Amatole Forest Complex

Country/territory: South Africa

IBA Criteria met: A1, A2, A3 (1998)
For more information about IBA criteria please click here

Area: 42,000 ha

Protection status:

BirdLife South Africa
Most recent IBA monitoring assessment
Year of assessment Threat score (pressure) Condition score (state) Action score (response)
2013 very high very unfavourable negligible
For more information about IBA monitoring please click here

Site description
The centre of this site lies c.20 km north-west of King William’s Town and 24 km south-west of Stutterheim. The IBA consists of a series of montane forest blocks surrounding fragmented urban and rural areas. The forest complex runs from Hogsback State Forest in the east to Fort Cunningham State Forest in the west, and includes large State-owned forest blocks as well as smaller patches which provide continuity between the larger blocks, especially in the Keiskammahoek area. The boundaries are not distinct and the forests merge with the rural and urban areas on the borders of the IBA.

The area is generally rugged and comprises cliffs, steep slopes and thickly forested gorges, with several high peaks such as Elandsberg (2,016 m) and Gaika’s Kop (1,963 m). There are numerous perennial and non-perennial streams. The largest of these, the Buffalo river, feeds the Maden and Rooikrantz dams, which supply water to the greater King William’s Town/Bisho District. The Amatole mountains support a diverse array of plant communities, with 442 plant species described from the area. The forest complex holds both wet and dry forests, with scrub-forest at lower altitudes. Dominant trees of the canopy include Podocarpus, Xymalos, Rapanea, Ptaeroxylon, Canthium, Celtis, Trichocladus, Curtisia and Vepris. Pinus plantations, which abut the indigenous forests directly, occur as small, isolated, scattered pockets throughout the area. The highest areas, particularly in the rain-shadow, are characterized by a mixture of montane grassland and fynbos heath.

Key biodiversity
See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. The forests in this IBA hold a considerable number of the escarpment race of Poicephalus robustus robustus. Southern Africa’s most southerly populations of Zoothera gurneyi and Lioptilus nigricapillus are also found in the Amatole Forests. Other forest specials include Buteo oreophilus, Tauraco corythaix, Campethera notata, Cossypha dichroa, Cercotrichas signata and Serinus scotops. The localized patches of open proteoid woodland in the grassy areas hold both Promerops cafer and P. gurneyi (the only area where these species are sympatric). At high altitudes, where barren rocky slopes become prominent, Geocolaptes olivaceus, Chaetops aurantius, Saxicola bifasciata and Monticola explorator are found. In the lower-altitude regions of rolling grassland, Circus maurus, Vanellus melanopterus, Neotis denhami, Grus paradisea and Balearica regulorum occur.

Non-bird biodiversity: The tributaries of the Kieskamma and Buffalo river systems, which occur within the IBA, hold two endemic threatened and highly localized fish species, Sandelia bainsii (EN) and Barbus trevelyani (CR). Among herptiles, the Amatoles are the only home to the extremely range-restricted Bufo amatolicus (VU) and, along with the Katberg-Readsdale forests (IBA ZA070), they also support Anhydrophyrne rattrayi, which is endemic to both of these mountain blocks. The Amatoles also support the South African endemic Afroedura amatolica, Bradypodion ventrale and an isolated population of Macrelaps microlepidotus.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Amatole Forest Complex. Downloaded from on 16/01/2021.