Protea Caffra (sugarbush) By NJR ZA
The basic objectives of the nature reserve are to conserve the natural environment ensuring that plant and animal species diversity is maintained and provide open-air outside recreation, environmental education and research opportunities.
Geology, Animals and Plants
The lay of the land
The reserve consists of the Ventersdorp and Witwatersrand geological systems. The Ventersdorp System which is characterized by steep, notched mountain sides and flat plains, occupies approximately 70% of the reserve's surface, and is volcanic in origin. Volcanic soils are more fertile in general, with the result that the Ventersdorp System offers better grazing than the Witwatersrand system.
The Witwatersrand system is mainly sedimentary sandstone deposited in horizontal layers. Proteas are mainly to be found in this system.
Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve is situated in the grassland biome and two grassland types occur on the reserve — Moist Cool Grassland and Rocky Highveld Grassland. Elements of densely bushed southern slopes and ravines are also found on the reserve.
Melinus grasses - By Carol Knoll, Friends Of Suikerbosrand
The most common species found on the reserve are:
White stinkwood (Celtis africana), Highveld cabbage tree (Cussonia paniculata), ouhout (Leucosidea sericea), sweet thorn (Acacia karroo), the Highveld protea (Protea caffra), and the common guarrie (Euclea undulata).
Look out for the following:
Agapanthus (Agapanthus campanulatus), Mountain aloe (Aloe marlothii), Disseldoring (Berkeya seminivea), Wild sweet pea (Sphenostylis angustifolia), Ploegbreker (Erythrina zeyheri), Orange River Lilly (Crinum bulbispernum), Large witchweed (Striga elegans).
Grasses belong to the family Poaceae which is the largest family (most species), and the most abundant on the reserve. The most important staple food plants belong to this family (maize meal, sorghum, sugar cane, etc). They also have flowers but these are less conspicuous because wind is the pollen dispersal agent and not insects or any other animal. Colour for attraction is therefore not important. Grasses provide the important grazing for livestock on all extensive cattle and sheep farms.
It is important to conserve the diversity of grass species on the reserve because it is this diversity that provides for the resilience of grass veld to recover after mismanagement like overgrazing and serious droughts. The reserve also acts as a seedbank for seed dispersal to adjacent transformed land.
All animal species typical to the Highveld can be found on the Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve.
Black backed jackal
The most common mammals found on the reserve are:
Eland, kudu, red hartebeest, zebra, black wildebeest, blesbuck, oribi, black-backed jackal, baboon, porcupine, springbuck, reedbuck, grey rhebuck, mountain reedbuck, common duiker, steenbok, aardwolf, silver fox, mongoose, genet and aardvark.
Look out for the following:
Leopard or mountain tortoise, cape or hingeless terrapin, guttural toad, raucous toad, common river frog, and snakes (venomous and non-venomous).
Although Suikerbosrand lies in the Highveld, thick bushveld covers sections of the reserve. Several habitat types are therefore found on the reserve, leading to an exceptionally large variety of birds — more than 200 species have been identified.
Orange breasted waxbill By Derek Keats
The dam near the entrance gate is the ideal habitat for water birds and each summer migrating birds from all over the world flock to the dam. Popular species such as Egyptian geese, dabchick, and red-knobbed coot can be seen.
Birds of prey
A wide variety of raptors such as the secretary bird, lanner falcon, black-shouldered kite and black eagle can be found on Suikerbosrand. These birds are well established on the reserve and breed here annually. Other raptors, such as the African hawk eagle, martial eagle, black-breasted snake eagle, black sparrow hawk, black harrier, osprey, rock kestrel and greater kestrel are seasonal visitors. Vultures can occasionally be observed. Buzzards can often be seen soaring high in the sky, but has not been recorded on the reserve.
Other species include greywing francolin, redwing francolin, guinea-fowl, dikkop, mourning dove, Namaqua dove, barn owl, grass owl, marsh owl, spotted eagle owl, freckled nightjar, ground woodpecker, seven different types of larks, Cape rock thrush, mountain chat, mocking chat, ant-eating chat, grassbird, shaft-tailed whydah and several types of apalis, cisticolas, finches and weavers. Migrating birds such as common quail, thrush, button quail, blacksmith plover and wattled plover are often spotted.