Waterberg Plateau Park

Country/territory: Namibia

IBA Criteria met: A1, A3 (2001)
For more information about IBA criteria please click here

Area: 40,500 ha

Site description
Waterberg Plateau Park is located some 30 km east of Otjiwarongo. The primary feature within the park is the Waterberg Plateau, which rises to 1,800 m on the western and southern sides. The major part of this differentially weathered sandstone plateau is at 1,600 m, some 150–200 m above the surrounding plain. The plateau consists mostly of near-vertical cliffs on the east and west, up to 140 m high. In the north the plateau gradually widens and dips to join the plain. Below the cliffs the ground slopes steeply but evenly away from the base of the mountain; the slopes are covered by sandstone scree weathered from the summit. The plateau comprises an undulating landscape with deep sand and scattered granite koppies. It is an erosional relict of a hard Etjo sandstone casing that covered large parts of Namibia millions of years ago. Most of the ancient plateau was carved up over aeons, but the resistant Etjo sandstone prevented the erosion of the Waterberg. To the south of the main plateau lies the Klein Waterberg, an inselberg rising to 1,930 m, which is now part of a large conservancy surrounding the park.

On the plateau summit thick broadleaved woodland occurs right to the edge of the escarpment. The broadleaved tree and shrub savanna is dominated by Terminalia, Burkea, Combretum and Peltophorum. There are isolated grass savanna valleys. Below this, and surrounding the plateau for thousands of square kilometres, lies a sea of dense scrub, dominated by Acacia and Dichrostachys.

Key biodiversity
See Box and Table 3 for key species. This park supports over 200 bird species, including Namibia’s only surviving colony of Gyps coprotheres, which used to breed on the cliffs of Okarukuwisa mountain (1,884 m) in the Waterberg range. Due to poisoning and bush encroachment these birds no longer breed. It is the only area in Namibia where Hieraaetus pennatus minisculus are known to breed. Other cliff-nesting raptors breeding on the Waterberg include Falco peregrinus and Aquila verreauxii. Vultures include Torgos tracheliotus, Trigonoceps occipitalis and Gyps africanus. Other raptors include Sagittarius serpentarius, Terathopius ecaudatus, Polemaetus bellicosus and Aquila rapax. The park lies close to the boundary of near-endemic Namibian species such as Parus carpi and their northern cousins (e.g. P. niger).

Non-bird biodiversity: Among mammals, threatened species include Acinonyx jubatus (VU), Ceratotherium simum (LR/cd) and Diceros bicornis (CR), while Madoqua kirkii is near-endemic to Namibia and common here.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Waterberg Plateau Park. Downloaded from on 29/03/2023.