Kouga - Baviaanskloof Complex

Year of compilation: 2001

Site description
The Kouga–Baviaanskloof complex encompasses large areas of mountainous terrain in the western portion of the Eastern Cape. The Kouga and Baviaanskloof ranges are c.120 km long and run parallel to one another from Uniondale in the west to Patensie in the east. The Baviaanskloof valley, which separates the ranges, lies c.40 km due north of the coastline, and to the south the Langkloof and Tsitsikamma ranges separate these mountains from the coast. The larger and more extensive Kouga range contains many high peaks at its central and western extent, up to 1,757 m. The eastern edge of the range is less rugged, and consists of plateaus and rolling hills falling below 900 m. Relative to Kouga, the linear Baviaanskloof range is far narrower and much more uniform in shape, peaking at 1,625 m. The north-facing slopes drop steeply into the Great Karoo.

Three main rivers drain the area: the Baviaans and Kouga rivers flow eastwards into the Kouga Dam, and the Groot river flows through a spectacular gorge before joining the Gamtoos river, which runs to the coast. The mainly leached and acid soils support mesic mountain fynbos. Trees of Pappea, Schotia and Euclea are common. Patches of Afromontane forest occur in deep, secluded, mesic gorges and are dominated by trees of Cunonia, Halleria, Pterocelastrus, Rapanea and Podocarpus. Arid veld occurs on the xeric northern slopes, dominated by Aloe, Euphorbia and Crassula. Spekboomveld is found on the steepest slopes at lowest altitude and is dominated by Portulacaria and Putterlickia. On the plains of the Great Karoo, karroid scrub appears, dominated by Tetragonia, Pteronia, Euclea, Euphorbia, Crassula and Cotyledon.

Key biodiversity
See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. The Kouga–Baviaanskloof complex and the surrounding plains hold a remarkable number of avian habitats, making it home to approximately 300 bird species. Within the low fynbos scrub, Sarothrura affinis is found and the western race (nana) of Turnix hottentotta is suspected. Nectarinia violacea is widespread in ericas, while Promerops cafer and Serinus leucopterus occur in the proteoid elements and tall scrub. Francolinus capensis, Pycnonotus capensis and Serinus totta are widespread within the fynbos, while Bradypterus victorini is found in moist seeps in the hilly areas. Geocolaptes olivaceus is common on most rocky slopes above 1,000 m, while Chaetops frenatus is inexplicably rare, with a few records from the western Baviaanskloof area. The isolated forest patches, particularly in the south, hold several forest endemics, including Campethera notata and Serinus scotops.

The Great Karoo plains and northern foothills of the complex hold Eupodotis vigorsii, Cercomela sinuata and Malcorus pectoralis. Serinus alario occurs occasionally, whenever there is seeding grass and water. The belts of riverine Acacia woodland hold Phragmacia substriata, Sylvia layardi and Parus afer. Onychognathus nabouroup occurs in rocky gorges and kloofs. Several small roosts of Falco naumanni occur; the birds disperse during the day to forage on the plains. Furthermore, the coastal grassland belt to the south holds Grus paradisea, Neotis denhami and Circus maurus.

Non-bird biodiversity: This area is thought to hold in excess of 2,000 plant species, and there are many endemic species of Ericaceae and Restionaceae in the southern Kouga–Baviaanskloof complex. Among herptiles, Goggia hewitti has most of its global range restricted to the Baviaanskloof mountains and the rare Lamprophis fuscus (LR/nt) has been recorded here, as has the highly localized Heleophryne regis and an as-yet-undescribed species of Bradypodion.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Most of this terrain forms the Kouga/Baviaanskloof Wilderness Area (172,208 ha, comprising 155,323 ha demarcated State Forest and 16,885 ha undemarcated State Forest). An additional 157,829 ha have been proposed as Wilderness Area, in accordance with the policy of the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) (formerly the Directorate of Forestry and Environmental Conservation) to extend reserves for more effective water management.Invasive non-native trees of Acacia, Hakea and Pinus pose a serious threat to the conservation of water and natural vegetation in these mountains. In places, these exotic taxa dominate thousands of hectares of natural vegetation, significantly modifying communities and threatening many indigenous taxa with extinction. Non-native trees are also known to accelerate riverbank erosion and reduce in-stream flow. They are also responsible for changes in fire regime and alteration of plant community composition. Physical removal, bio-control and the use of fire as a control agent are now appropriately incorporated into most management plans.

Within the IBA, limited and controlled agricultural and urban development is allowed, in which grazing, game-farming and flower- and plant-harvesting are permitted on a scale that is compatible with ecosystem preservation. The greater human usage of this mountain area increases the chance of dispersal of the exotic Argentine ant Iridomyrmex humilis into these ecosystems. This species ousts the indigenous ants that are responsible for seed dispersal of numerous fynbos species. The loss of the indigenous ants could have a major negative impact on the local biota.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Kouga - Baviaanskloof Complex. Downloaded from on 26/03/2023.