatikulu. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 21/05/2019.