Sterkfontein Dam Nature Reserve

Country/territory: South Africa

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

Area: 17,770 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 very unfavourable high
For more information about IBA monitoring please click here

Site description
The northern boundary of this reserve lies 13 km south-west of Harrismith, while the southern edge lies along the border with KwaZulu-Natal, just west of Oliviershoek Pass. Most of the eastern boundary runs along the Free State section of the road (R74) through the pass. The reserve lies in the grassland and alpine belt between 1,700 and 2,328 m, and consists of rolling sour grassland surrounding the state-owned Sterkfontein Dam, which receives most of its water from the Tugela river. The vegetation is primarily high-altitude montane grassland. The western portion of the reserve includes part of the northern end of the ‘Little Drakensberg’ section of the escarpment, holding cave sandstone cliffs that are dissected by streams to form valleys and gorges. High-altitude shrubs form a heath of Protea, Erica, Chrysocoma and Helichrysum. Stands of Leucosidea occur on some of the slopes and small patches of Afromontane forest are found in a few gorges.

Key biodiversity
See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. This area supports some highly threatened grassland species including the critically threatened Heteromirafra ruddi; it also supports breeding Geronticus calvus and holds a breeding Gyps coprotheres colony, which falls just outside the reserve. Both Grus paradisea and Balearica regulorum are found in the reserve. Small numbers of Neotis denhami, Circus macrourus and Tyto capensis are found on the reserve. Several other grassland species, such as Saxicola bifasciata, Geocolaptes olivaceus, Anthus crenatus, Promerops gurneyi, Monticola explorator and Eupodotis caerulescens, also occur here. The small patches of Afromontane forest support Serinus scotops and Lioptilus nigricapillus.

Non-bird biodiversity: The reserve is known to hold the following threatened or endemic herptiles: Cordylus giganteus (VU), Tetradactylus breyeri (VU) and Bradypodion dracomontanum. The mammal Myotis lesueri (VU) is known to occur in the surrounding grassland.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Sterkfontein Dam Nature Reserve. Downloaded from on 27/01/2021.