Umlalazi Nature Reserve

Year of compilation: 2001

Site description (baseline)
Umlalazi lies directly adjacent to the town of Mtunzini, 120 km north of Durban. It is bounded in the north by the Umlalazi river and its lagoon, in the west by a prawn farm and cane and timber lands, in the south by Amatikulu Nature Reserve, and in the east by the sea. It is bisected by the Siyayi river, which has its own lagoon. The terrain is flat. Dune forest occupies much of the reserve, with trees of Olea, Vepris, Ekebergia, Dovyalis and Scolopia. Wet areas beyond the influence of brackish water bear extensive stands of reed Phragmites. Fringing the Siyayi Lagoon is a swamp-forest with Barringtonia and Hibiscus. By contrast, around the Umlalazi Lagoon is a beautiful mangrove forest of Avicennia and Bruguiera, with saltmarsh in the upper tidal reaches.

Key biodiversity
See Box and Table 3 for key species. The belts of coastal forest are important wintering grounds for Zoothera guttata, Telophorus quadricolor, Cossypha dichroa, Cercotrichas signata, Lamprotornis corruscus and Nectarinia veroxii. The mangroves in the estuary hold a healthy wintering population of Halcyon senegaloides. The freshwater portion of the river has many backwaters, with overhanging vegetation suitable for Gorsachius leuconotus, Podica senegalensis and Scotopelia peli.

Non-bird biodiversity: The orchid Didymophlexis verrucosa is endemic to the reserve and its immediate surrounds. Two Red Data fish, Eliotris melanosoma and Taenioides jacksoni (LR/nt) are almost certainly present in the estuary.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Umlalazi is a KwaZulu-Natal Nature Conservation Service reserve, proclaimed in 1948. The mangrove swamp is one of the finest remaining examples in South Africa, and the most accessible for education purposes. The southern part of the dune forest is not well patrolled, due to lack of funds, and is being abused by neighbours. Uncontrolled fires cause damage, cattle are grazed illicitly, and plants are exploited. The Umlalazi river and its estuary receive nutrient-enriched wastewater from the prawn farm. So far, major damage has not been noted, but the scale of pollution could increase. Four private properties remain as an enclave within the reserve. They are a source of cats and dogs, a seemingly trivial problem. However, uncontrolled cats in particular pose a major threat to Zoothera guttata, individuals of which are tame and often forage on the ground near dwellings.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Umlalazi Nature Reserve. Downloaded from on 01/06/2023.