Located 20 km south of Matjiesfontein and 20 km south-west of Laingsburg, the Anysberg Nature Reserve is situated on the western fringe of the Little Karoo in a broad Fynbos–Karoo transition zone. It currently covers approximately 82 000 ha, making it one of the largest reserves in the Western Cape, and is fortunate to have nearly doubled in size since the publication of the previous IBA directory (Barnes 1998).
The reserve lies in part of the Anysberg Mountain Catchment Area, which eventually drains into the Gourits River system. Its topography is mainly mountainous, interspersed with wide valleys. The southern and northern boundaries are formed by the Anysberg (1 622 m a.s.l.) and Suurkloof se Berg (1 512 m a.s.l.) ranges respectively. Both ranges extend east to west, forming striking natural boundaries. A third, drier mountain range, Matjiesgoedberg, dominates the central core of the reserve. The most extensive section of karroid plains is found to the north of the Matjiesgoedberg, while to the south, in a valley between the central range and the southern boundary, is another tract of lowland Karoo scrub. It is through this sector that the ephemeral Anys River flows, entering the reserve in the west and running east and then south as it passes through Prinspoort Gorge. It continues into the Touws River and eventually into the Gourits. The climate is extreme, with temperatures ranging from -2 °C on some high-altitude peaks in winter to more than 46 °C on the plains in summer. Although most of the rain falls in winter, substantial summer thundershowers occur in some years. The annual rainfall varies from 500 mm on the high peaks to an extremely dry 200 mm on the plains.
Two major vegetation types are present: Karoo scrub and bush on the plains and lower slopes, and montane fynbos at higher altitude. The stark altitudinal variation yields a wide diversity of microhabitats, resulting in a distinct contrast between the xeric-adapted dwarf scrub and thornveld on the lower plains and the moist Mediterranean fynbos vegetation of the mountains. The scrub vegetation of the plains and lower escarpment consists primarily of shrubs shorter than 70 cm. Members of the Mesembryanthemaceae, which can be very local in their distribution, dominate the vegetation. The belts of vegetation that line the mostly dry riverbeds are dominated by Vachellia (formerly Acacia) karroo and create a network of tree veins that stretch throughout the reserve's plains. As the vegetation extends up the mountains, fynbos elements appear, including large stands of protea woodland in the wetter areas.
A total of 212 bird species have been recorded in Anysberg by field rangers, reserve staff and other birders visiting the area. The reserve supports many Fynbos and Namib-Karoo biome-restricted assemblage species as well as many other arid-zone specials. The lowland karroid plains are particularly good for Ludwig’s Bustard Neotis ludwigii, Karoo Korhaan Eupodotis vigorsii, Karoo Lark Calendulauda albescens, Karoo Chat Cercomela schlegelii, Karoo Eremomela Eremomela gregalis and Rufous-eared Warbler Malcorus pectoralis. Martial Eagle Polemaetus bellicosus and Black Harrier Circus maurus are sometimes seen quartering the plains, where Blue Crane Anthropoides paradiseus occasionally occurs. Black-headed Canary Serinus alario is found whenever there is seeding grass and water.
The belts of riverine Vachellia karroo woodland support Namaqua Warbler Phragmacia substriata and provide food, shelter and breeding habitat for many species. Layard’s Tit-Babbler Sylvia layardi and Grey Tit Parus afer are found in the thicket and scrub on the slopes. Pale-winged Starling Onychognathus nabouroup and Ground Woodpecker Geocolaptes olivaceus occur in the rocky gorges and kloofs. Other resident arid-zone species include Pale Chanting Goshawk Melierax canorus, Pririt Batis Batis pririt, Fairy Flycatcher Stenostira scita, White-throated Canary Crithagra albogularis and occasionally Dusky Sunbird Cinnyris fuscus. Cape Spurfowl Pternistis capensis is widespread.
At higher altitudes the vegetation shifts to thicket and eventually sclerophyllous fynbos, which holds Cape Bulbul Pycnonotus capensis, Orange-breasted Sunbird Anthobaphes violacea and Cape Siskin Crithagra totta. Cape Sugarbird Promerops cafer is associated with protea bushes. Victorin’s Warbler Cryptillas victorini occurs locally in the seeps and adjacent mesic scrub while Cape Rockjumper Chaetops frenatus is found on exposed rocky slopes at high altitude. The associated cliffs also hold Black Stork Ciconia nigra and Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus. Cape Eagle-Owl Bubo capensis, Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus and Verreauxs’ Eagle Aquila verreauxii have all been recorded breeding here. Occasionally, Lesser Kestrels Falco naumanni are seen foraging over the reserve.
Globally threatened species are Blue Crane, Ludwig's Bustard, Southern Black Korhaan Afrotis afra, Martial Eagle and Black Harrier. Regionally threatened species are Karoo Korhaan, Verreauxs' Eagle, Black Stork, Lanner Falcon Falco biarmicus and Cape Rockjumper. Restricted-range and biome-restricted species that are common in the IBA are Cape Spurfowl, Cape Bulbul and Karoo Chat. Locally common restricted-range or biome-restricted species are Karoo Lark, Layard's Tit-Babbler, Karoo Eremomela and Namaqua Warbler, while uncommon species in this category are Ludwig's Bustard, Sickle-winged Chat Cercomela sinuata, Cape Rockjumper, Victorin's Warbler, Cape Sugarbird, Cape Siskin, Protea Seedeater Crithagra leucoptera, Orange-breasted Sunbird, Pale-winged Starling and Black-headed Canary.
This is one of the very few places holding the highly range-restricted red adder Bitis rubida, Cape dwarf burrowing skink Scelotes caffer, Robertson dwarf chameleon Bradypodion gutturale and Hewitt’s dwarf leaf-toed gecko Goggia hewitti.
The following southern/South African endemic species have been recorded within the reserve: Boulenger’s padloper Homopus boulengeri, tent tortoise Psammobates tentorius, spotted house snake Lamprophis guttatus, Namaqua plated lizard Gerrhosaurus typicus, Karoo sandveld lizard Nucras livida, western sandveld lizard N. tessellata, Cape flat lizard Platysaurus capensis, Cape crag lizard Pseudocordylus microlepidotus, Cape thick-toed gecko Pachydactylus capensis, spotted thick-toed gecko P. maculatus, western spotted thick-toed gecko P. serval and Marico thick-toed gecko P. mariquensis. Anysberg also occurs within the range of the following southern/South African endemic species and is likely to support them: Grant’s rock mouse Aethomys granti, armadillo girdled lizard Cordylus cataphractus and southern spiny agama Agama hispida. Aardwolf Proteles cristatus, aardvark Orycteropus afer and, despite the lack of permanent open water, Cape clawless otter Aonyx capensis also occur. The highly threatened riverine rabbit Bunolagus monticularis probably also occurs in the reserve.
The protection status and relative isolation of Anysberg reduce the number of threats in the area. The major threat to the avifauna of this IBA, especially to the larger, wide-ranging species, comes from the surrounding landscape. Habitat transformation and environmental degradation due to different agricultural practices reduce the habitat available to wide-ranging species such as Ludwig’s Bustard and Martial Eagle. Poisoning is a serious threat not only to large terrestrial birds and to raptors that may scavenge on poisoned carcasses, but also through the increased use of pesticides and insecticides, which accumulate in prey and are transferred to birds higher up the food chain. The effect of such poisons or pesticides on bustards, cranes, raptors and other tertiary consumers in the region is unknown.
Climate change is predicted to lead to reduced precipitation and warmer temperatures for this region. The reduction in surface water available to birds could impact directly and cause mortality through dehydration, which is also increased as birds pant in an attempt to cool down in hot weather. Thus, the link between decreased precipitation and warmer temperatures can have dangerous implications for birds.
The land for Anysberg Nature Reserve was purchased by WWF-SA (formerly the Southern African Nature Foundation). The reserve was proclaimed in 1988 and is currently managed by CapeNature. The high level of formal legal protection for the reserve, and therefore the IBA, ensures it is safe from habitat transformation and associated threats. However, the surrounding agricultural landscape should be managed appropriately as a buffer to the nature reserve and should include farming practices that take into account impacts on the environment and biodiversity. BirdLife South Africa will have the opportunity to comment on the Protected Area Management Plan when a review of it is undertaken, with the aim of ensuring that reserve authorities manage the area appropriately for the existing avifauna. Since the initial IBA designation, Anysberg has expanded through agreements with surrounding landowners, and the increased land under formal protection provides more habitat for wide-ranging species, including Ludwig’s Bustard and Martial Eagle. In certain areas vegetation rehabilitation is under way and regular avifaunal monitoring is conducted. The management plan also deals with infrastructure maintenance and erosion control to reduce environmental impacts. A fire-management policy is also in place. The site is currently under consideration as a World Heritage Site.
Allan DG. 1989. Strychnine poison and the conservation of avian scavengers in the Karoo, South Africa. South African Journal of Wildlife Research 19: 102–106.
Allan DG. 1994b. The abundance and movements of Ludwig’s Bustard Neotis ludwigii. Ostrich 65: 95–105.
Allan DG. 1995b. Habitat selection by Blue Cranes in the Western Cape Province and the Karoo. South African Journal of Wildlife Research 25: 90–97.
Barnes K (ed.). 1998. The Important Bird Areas of southern Africa. BirdLife South Africa, Johannesburg.
Burger M. 1993. The Herpetofauna of Anysberg Nature Reserve, Cape Province, South Africa. The Journal of the Herpetological Association of Africa 42(1): 1–12.
Farmer H, Milton SJ. 2006. Comparison of broad-scale plant species preferences of indigenous herbivores in a nature reserve in the Little Karoo with those of domestic smallstock. South African Journal of Science 102(7–8): 311.
Lloyd P. 2007. Predator control, mesopredator release, and impacts on bird nesting success: a field test. African Zoology 42(2): 180.
Lombard AT, Hilton-Taylor C, Rebelo AG, Pressey RL, Cowling RM. 1999. Reserve selection in the Succulent Karoo, South Africa: coping with high compositional turnover. Plant Ecology 142(1–2): 35–55.
Martin R, Martin J, Martin E, Braack HH. 1988. A preliminary list of the birds of the Karoo National Park. Koedoe 31: 203–225.
Milton SJ, Hoffman MT. 1994. The application of state‐and‐transition models to rangeland research and management in arid succulent and semi‐arid grassy Karoo, South Africa. African Journal of Range & Forage Science 11(1): 18–26.
Pepler D. 1994a. The endangered Lesser Kestrel: current research – Part 1: Spain. Birding in Southern Africa 46: 53–57.
Pepler D. 1994b. The endangered Lesser Kestrel: current research – Part 2: Russia and Kazakhstan. Birding in Southern Africa 46: 79–82.
Rust R. 2000. The rock art of the Anysberg Nature Reserve, Western Cape: a sense of place and rainmaking. MA thesis, Stellenbosch University, South Africa.
Scott L, Vogel JC. 2000. Evidence for environmental conditions during the last 20 000 years in Southern Africa from 13 C in fossil hyrax dung. Global and Planetary Change 26(1): 207–215.