South Africa’s Soutpansberg mountain range has an extraordinary variety of important and unique habitat types. Resident species reflect that diversity, ranging from small endemic species to large, wide-ranging predators, like the Vulnerable Leopard. But wildlife poaching, agricultural expansion and sand-mining threaten the future of the region’s ecosystem.
This week, Rainforest Trust’s local partner, The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), purchased a vital land parcel in South Africa’s Soutpansberg mountain range. The 3,298-acre property takes another important step towards connecting a network of reserves in this unique and biodiverse landscape.
Besides purchasing land for conservation, this project engages local landowners in biodiversity stewardship to combat the poaching of leopards and other threatened species. The final goal is to declare the Soutpansberg Protected Area (SPA), covering over 60,000 acres of intact habitat.
Oldrich van Schalkwyk, the EWT SPA manager, said the reserve “will work with existing landowners and local communities to make one large protected area with the aim of saving species and habitats, providing critical ecosystem services, such as clean water, and developing climate change resilience.”
“Our strategy is to protect expansive mountain range habitat and curb the poaching of precious wildlife,” said Rainforest Trust’s Africa Conservation Officer Katie Pugh. “Connecting this property to other important biodiversity sites is critical to bolster protection for a wide range of threatened and endemic species.”
Researchers are still assessing the new property’s unique biodiversity value. But many of the range-restricted species found nearby, such as the Endangered Southern Mountain Reedbuck, are likely to live in this parcel. The Soutpansberg Protected Area will safeguard large swaths of land vital to the reedbuck, rare reptiles and threatened species.
This project was made possible through gifts to the Conservation Action Fund, leadership gifts from Douglas Wilson, Philip Roberts and Conservation Circle member Bird and Knoll. All gifts were matched by SAVES Challenge.
Header image: Soutpansberg Protected Area. Photo by The Endangered Wildlife Trust.