The Wildlife Sanctuary

The Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary forms part of the 28 000 ha Barberton Nature Reserve complex, and aims to grow the reserve to 85 000 ha. The reserve together with surrounding areas has been placed on UNESCO’s tentative list and will be South Africa’s next World Heritage Site. This validates the area as having outstanding universal value for all humanity. The Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains contain the best-preserved, oldest and most diverse sequence of known volcanic and sedimentary rocks on Earth. These well researched outcrops provide a globally unique source of information about the earliest measurable conditions of the Earth’s gradually solidifying oceanic crust, from 3.5 billion years ago. From these rocks, more has been learned than from anywhere else about the surface processes at work as the Earth cooled from a molten body, to the creation of the primitive biosphere. This is the field repository for the genesis of life.

Flowing from the richness in geology and soil minerals, the reserve provides for an extremely rich flora. It is located within the Barberton Centre of plant Endemism, with some 80 endemic species identified to date.

The reserve is part of the area which harbours the second highest known plant species diversity in Southern Africa. The biodiversity value of the reserve, and immediately adjacent areas, is ranked very highly in the provincial Biodiversity Conservation Plan with the majority of areas being scored Irreplaceable, Highly Significant or Important & Necessary.

Virtually the entire reserve was also placed on the “National list of ecosystems that are threatened and in need of protection” in Government Gazette No. 34809 on 9 December 2011, issued in terms of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (Act 10 of 2004). This includes the Noordkaap Greenstone Bushveld, and Legogote Sour Bushveld ecosystems which form the majority of the reserve.

Also significant is the fact that part of the reserve is regarded as the most important refugium in Mpumalanga province in terms of climate change response of certain threatened plant species. The extent of the regional refugium identified in the Barberton mountains appears to be small, but a significant proportion of species expressed as a percentage of modelled species richness, could be lost for this region, making this an important regional refugium. Modelling has shown that the Barberton Mountains region to have the highest number of conservation important plant species showing decline between 31 % and 47 % of the species on an area of 210 square km.