General Information


Global IBA (A1, A3, A4i)


Free State




448 700 ha



Additional Info

  • Site description

    This IBA was previously known as Fouriesburg–Bethlehem–Clarens, but its name was changed to Rooiberge–Riemland in 2014. Its boundaries were also changed: the northern section was removed as it is severely degraded, and the area of pans (some perennial) above the road crossing at the R57 (heading north towards Kestell) was added. This section is in better condition and is frequented by crane species. Langberg was also included on the eastern side. This is an important site for breeding eagles and has areas covered in ouhout Leucosidea sericea scrub. Adding these areas to the IBA will help to conserve more Eastern Temperate Freshwater Wetlands habitat as well as the Wilge River floodplain.

    Most of the IBA is private farmland and has been further transformed since 1998, leaving in a natural state only some patches of grassland, rocky outcrops, and sandstone cliffs deeply incised by rivers. The site is surrounded by agro-industry activities to the north, east and west; these include croplands, fallow agricultural fields that are no longer arable, and some cattle ranching. To the south it borders Lesotho.

    The area receives an average rainfall of c. 600 mm p.a., and considerable snow and frost at higher altitudes in winter. The annual average minimum and maximum temperatures are 6 °C and 26 °C respectively, although frost and snow usually reduce the temperature to well below freezing.

    This IBA falls within the Grassland Biome (Mesic Highveld Grassland). Its original extent comprised mostly two vegetation types: Eastern Free State Clay Grassland and Eastern Free State Sandy Grassland, which are now mostly transformed by agro-industry. Only 44.5% of the total extent of the Eastern Free State Clay Grassland remains; it is poorly protected and classified as an Endangered ecosystem. Two other grassland vegetation types are present: Lesotho Highland Basalt Grassland (91.8% of its total extent remaining) and Northern Drakensberg Highland Grassland (remaining extent 93.6%). The fifth vegetation type in this IBA is Basotho Montane Shrubland, of which 67.9% of its total extent remains and it is classified as Vulnerable. Tiny patches of Northern Free State Shrubland are present, and the wetlands (pans) are classified as Eastern Temperate Freshwater Wetlands, which are Vulnerable and a threatened ecosystem.

    A wide variety of attractive flowering plants occur, including Kniphofia triangularis, Zantedeschia oculata, Eucomis bicolor and Agapanthus, Bulbine, Gladiolus and Hypoxis species. Among the succulents that may be found are Aloe ecklonis and Crassula and Euphorbia species.

    Woody communities encroach in the deeper valleys and krantzes. Dominant species in the thickets are Cliffortia linearifolia, Leucosidea sericea, Buddleia salvifolia and Cussonia paniculata, as well as members of the Searsia (formerly Rhus), Diospyros and Protasparagus genera. On the flatter, deeper soils of the mountain slopes and plateau Protea caffra woodland dominates. As a large proportion of the area is used for farming, several areas hold exotic plants such as Acacia mearnsii and Pinus and Populus species along rivers and around homesteads.


    The bird species recorded for the Rooiberge–Riemland IBA total at least 304. It is an important site for Verreauxs' Eagle Aquila verreauxii and a refuge for Cape Eagle-Owl Bubo capensis in the Free State (in the Fouriesburg and Ficksburg areas). The site supports several Southern Bald Ibis Geronticus calvus breeding colonies. The ibises are regularly seen foraging alongside Blue Crane Anthropoides paradiseus, Grey Crowned Crane Balearica regulorum and Blue Korhaan Eupodotis caerulescens in the grasslands. Cape Vulture Gyps coprotheres, Bearded Vulture Gypaetus barbatus and Martial Eagle Polemaetus bellicosus are now only occasional visitors and no longer breed here.

    The rocky scarps, cliffs and outcrops hold breeding Black Stork Ciconia nigra, Verreauxs' Eagle, Jackal Buzzard Buteo rufofuscus, Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus and Cape Eagle-Owl. The grassy slopes are home to Buff-streaked Chat Campicoloides bifasciata, Sentinel Rock Thrush Monticola explorator and Cape Grassbird Sphenoeacus afer. Fairy Flycatcher Stenostira scita occurs in wooded gullies. Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni arrives as a regular summer visitor and Black Harrier Circus maurus as a regular winter visitor.

    IBA trigger species

    Globally threatened species are Southern Bald Ibis, Secretarybird Sagittarius serpentarius, Cape Vulture, Blue Korhaan, Blue Crane, Martial Eagle, Grey Crowned Crane and Black Harrier.  Regionally threatened species are Lanner Falcon Falco biarmicus and Black Stork. Biome-restricted species include Barratt's Warbler Bradypterus barratti and Buff-streaked Chat. Amur Falcon Falco amurensis is a congregatory species.

    Other biodiversity

    Threatened mammals include southern African hedgehog Atelerix frontalis and oribi Ourebia ourebi.

    Conservation issues


    There is an existing Technical Cooperation Permit for the north-eastern section of the Free State, including this IBA, for petroleum exploration (shale gas) which is likely to be by means of hydraulic fracturing. There is therefore a potential threat of petroleum mining/fracking over the medium term in parts of the IBA.

    Tourism activities and urban expansion are becoming significant threats to the remaining natural habitat left in this IBA.

    Conservation action

    Very little of the area is formally protected, and no formal management plan exists for the IBA as a whole. FSEDTEA is trying to create management plans at the municipal level for municipal reserves within this IBA. Protected areas include the local municipal conservation areas of Wolhuterskop, Vaalbank (SANDF site), Loch Athlone (Bethlehem municipality) and Clarens Nature Reserve. Some private nature reserves exist and two conservancies are active. Some private landowners near Fouriesburg have shown an interest in declaring their land Protected Environments.

    Related webpages



    If you have any information about the IBA, such as a new threat that could impact on it, please send an e-mail to or call BirdLife South Africa +27 (11) 789 1122.

    Page last updated

    Wednesday, 18 February 2015

    Further Reading

    Barnes K (ed.). 1998. The Important Bird Areas of southern Africa. Johannesburg: BirdLife South Africa.

    Earlé RA, Lawson AB. 1988. An annotated checklist of the birds of the Golden Gate Highlands National Park. Koedoe 31: 227–243.

    Hutsebaut MS, Kok OB, Daneel J-H. 1992. Additions to the bird list of the Golden Gate Highlands National Park. Koedoe 35: 99–100.

    Kopij G. 1995. Black Eagle Aquila verreauxii predation on Southern Bald Ibis Geronticus calvus nestlings in South Africa. Journal of African Raptor Biology 10: 37.

    Mucina L, Rutherford MC (eds). 2006. The vegetation of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. Strelitzia 19. Pretoria: South African National Biodiversity Institute.

    Pocock TN, Uys CJ. 1967. The Bald Ibis in the northeastern Orange Free State. Bokmakierie 19: 28–31.

    NFEPA wetlands map. 2011.

    Roberts BR. 1969. The vegetation of Golden Gate Highlands National Park. Koedoe 12: 15–28.

    Stoltz LP, Geyser B. 1973. The distribution of ibises in the Orange Free State with reference to the status of the Bald Ibis. Unpublished report. Bloemfontein: Department of Nature Conservation.

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