Botsalano Nature Reserve is about 40 km north of central Mahikeng, near the border with Botswana, and occupies an area of approximately 5 610 ha. Proclaimed in 1984 under the Bophuthatswana Nature Conservation Act No. 3 of 1973, it falls within the Mahikeng local municipality in the Ngaka Modiri Molema District municipality.
The reserve lies between 1 320 and 1 440 m a.s.l. and consists of slightly undulating plains. Its geological formation comprises mostly shale, slate and quartzite of the Pretoria Group, although parts of the Gaborone Granite Complex extensions to the north of Mahikeng also fall within its boundaries. The soils are relatively shallow and rocky (Glenrosa and Mispah forms), with deep sandy loam (Hutton form) in places. The regional climate is warm-temperate with high temperatures in summer, and the average annual precipitation is 533 mm, occurring in summer and autumn. Although largely dry, the area holds some ephemeral rivers that eventually run into the Molopo River in Botswana.
Botsalano has elements of both the Grassland and the Savanna biomes. The savanna vegetation is known as dry Cymbopogon–Themeda veld and comprises Searsia (formerly Rhus) lancea and Grewia flava trees and Cymbopogon grasses on the hilltops, with Vachellia (formerly Acacia) trees and Eragrostis and Schmidtia grasses in the ‘valley’ bottoms and burnt areas.
The area is of particular interest from an ornithological point of view as it is one of very few reserves in South Africa that holds the western population of the Short-clawed Lark Certhilauda chuana. It is also one of the few reserves in which Melodious Lark Mirafra cheniana can be found. In addition, the open grassland flats are known to occasionally support Yellow-throated Sandgrouse Pterocles gutturalis. Owing to its proximity to Botswana, which enjoys extensive rural landscape management, the reserve supports large scavengers such as Lappet-faced Vulture Torgos tracheliotus and breeding White-backed Vulture Gyps africanus, as well as Cape Vulture G. coprotheres, which is occasionally seen foraging. It is excellent for raptors, with Martial Eagle Polemaetus bellicosus, Bateleur Terathopius ecaudatus, Tawny Eagle Aquila rapax, Wahlberg’s Eagle A. wahlbergi, African Hawk Eagle A. spilogaster, Brown Snake Eagle Circaetus cinereus and Black-chested Snake Eagle C. pectoralis all occurring.
The surrounding woodland–grassland mosaic is known to hold Secretarybird Sagittarius serpentarius and Kori Bustard Ardeotis kori. Other woodland specials are Monotonous Lark Mirafra passerina, Pied Babbler Turdoides bicolor, White-throated Robin-chat Cossypha humeralis, Kalahari Scrub Robin Erythropygia paena, Burnt-necked Eremomela Eremomela usticollis, Barred Wren-Warbler Calamonastes fasciolatus, Marico Flycatcher Melaenornis mariquensis, Crimson-breasted Shrike Laniarius atrococcineus, Southern White-crowned Shrike Eurocephalus anguitimens, Burchell’s Starling Lamprotornis australis, Scaly-feathered Finch Sporopipes squamifrons, Violet-eared Waxbill Uraeginthus granatinus, Black-faced Waxbill Estrilda erythronotos and Shaft-tailed Whydah Vidua regia. Dusky Lark Pinarocorys nigricans can be seen on the sparsely vegetated plains, while Tinkling Cisticola Cisticola rufilatus occurs in the broad-leaved woodlands.
Globally threatened birds are Cape Vulture, Kori Bustard, Lappet-faced Vulture (five active nests were spotted during the aerial count in mid-August 2014), Secretarybird, Melodious Lark and White-backed Vulture. Regionally threatened birds are Lanner Falcon Falco biarmicus and Short-clawed Lark. Biome-restricted species commonly found are Barred Wren-Warbler, Kalahari Scrub Robin, White-throated Robin-chat and White-bellied Sunbird Cinnyris talatala, while less common species are Burchell's Starling and Sociable Weaver Philetairus socius.
The predominant vegetation type in Botsalano Nature Reserve is Klerksdorp Thornveld (which is vulnerable, 2.5% protected and 71% remaining), but there is also a small area of Mafikeng Bushveld (which is vulnerable, unprotected and 75% remaining).
The following southern African endemic reptiles occur in the region and may be found within the reserve: Kalahari tent tortoise Psammobates oculiferus, Duerden’s burrowing asp Atractaspis duerdeni, two-striped shovel-snout Prosymna bivittata, shield-nose snake Aspidelaps scutatus and Cape spade-snouted worm lizard Monopeltis capensis.
The reserve is fully protected and faces relatively few threats. Currently the most significant of these is rhino poaching, which is jeopardising the overall management of Botsalano. The reserve manager has had to redirect a considerable portion of his resources to fighting the increased poaching threat.
As a result of already limited resources being dedicated to fighting poaching, other functions such as maintenance, monitoring and tourism are not being managed as effectively as desired. In addition, due to related safety concerns, tourist movements have been restricted and walking is no longer permitted. Being able to walk in Botsalano used to be an incentive to visit the reserve, and its tourism potential may be curtailed if rhino poaching is not substantially reduced in the near future. The reserve’s income would be affected, which may have a negative impact on habitat management in the long term.
As a provincial nature reserve, Botsalano is fully protected. It did not have a management plan at the time the IBA was assessed (October 2013), but one was being written. Although conservation measures are being implemented, they are not comprehensive and are limited by capacity.
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Seitlhamo WS. 2013. Ecological status report Botsalano Game Reserve. Ecological Services, North West Parks and Tourism Board. April 2013.