This IBA consists of the whole Waterberg plateau, roughly between the towns of Modimolle, Thabazimbi, Lephalale and Mokopane. The area includes the Waterberg range, which is about 130 km long. The Kransberg, a massif in the western sector of the Waterberg range, has been incorporated into Marakele National Park. The Hanglipberge, in the east, hold a series of dramatic cliffs suitable for cliff-nesting species.
The area is characterised by open broad-leaved woodland that is common on the plains below the Waterberg Mountains.
Kransberg holds a large colony of 800–850 Cape Vulture Gyps coprotheres pairs. There are many other raptor species in the IBA, such as Martial Eagle Polemaetus bellicosus, Verreauxs' Eagle Aquila verreauxii, Jackal Buzzard Buteo rufofuscus and African Harrier-Hawk Polyboroides typus. The IBA also contains breeding populations of Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus, Lanner Falcon F. biarmicus, Black Stork Ciconia nigra and Cape Eagle-Owl Bubo capensis.
The grasslands support small populations of Denham's Bustard Neotis denhami, White-bellied Korhaan Eupodotis senegalensis, Blue Crane Anthropoides paradiseus and Secretarybird Sagittarius serpentarius. Gurney's Sugarbird Promerops gurneyi occurs at higher altitudes, for example in the Marekele National Park, where Protea roupelliae dominates the protea woodland.
Woodland birds include Red-crested Korhaan Lophotis ruficrista, Monotonous Lark Mirafra passerina, Barred Wren-Warbler Calamonastes fasciolatus, Southern White-crowned Shrike Eurocephalus anguitimens, Scaly-feathered Finch Sporopipes squamifrons, Violet-eared Waxbill Uraeginthus granatinus and Black-faced Waxbill Estrilda erythronotos. Half-collared Kingfisher Alcedo semitorquata and Mountain Wagtail Motacilla clara occur along the mountain streams. Some of the rivers hold White-backed Night Heron Gorsachius leuconotus and African Finfoot Podica senegalensis. Buff-streaked Chat Campicoloides bifasciata and Cape Rock Thrush Monticola rupestris, which are endemic to South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland, also occur in the IBA.
Globally threatened species are Cape Vulture (818 active nests in 2013), Secretarybird, Martial Eagle, Blue Crane, Denham's Bustard and Southern Ground-Hornbill Bucorvus leadbeateri. Regionally threatened birds are White-backed Night Heron, Lanner Falcon, White-bellied Korhaan, African Grass Owl Tyto capensis, Tawny Eagle Aquila rapax, African Finfoot and Half-collared Kingfisher.
Biome-restricted species include Kurrichane Thrush Turdus libonyanus, White-bellied Sunbird Cinnyris talatala, Barred Wren-Warbler and Burchell's Starling Lamprotornis australis, which are common. White-throated Robin-Chat Cossypha humeralis is considered fairly common and Buff-streaked Chat, Kalahari Scrub Robin Erythropygia paena and Gurney's Sugarbird are regarded as uncommon.
The threatened butterfly, Eriksonia acraeina, occurs here. The global ranges of the Waterberg cycad Encephalartos eugenemaraisii, Waterberg dwarf gecko Lygodactylus waterbergensis, Waterberg girdled lizard Cordylus breyeri and Waterberg flat lizard Platysaurus minor are virtually restricted to these mountains. Both the dwarf flat lizard P. guttatus and relict flat lizard P. relictus have global ranges restricted to the Waterberg and nearby Soutpansberg.
The South African endemic Lowveld flat gecko Afroedura langi, Natal purple-glossed snake Amblyodipsas concolor and northern crag lizard Pseudocordylus transvaalensis may occur in the mountain range, as may the southern African endemic Kalahari tent tortoise Psammobates oculiferus in the arid savanna.
Roan antelope Hippotragus equinus and African elephant Loxodonta africana have been re-introduced in several high-profile conservation areas. The roan were sourced from a small remnant population in the Waterberg.
There are surprisingly few threats to this large IBA. Agricultural activities are declining and large areas of agricultural land have been converted to game farms. Uncontrolled fires are probably the biggest threat to the trigger species and their habitats. The poisoning of vultures remains a threat; a single incident can potentially kill large numbers of these birds. A few applications to mine in the IBA have been submitted. However, the Waterberg is not an area of high mineral content and mining should not be a threat to this IBA. Collisions with radio and television towers as well as power lines have caused substantial vulture mortality. A number of large dams occur in the IBA. Although the management of these dams does not directly affect the Waterberg System IBA, it does have an impact on the Nyl River Floodplain IBA (SA008), as the Waterberg is within the catchment of the Nyl River. These two IBAs are therefore interconnected.
Protected areas within the IBA are Marakele National Park, D'Nyala Nature Reserve, Entabeni Nature Reserve, Doorndraai Nature Reserve and Hans Strijdom Nature Reserve. Welgevonden Private Nature Reserve has also applied to receive formal protection as a nature reserve. These reserves are generally well managed, although some of them lack funding and staff. Unfortunately some of the vulture colonies fall outside Marakele National Park and extending the park's boundary to rectify this situation should be investigated.
The IBA also forms part of the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve.
BirdLife Northern Gauteng became the Local Conservation Group for this IBA. It will assist with bird-monitoring projects in the IBA, such as SABAP2, CWAC and ringing.
Benson PC, Dobbs JC.1984. Causes of Cape Vulture mortality at the Kransberg colony. In: Mendelsohn JM, Sapsford CW (eds), Proceedings of the Second Symposium on African Predatory Birds. Durban: Natal Bird Club. pp 87–93.
Benson PC, Tarboton WR, Allan DG, Dobbs JC.1990. The breeding status of the Cape Vulture in the Transvaal during 1980–1985. Ostrich 61: 134–142.
Coetzee BJ, Van Wyk P, Gertenbach WPD, Hall-Martin A, Joubert SCJ.1981. ’n Plantekologiese verkenning van die Waterberggebied in die Noord-Transvaal bosveld. Koedoe 24: 1–23.