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The Woodbush Granite Grasslands (WGG) are home to a multitude of different animal species, many of which are endemic, rare or threatened. Various preliminary surveys that have been conducted in WGG have all highlighted species of conservation concern. As a critically endangered vegetation type, WGG is totally irreplaceable (1) and with it many species are threatened, and some even at risk of extinction.

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Wolkberg Zulu (Alaena margaritacea); Photo: Andre Coetzer

To illustrate, consider two critically endangered butterfly inhabitants of WGG; Wolkberg Zulu (Alaena margaritacea) and Wolkberg Copper (Aloeides stevensoni). There are only two populations of the former, and one population of the latter species known to  

exist. These restricted colonies, with their very specific habitat requirements are relying on an already-threatened vegetation type for their survival. A single inappropriate fire could potentially add the names of these two butterfly species to the extinct-species list. Eastwood´s Longtailed Seps (Tetradactylus eastwoodae), a species of lizard in the family Cordylidae, was last seen more than a century ago and is presumably extinct...


WGG falls within the 2329 DD quarter-degree grid square (QDS; Animal Demography Unit), an area that spans beyond the WGG. Species lists for the 2329 DD QDS may thus lack precise locality information. Since many species move across the larger landscape, the 2329 DD QDS lists still provide valuable information regarding species occupying the WGG.

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Left: Christia Newbery rebaiting a small-mammal trap with the assistance of Quentin. Middle: Otomy sp. Right: Four striped grass mouse (Rhabdomys pumilio).


From the dataset of the second South African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP2) for the pentad grid 2355_2955, as well as field survey records and independent bird lists, a bird list comprising 237 species has been drawn up for the Haenertsburg Nature Reserve and the Ebenezer portion with their associated habitats (3). According to the categorization of the South African Red Data publication (4), 12 of these species are of conservation concern (3). Species classified as vulnerable (VU) include: Black Stork (Ciconia nigra), Secretary bird (Sagittarius serpentarius), African Crowned Eagle (Stephanoaetus coronatus), Verreaux’s Eagle (Aquila verreauxii), Lanner Falcon (Falco biarmicus), Southern Bald Ibis (Geronticus calvus), Striped Flufftail (Sarothrura affinis) and African Grass-Owl (Tyto capensis). Endangered (EN) species include Cape Vulture (Gyps coprotheres), African Marsh-Harrier (Circus ranivorus) and Cape Parrot (Poicephalus robustus), whereas the Half-collared Kingfisher (Alcedo semitorquata) is classified as near-threatened (NT). It is unfortunate that the last two decades has brought about the local extinction of Blue Swallow (Hirundo atrocaerulea) and of Southern Ground Hornbill (Bucorvus leadbeateri) from the WGG area (3). The grassland next to Haenertsburg village is also the only place in the area where grass owl (Tyto capensis) has been confirmed by the late birder and conservationist, Ben de Boer. Despite its global status (Least Concern), T. capensis is listed as vulnerable in South Africa as its grassland habitat is under serious threat. In previous years, the implementation of a three year fire plan has also lead to the return of Broad-Tailed Warbler (Schoenicola brevirostris).

To download our Bird Species List: Haenertsburg Grasslands and associated habitats, go to our Resources tab.

These photos are copyrighted by their respective owners. All rights reserved.

Top left: Greater double-collared sunbird (Cinnyris afer). Top middle: Secretary bird (Sagittarius serpentarius). Right: Cuckoo-finch (Anomalospiza imberbis).

Bottom left: Cape grassbird (Sphenoeacus afer). Bottom right: Common waxbill (Estrilda astrild).

Reptiles and amphibians

Seventy-six reptile species have been recorded within 2329 DD QDS, most of which are listed as least concern (LC). However, amongst these, Woodbush flat gecko (Afroedura multiporis) and Methuen’s dwarf gecko (Lygodactylus methueni) are listed as vulnerable (V), Woodbush legless skink (Acontias rieppeli) is listed as endangered (EN), and Transvaal grass lizard (Chamaesaura aenea) and large-scaled grass lizard (C. macrolepis) are both listed as near-threatened (NT). Despite being listed as LC, the black file snake (Gonionotophis nyassae) is protected by the Limpopo Environmental Management Act (LEMA), 2003 (Act No. 7 of 2003). LEDET surveys of grassland portions (Vincent Egan, unpublished data) have revealed the presence of several reptiles: Cape dwarf gecko (Lygodactylus capensis capensis), Holub’s sandveld lizard (Nucras holubi), Delalande’s sandveld lizard (N. lalandii), ornate sandveld lizard (N. ornata), Wahlberg’s snake-eyed skink (Panaspis wahlbergi), Cape skink (Trachylepis capensis), speckled montane skink (T. punctatissima), variable skink (T. varia), Bibron’s blind snake (Afrotyphlops bibronii), Cape house snake (Boaedon capensis), rhombic night adder (Causus rhombeatus), red-lipped snake (Crotaphopeltis hotamboeia), common slug eater (Duberria lutrix lutrix), black night snake (Lycodonomorphus inornatus), brown water snake (L. rufulus rufulus), montane grass snake (Psammophis crucifer) and spotted skaapsteker (Psammophylax rhombeatus).

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Top left: Cape grass lizard (Chamaesaura anguina). Top right: Limpopo berg adder (Bitis atropis).

Bottom left: Southern brown egg-eater (Dasypeltis inornata). Bottom middle & right: Woodbush legless skink (Acontias rieppeli). 

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According to the FrogMAP Atlas 6, seventeen frog species have been recorded within the 2329 DD QDS, including the NT Transvaal forest rain Frog (Breviceps sylvestris sylvestris). Species recorded during LEDET surveys (Vincent Egan, unpublished data) include Delalande’s river frog (Amietia delalandii), Mozambique rain frog (Breviceps mossambicus), Transvaal forest rain frog (Breviceps sylvestris sylvestris), marbled snout-burrower (Hemisus marmoratus), painted reed frog (Hyperolius marmoratus taeniatus), Senegal running frog (Kassina senegalensis) and guttural toad (Sclerophrys gutturalis). Interestingly, since Hemisus marmoratus is a bushveld species, its presence is significant and could point to climate change effects.

Top left Woodbush flat gecko (Afroedura multiporus). Top right:  Black spotted dwarf gecko (Lygodactylus nigropunctatus).

Middle left:  Transvaal girdled lizard (Cordylus vittifer). Middle right:  Southern rock agama (Agama atra).

Bottom left:  Cape skink (Trachylepis capensis). Bottom right: Red-sided skink (Trachylepis homalocaphala) .

Images kindly provided by Ryan van Huyssteen, Soutpansberg Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation.

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The spider species list (Agricultural Research Council’s National Collection of Arachnida) for the locality Haenertsburg contains 32 records, representing 13 families, 13 genera (plus another 13 unidentified genera) and 8 described species. All the families/genera listed appear to be spiders found in the South African Grassland Biome (5). The rare Bolas Spider (Cladomelea akermani) has been photographed and identified by the Spider Club of Southern African and the Agricultural Research Counsil within the grassland.

The species list for the order Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies) within the 2329DD QDS (Quarter Degree Square, Animal Demography Unit of 2015), there are a 157 records representing 8 families, 8 genera and 152 described species. Three threatened species, all of which occur in WGG, are listed, i.e. Wolkberg Zulu (Alaena margaritacea; Critically Endangered), Wolkberg Copper (Aloeides stevensoni; Critically Endangered) and Wolkberg Widow (Dingana clara; Endangered).

Left: Common river frog (Amietia quecketti). Middle: Northern forest rain frog (Breviceps sylvestris sylvestris). Right: Natal ghost frog (Heleophryne natalensis).

Images kindly provided by Ryan van Huyssteen, Soutpansberg Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation.



1Mucina L and Rutherford MC (Eds). 2006. The vegetation of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. Strelizia 19. South African Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.

2. Newbery C . 2018. Haenertsburg Nature Reserve, Limpopo Province, small mammal report. Unpublished report.

3. Grosel J. 2016. An avifaunal survey of the Haenertsburg Grasslands and associated habitats. Unpublished report.

4. Taylor MR, Peacock F and Wanless RM. 2015. The Eskom Red Data Book of birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. A Publication of Birdlife South Africa.

5. Haddad CR, Dippenaar-Schoeman AS, Foord SH, Lotz LN and Lyle R. 2013. The faunistic diversity of spiders (Arachnida: Araneae) of the South African Grassland Biome. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa 68, 97–122.



The mosaic of WGG patches intermixed with other natural spaces throughout the area, provides habitat to numerous mammalian species; various formal and informal records list a total of around 63 different mammalian species. The list spans several animal orders, including Chiroptera (bats), Rodentia (rodents), Afrosoricida (golden moles), Lagomorpha (hares and rabbits), Eulipotyphla (hedgehogs and shrews), Primates (baboons, monkeys and galagos), Carnivora (carnivores), Tubulidentata (aardvark), Suiformes (pigs and hogs) and Cetartiodactyla (even-toed ungulates). Mammals utilise almost every spatial dimension of the grassland and while larger terrestrial species are easier to take note of, the grassland hosts a whole range of small mammals, some of which spend most or all of their time underground. Gunning's golden mole (Neamblysomus gunningi) is known to occur in the area and is classified as endangered. In 2018, a preliminary catch-and-release small-mammal survey was conducted by Christia Newbery (2). The survey focussed on identifying rats, mice, shrews and elephant-shrews. The following taxa were recorded: Four-striped grass mouse (Rhabdomys pumilio), Tete veld rat (Aethomys ineptus), multimammate mouse (Mastomys sp.), vlei rat (Otomys sp.), forest shrew (Myosorex sp.) and musk shrew (Crocidura sp.). A formal mammal survey, with the focus on larger species, still needs to be undertaken.

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