Ithala Game Reserve

Country/territory: South Africa

IBA Criteria met: A1, A3, A4i (1998)
For more information about IBA criteria please click here

Area: 29,653 ha

Protection status:

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

Site description
Itala Game Reserve is located 15 km from Louwsburg in the rolling hills south of the Pongola river. Drainage lines and deep valleys, extending predominantly north–south, and opening mostly into the Pongola river basin, cleave the area. This results in an extremely varied topography and rugged terrain, with steep rocky cliff-faces and deep gorges dissected by numerous streams with a network of pools. The area varies in altitude from 350 m at the Pongola river to 1,550 m on the plateau to the west of Louwsburg.

Three woodland-types are recognized: one is found in the valley bottoms, another at intermediate altitudes, and the third on the highest plateau. The lowland community is dominated by trees of Acacia, Combretum, Ficus and Albizia. The middleveld also holds Acacia and Combretum (especially on stony hill-slopes), as well as Faurea, Protea, Pavetta and Cussonia. Along the watercourses Combretum, Ziziphus, Rhus and Catha are found. The region on the high plateau, above 1,250 m, is open and treeless and dominated by grass. Bulbous geophytes are common and the shrub community is dominated by Euclea and Leucosidea.

Key biodiversity
See Box and Table 3 for key species. The reserve is known to support over 300 bird species. This diversity can be attributed to the reserve’s ecotonal nature and the variety of habitats it supports. The riverine forest provides habitat for many of the more secretive, river-dependent species such as Podica senegalensis, Gorsachius leuconotus and Alcedo semitorquata. The mountainous cliffs hold a colony of Geronticus calvus. Several large raptor species that are rare outside South Africa’s large parks occur here, including Gyps africanus, Torgos tracheliotus, Polemaetus bellicosus, Terathopius ecaudatus and Aquila rapax. Bucorvus cafer, Neotis denhami, Eupodotis senegalensis and Tyto capensis occur in the grassland areas in small numbers. The thicket and forest areas support Poicephalus cryptoxanthus and Telophorus quadricolor, both East African Coast specials.

Non-bird biodiversity: Several mammal species have been reintroduced here, including Ceratotherium simum (LR/cd), Diceros bicornis (CR), Loxodonta africana (EN) and Acinonyx jubatus (VU), and there is a naturally occurring population of Hyaena brunnea (LR/nt).

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Ithala Game Reserve. Downloaded from on 21/10/2020.