Mount Currie Nature Reserve

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General Information

Status:

Sub-regional IBA (C1)

Province:

KwaZulu-Natal

Protection:

Fully Protected

Size:

1 770 ha

Number:

SA084

Additional Info

  • Site description

    Located 4 km north of Kokstad, the reserve consists of Mount Currie itself and its lower slopes. Its altitude ranges from 1 430 m a.s.l. to 2 224 m a.s.l. The mountain top has some rocky crags and precipices composed primarily of basalt and dolerite. The climate is temperate. Frost is regular in winter and snow occasional; rainfall averaged 693 mm p.a. between 1992 and 1998.

    The dominant vegetation in the site is open grassland, but there are extensive areas of open woodland dominated by Protea caffra or P. roupelliae. Lower-lying areas were, historically, heavily farmed and have thatch grass as the legacy. Old wattle plantations have been cleared and the land is being rehabilitated back to grassland. Small areas of montane and scrub forest line some of the watercourses. The lower end of the reserve has an artificial impoundment that serves as a water supply for Kokstad. Upstream of the impoundment are wetlands that were historically drained, but these have been rehabilitated.

    Birds

    The rivers, floodplains, pans, dams and vleis are important for many wetland-dependent and wetland-associated birds such as Black Stork Ciconia nigra, which breeds in gorges in the nearby mountains. The wetland areas support African Marsh Harrier Circus ranivorus. Up to 33 pairs of Striped Flufftail Sarothrura affinis occur in the reserve, one of the highest densities in the country. African Grass Owl Tyto capensis, Blue Crane Anthropoides paradiseus and Southern Ground-Hornbill Bucorvus leadbeateri occur in the grasslands. Cape Vulture Gyps coprotheres and Martial Eagle Polemaetus bellicosus occasionally cruise over the reserve, and Bearded Vulture Gypaetus barbatus has bred in the cliffs above it. Both vulture species visit the vulture feeding area, which is regularly provisioned with carcasses. The rocky slopes and montane areas support Black Harrier Circus maurus, Buff-streaked Chat Campicoloides bifasciata, Drakensberg Rockjumper Chaetops aurantius, Gurney's Sugarbird Promerops gurneyi and Sentinel Rock Thrush Monticola explorator. The thickets on the slopes hold Bush Blackcap Lioptilus nigricapillus.

    IBA trigger species

    Bush Blackcap is a globally threatened species, while regionally threatened species are Striped Flufftail and African Grass Owl. A number of restricted-range and biome-restricted species occur, including Buff-streaked Chat, Drakensberg Rockjumper, Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler Phylloscopus ruficapilla, Olive Bush-Shrike Chlorophoneus olivaceus and Gurney's Sugarbird.

    Other biodiversity

    Important mammals present include oribi Ourebia ourebi, African striped weasel Poecilogale albinucha, African wild cat Felis lybica and aardvark Orycteropus afer. Mount Currie has a wealth of plants endemic to East Griqualand, including Dierama tysonii, Selago tysonii, Hesperantha tysonii, Erica tysonii and Xysmalobium tysonianum.

    Conservation issues

    Threats

    The most notable threat is a proposal for a low-cost housing project across from the reserve in an area that is an important buffer for it and supports two pairs of Martial Eagle and oribi. The proposed development area is on a slope and is, therefore, susceptible to erosion and not necessarily suitable for housing. This and neighbouring slopes form part of the catchment that supplies water to Kokstad and if this area is not carefully managed it will impact negatively on the water security of the town. EKZNW has been working to incorporate this land into the reserve and a notice to declare it part of the reserve has been published.

    Invasive alien plants such as firethorn Pyracantha species, bramble Rubus species, sweet briar Rosa rubiginosa, silver wattle Acacia mearnsii, black wattle A. dealbata and blackwood A. melanoxylon are a constant threat and need to be actively managed in order to prevent their spread into the surrounding grasslands. Indigenous oldwood Leucosidea sericea and bracken fern Pteridium species are also becoming a problem in certain parts of the reserve as they are encroaching into grasslands.

    Conservation action

    The reserve was proclaimed in 1981 and is administered by EKZNW. Provincial government owns 204 ha and the rest is on long lease from the Kokstad municipality. Mount Currie is unique in that the fire regime is implemented specifically to create suitable habitat for bird species such as Striped Flufftail, African Grass Owl and Black Harrier. A burn mosaic ensures that there are blocks of two-year-old grassland, which are preferred by Striped Flufftail, in the reserve at all times. Specific wetland and grassland areas are allowed to become moribund to provide suitable habitat for African Grass Owl. A vulture feeding area is also managed on the reserve. Alien plant clearing is undertaken and the wetlands have been rehabilitated by Working for Water. Mount Currie has historical and cultural significance in that it marks the final destination of the trek of the Griquas under Adam Kok III, from the Orange Free State, in 1863. It is also of considerable botanical importance. Representing the outlying southernmost limit of Drakensberg endemism, it carries the best complement of local endemics. It is also a remnant, from a cold climatic episode, of an ancient land bridge between the floras of the Cape and southern KwaZulu-Natal.

    Related webpages

    www.kznwildlife.com

    Contact

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

    Page last updated

    Tuesday, 10 February 2015

    Further Reading

    Taylor PB. 1994. The biology, ecology and conservation of four flufftail species, Sarothrura (Aves: Rallidae). PhD thesis, University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.

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