Pilanesberg National Park

Country/territory: South Africa

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

Area: 50,000 ha

Protection status:

BirdLife South Africa
Most recent IBA monitoring assessment
Year of assessment Threat score (pressure) Condition score (state) Action score (response)
2014 high favourable high
For more information about IBA monitoring please click here

Site description
Pilanesberg National Park (called a national park because it used to belong to the homeland of Bophuthatswana) is managed by North-west Nature Conservation. It lies c.160 km north-west of Johannesburg, and is the fourth-largest protected area in South Africa. The park covers a wide range of habitats, including vleis, lakes, streams, thick bush, broadleaved and Acacia woodland, koppies, open grasslands and former farmlands. The park encompasses the Pilanesberg mountains. The resulting structure is a ring-complex of concentric koppies, the highest being 1,669 m, interspersed in a matrix of low-lying plains.

The Mankwe river and its five major tributaries provide most of the park’s water. In the past, farmers constructed additional water-storage dams for livestock in order to supplement non-perennial streams. The largest impoundment, Mankwe Lake, is in the centre of the park. There is a sharp contrast between the tree-dotted hill-slope vegetation and the pure grassland of the pediments. Areas of secondary grassland occur on old cultivated fields. In the valleys, there are trees of Acacia, Spirostachys, Rhus, Ziziphus and Combretum. The pediment savannas hold trees of Faurea and to a lesser extent Acacia. The hill savanna is wooded mainly with trees of Combretum and Dombeya.

Key biodiversity
See Box for key species. The park holds over 300 species of bird. Situated midway between the colonies of Gyps coprotheres at Magaliesberg (IBA ZA018; c.100 km away) and at Waterberg (IBA ZA006; c.150 km away), this site regularly holds foraging birds of this species. The park also holds small numbers of Gyps africanus and occasionally Torgos tracheliotus. The reserve is also good for other raptors and supports small numbers of Polemaetus bellicosus, Terathopius ecaudatus, Aquila verreauxii, A. rapax, A. wahlbergi and Hieraaetus spilogaster. The surrounding woodland-grassland mosaic is known to hold Ardeotis kori and Grus paradisea. Other woodland species include Mirafra passerina, Cossypha humeralis, Cercotrichas paena, Eremomela usticollis, Bradornis mariquensis, Laniarius atrococcineus, Eurocephalus anguitimens, Passer motitensis, Sporopipes squamifrons, Uraeginthus granatina, Estrilda erythronotos and Vidua regia.

Non-bird biodiversity: The spectacular plant, Erythrophysa transvaalensis, is restricted to c.250 individuals, most of which occur within the Pilanesberg. Several threatened species of large mammal were reintroduced through ‘Operation Genesis’, the restocking programme of the early 1980s, including Ceratotherium simum (LR/cd), Diceros bicornis (CR), Loxodonta africana (EN) and Acinonyx jubatus (VU). Owing to their secretive nocturnal habits, Hyaena brunnea (LR/nt) and Manis temminckii (LR/nt) have maintained natural populations in the area without being hunted out.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Pilanesberg National Park. Downloaded from on 30/09/2020.