Mafika - Lisiu

Country/territory: Lesotho

IBA criteria met: A1, A2, A3, A4ii (1998)
For more information about IBA criteria, please click here

Area: 50,000 ha

Site description (2001 baseline)
This site is centred on cliffs on the front range of the Maloti. The surrounding highlands support a traditional pastoral economy with a low-density population. Approximately 15% of the surrounding area (within a 25-km radius) is cultivated, the remainder being open pasture. The vegetation is primarily montane grassland. High-altitude shrubs form a heath of Erica, Chrysocoma and Helichrysum. The summits are generally rocky with bare, shallow soil patches and rock sheets near the escarpment.

Key biodiversity
See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. The cliffs support the greatest number of breeding Gyps coprotheres in Lesotho. Over 100 breeding pairs (22% of Lesotho’s total) and 240 birds are found at four ‘stable nucleus’ colonies. Undoubtedly some exchange occurs between the colonies. The IBA includes adjacent foraging areas. The rare but widespread Gypaetus barbatus meridionalis forages and breeds widely across the IBA. Other cliff-nesting species include Buteo rufofuscus, Falco biarmicus and Ciconia nigra. The high-altitude, rocky, boulder strewn-slopes and outcrops (above 2,000 m) support Chaetops aurantius, and the surrounding grassy slopes and plateau hold Anthus hoeschi, which breeds in large numbers during the austral summer (especially above 3,000 m). Serinus symonsi occurs commonly above 1,500 m, and has become commensal with humans, occupying and foraging in villages and among fallow and harvested crop fields. Anthus crenatus, Monticola explorator and Geocolaptes olivaceus occur commonly in the vicinity of rocky outcrops. Cercomela sinuata hypernephela, Sylvia layardi barnesi and Circus maurus are uncommon. The small, isolated Lesotho subspecies Parus afer arens occurs. Small numbers of Geronticus calvus occasionally forage in this area and it is thought that there may be breeding colonies in the vicinity. In February 2000, the globally threatened Anthus chloris was recorded for the first time at this locality (a displaying individual).

Non-bird biodiversity: The alpine floral communities found in the Maloti/Drakensberg mountains are unique in southern Africa, holding a remarkable number of endemic plant species. A recent botanical survey of three valleys in the Maloti yielded many species that could not be identified and some may be new to science. Two reptiles endemic to southern Africa, Bradypodion dracomontanum and Pseudocordylus melanotus, are known from this region, and the poorly known endemic and threatened small mammal Chlorotalpa sclateri (VU) may also occur here.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Mafika - Lisiu. Downloaded from on 22/09/2023.