Previously known as the Magaliesberg and Witwatersberg IBA, this IBA consists mainly of the Magaliesberg range, which extends in an arc from just north-west of Rustenburg in the west to the N1 in the east near Pretoria. To the south, the Witwatersberg range runs parallel to the Magaliesberg, extending from the town of Magaliesburg in the west to Hartbeespoort Dam in the east.
Several large rivers have their headwaters in these mountains, including the Crocodile, Sterkstroom, Magalies and Skeerpoort. Three major impoundments have been built along the Magaliesberg: the massive Hartbeespoort Dam in the east, Buffelspoort Dam in the centre and Olifantsnek Dam about 7 km south of Rustenburg.
Cape Vulture Gyps coprotheres breeds at Nooitgedacht and at Skeerpoort, the larger of the two colonies. No breeding activity was recorded at a third colony, Roberts' Farm, in 2014.
Many raptor species occur in the Magaliesberg IBA, including White-backed Vulture Gyps africanus and Lappet-faced Vulture Torgos tracheliotus, although most records are of individuals. Verreauxs' Eagle Aquila verreauxii breeds in the Magaliesberg, and African Grass Owl Tyto capensis and Secretarybird Sagittarius serpentarius are regularly recorded. Long-crested Eagle Lophaetus occipitalis is a more recent coloniser of the range. White-bellied Korhaan Eupodotis senegalensis is found in grassland at the top of the Magaliesberg, as well on the Witwatersberg.
One pair of Black Stork Ciconia nigra also breeds at Skeerpoort, and there is a possibility that more birds occur in the area. The densely wooded valleys along overgrown, slow-flowing streams hold Half-collared Kingfisher Alcedo semitorquata. African Finfoot Podica senegalensis is recorded regularly along rivers in the IBA, such as the Hennops and Magalies.
The surrounding woodland holds Striped Kingfisher Halcyon chelicuti, Burnt-necked Eremomela Eremomela usticollis, Barred Wren-Warbler Calamonastes fasciolatus, Marico Flycatcher Bradornis mariquensis, Crimson-breasted Shrike Laniarius atrococcineus, Scaly-feathered Finch Sporopipes squamifrons, Violet-eared Waxbill Uraeginthus granatinus, Black-faced Waxbill Estrilda erythronotos, Striped Pipit Anthus lineiventris and Short-toed Rock Thrush Monticola brevipes.
Some Afromontane affinities appear along the range and there are patches of Northern Afro-temperate forest in the kloofs, where Mountain Wagtail Motacilla clara has been recorded.
The most important trigger species in the IBA is the globally threatened Cape Vulture. The number of breeding pairs in the Skeerpoort colony seems to be stable at 200–250. Secretarybird is the other globally threatened species in the IBA. Regionally threatened species are Lanner Falcon Falco biarmicus, Half-collared Kingfisher, African Grass Owl, African Finfoot and Verreauxs' Eagle. Biome-restricted species include White-bellied Sunbird Cinnyris talatala, Kurrichane Thrush Turdus libonyanus, White-throated Robin-chat Cossypha humeralis, Kalahari Scrub Robin Erythropygia paena and Barred Wren-Warbler.
Southern African endemic reptiles that are found in these mountains are Kalahari tent tortoise Psammobates oculiferus, Duerden's burrowing asp Atractaspis duerdeni, Distant's thread snake Leptotyphlops distanti, two-striped shovel-snout Prosymna bivittata, shield-nose snake Aspidelaps scutatus and thin-tailed legless skink Acontias gracilicauda. Threatened reptiles present include southern African python Python sebae natalensis. Of the 112 mammal species that occur in the area, brown hyaena Hyaena brunnea and leopard Panthera pardus are the major large predators. The leopard is the apex predator, while the brown hyaena shares the scavenging guild with the vultures – with, however, a temporal separation in that the hyaena is largely nocturnal.
The most important threat to the trigger species in this IBA is the expansion of commercial, recreational and housing developments, which have decreased the area of land available for wild ungulates and domestic livestock, and hence the availability of food for vultures. It is generally accepted that without the supplementary food provided by the five vulture feeding areas in the IBA, the Cape Vulture colonies would have declined.
The use of poisons by small-stock farmers in the area to combat mammalian predators such as black-backed jackal Canis mesomelas, caracal Caracal caracal and domestic dogs has declined, and rehabilitation centres like VULPRO report fewer of these cases than when the IBA was designated in 1998. Recreational mountaineering is a minor threat to the vulture colonies, as incidents have been reported in which stones were thrown at the chicks.
Collisions with man-made structures such as power lines is a concern. A considerable number of birds that have either flown into a power line or have been electrocuted are brought to VULPRO each year.
Most of the IBA falls within the Magaliesberg Protected Natural Environment. This large area has had legal conservation status under the Environment Protection Act since 1977, and this category of protected area is enshrined in more recent legislation, namely the National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act, 2003 (Act No. 57 of 2003). According to this legislation, private landowners retain ownership but are bound by restrictions on development. This protected area is known to local landowners as the 'green belt' and all development is under the strict scrutiny of both provincial and national authorities.
There are a number of protected areas in the IBA, including Kgaswane Mountain Reserve (formerly Rustenburg Nature Reserve), which is 2 km south-west of Rustenburg, and the privately owned Mountain Sanctuary Park. There are also several private game farms, some of which are in conservancies, and their land is conservation-friendly. Although these conservation areas are of great value for some of the trigger species in the IBA, they do not provide adequate protection for Cape Vultures that forage widely, as shown by tracking studies in which some birds travel hundreds of kilometres from the colony in search of food. Several vulture feeding areas have been established near the colonies to provide a regular food supply to breeding birds. These feeding areas are located near Nooitgedacht Farm, Rhino and Lion Park, Nyoka Ridge, Mogale's Gate and at VULPRO. A new feeding area has been set up near Roberts' Farm to attract Cape Vultures back to this colony.
BirdLife Harties agreed to become a Local Conservation Group for this IBA in 2014. The club has produced a booklet about the birds in the Magaliesberg and this will be updated regularly. VULPRO undertakes counts of the colonies and rehabilitates injured birds so that they can be released. The EWT/Eskom partnership aims to make the area's power lines safer for birds and has been entrusted to utilise information about vulture mortalities on power lines to do so. The North West Directorate of Biodiversity Management is currently involved in ecological studies on mammalian carnivores and the bio-remediation of Hartebeespoort Dam. It also carries out airborne patrols to detect illegal developments within the confines of the designated Magaliesberg Protected Natural Environment. The Magaliesberg Biosphere Reserve was declared in 2015 and covers the whole of the IBA.
Boshoff AF. 1990. Report on the Karringmelkspruit, Balloch and Dalhousie Cape Vulture colonies in the northeastern Cape Province. Vulture News 24: 41–45.
Komen J. 1992a. The Cape Griffon colony at Skeerpoort in 1981 and 1992. Vulture News 26: 30–37.
Komen J. 1992b. Food resource of Cape Griffon breeding colonies of the Magaliesberg, Transvaal, South Africa. Vulture News 27: 4–18.
Tye N. 2012. The distribution of threatened bird species within the North West Province: identifying priority areas for conservation. Mahikeng: Department of Economic Development, Environment, Conservation & Tourism, North West Provincial Government.
Verdoorn GH, Becker I. 1992a. Cape Griffons of the Magaliesberg: 1991 census of nestlings and first breeding record at Nooitgedacht since 1964. Vulture News 27: 19–25.
Verdoorn GH, Becker I, Branfield AS. 1992b. Annual census of Cape Griffon nestlings in the Magaliesberg: 1990 results. Vulture News 26: 22–29.
Verdoorn GH, Planken H, Welch F, Becker I, Branfield A, Branfield W. 1989. Report on the activities of the Vulture monitoring project. Vulture News 22: 12–20.
Whittington-Jones C, Wolter K, West S. 2011. Monitoring of Cape Vulture (Gyps coprotheres) breeding colonies in the Magaliesberg, South Africa: 2007–2009. Vulture News 60: 6–12.
Wolter K, Neser W, Webster K, Hirschauer M, Whittington-Jones C. 2014. Cape Vulture 2014 breeding status report: South Africa (north of the Witwatersrand), adjacent Botswana, and parts of the Eastern Cape. Unpublished Report. VULPRO.
Wolter K, Whittington-Jones C, West S. 2007. Status of Cape Vultures (Gyps coprotheres) in the Magaliesberg, South Africa. Vulture News 57: 24–31.