Loskop Dam Nature Reserve is located on the Olifants River 40 km north of Middelburg and comprises an impounded section of the Olifants River (Loskop Dam) and the fringing vegetation. The annual average minimum and maximum temperatures are 14 °C and 28 °C respectively. Summers are hot, with temperatures often exceeding 35 °C. Winters are mild, with the mercury seldom falling below freezing.
The reserve has been extended by about 20 000 ha since the IBA was designated in 1998 (Barnes 1998) and the IBA boundary has been aligned accordingly.
The reserve's position at the interface between rocky Highveld grassland and mixed bushveld, coupled with the presence of the dam, results in a wide diversity of habitats. Most of the reserve is located in a valley and the landscape is hilly, with steeply sloping valley sides and deeply incised drainage lines creating several impressive cliff faces and peaks. These include Zaagkuil (1 359 m a.s.l.) and Loskop (1 241 m a.s.l.). Broad-leaved woodland covers the hill slopes and is densest in the numerous kloofs. It grades into almost open grassland on the high plateau in the north of the reserve. The hilltops are covered with Protea caffra scrub. Loskop Dam is the most significant aquatic habitat in the reserve and is surrounded by a varying amount of exposed shoreline, depending on the water level. The Olifants River and the upper reaches of the dam provide important riparian habitat.
Grassland species regulary recorded in the IBA include Secretarybird Sagittarius serpentarius, Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni, Tawny Eagle Aquila rapax, Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus, Blue Crane Anthropoides paradiseus and White-bellied Korhaan Eupodotis senegalensis.
The dam hosts Goliath Heron Ardea goliath and large numbers of waterfowl. Black Stork Ciconia nigra and Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus used to occur on the steep escarpment cliffs in the southern section of the reserve, but it is not clear if this is still the case. White-backed Night Heron Gorsachius leuconotus and African Finfoot Podica senegalensis breed on the Olifants River upstream of the impoundment.
Martial Eagle Polemaetus bellicosus occasionally visits the IBA but no recent breeding has been recorded. The bushveld holds various Kalahari–Highveld biome-restricted assemblage species, as well as Striped Pipit Anthus lineiventris and Bushveld Pipit A. caffer.
No globally threatened species pass the IBA criteria. Regionally threatened trigger species are White-backed Night Heron, African Finfoot and African Grass Owl Tyto capensis. Biome-restricted species include Kurrichane Thrush Turdus libonyanus, White-throated Robin-Chat Cossypha humeralis and White-bellied Sunbird Cinnyris talatala.
The South African endemic thin-tailed legless skink Acontias gracilicauda and black-spotted gecko Lygodactylus nigropunctatus may occur within the reserve. Several game species have been re-introduced, including the threatened sable antelope Hippotragus niger, African buffalo Syncerus caffer and white rhinoceros Ceratotherium simum. Naturally occurring threatened mammals include leopard Panthera pardus, brown hyaena Hyaena brunnea, African civet Civettictis civetta, pangolin Manis temminckii, striped weasel Poecilogale albinucha, aardwolf Proteles cristatus and oribi Ourebia ourebi.
Originally established by the TPA Nature Conservation Division in 1942, the reserve was handed over to the Mpumalanga Parks Board in 1994 and is now managed by the MTPA. Loskop Dam has been eutrophic since 2008 and pollution of its water from upriver is an ongoing concern. Mining (mostly for coal) has been taking place in the Olifants River catchment for more than 100 years, and the dam also lies downstream of the second largest irrigation scheme in South Africa. Thus, Loskop Dam receives waste from both mining and agricultural activities in the Witbank area. This situation is closely monitored by a number of government institutions. Invasive alien plant species pose a major threat to the native vegetation and, directly or indirectly, to the associated bird species. Programmes are in place to control these invasive species. Land claims to 70–80% of the reserve are pending. If they are successful, the reserve will be put under co-management and the communities stand to benefit from game auctions and job opportunities. If well managed, this should not impact negatively on the IBA.
The whole of the IBA is formally protected and managed by the MTPA, which has developed a formal management plan. There are, however, insufficient resources, funding and personnel to implement the plan. Middelburg Bird Club and Friends of Loskop participate in various bird monitoring projects within the reserve.
Baker M. 1970. A guide to the birds of Loskop Dam. South African Avifaunal Series 72.
Prozesky OPM. 1960. Birds of the Loskop Dam Nature Reserve. Fauna and Flora 11: 63