A rapid biodiversity assessment of Lesotho’s first proposed Biosphere Reserve: a case study of Bokong Nature Reserve and Tšehlanyane National Park





Drakensberg Mountain Centre, MAB Programme, endemics, Red Listed species, UNESCO


Background: Two of Lesotho’s protected areas, namely Bokong Nature Reserve and Tšehlanyane National Park, form the core area of the country’s first proposed Biosphere Reserve. Biodiversity is a key aspect needed to justify nomination of a Biosphere Reserve under UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme. Previously documented biodiversity of the two protected areas is limited in terms of coverage and scope as well as being outdated. The aim of the current study was to conduct a rapid assessment of the biodiversity, including endemism, of the proposed Biosphere Reserve to inform the formal nomination process.
Methods: A field survey was undertaken over 112 033 ha in the core, buffer and transition zones of the proposed Biosphere Reserve during which species of both flora and fauna were documented. Purposeful recordings were made during different seasons to incorporate various flowering seasons of the plants, as well as faunal species that may hibernate or migrate seasonally.
Results: A total of 380 plant species was recorded, 30 of which are legally protected in the country, 60 endemic to the Drakensberg Mountain Centre, and two species (Aloe polyphylla and Glumicalyx lesuticus) are endemic to Lesotho. The former is the national flower of Lesotho and is under threat due to illegal trade. Sixteen mammal species were recorded, seven of which are legally protected in the country, as well as 53 bird species (including the IUCN Red Listed vulture species, Gyps coprotheres and Gypaetus barbatus). Two fish species were also recorded including Pseudobarbus quathlambae, which is Lesotho’s only known endemic vertebrate species, as well as seven reptile and three amphibian species (two of which are near endemic namely Amietia delalandii and A. vertebralis).
Conclusion: This survey has provided valuable baseline information on the biodiversity (particularly regarding the flora and avifauna) of the proposed Biosphere Reserve, which includes two protected areas namely Bokong Nature Reserve and Tšehlanyane National Park. The findings reflect the biodiversity value of the area and will contribute towards its nomination as Lesotho’s first Biosphere Reserve.


Download data is not yet available.


Alexander, G. & Marais, J., 2008, A Guide to the Reptiles of Southern Africa, Struik Publishers, Cape Town, South Africa.

Barlow, A., Wüster, S., Kelly, C.M.R., Branch, W.R., Phelps, T. & Tolley, K.A., 2019, ‘Ancient habitat shifts and organismal diversification are decoupled in the African viper genus Bitis (Serpentes: Viperidae)’, Journal of Biogeography 46, 1234–1248, https://doi.org/10.1111/jbi.13578

Barnard, K.H., 1938, ‘Description of a new species of fresh-water fish from Natal’, Annals of the Natal Museum 8(3), 525–528.

Bromilow, C., 2010, Problem plants and alien weeds of South Africa, Briza Publishers, Pretoria, South Africa.

Carbutt, C. & Edwards, T.J., 2001, ‘Cape elements on high altitude corridors and edaphic islands: historical aspects and preliminary phytogeography’, Systematics and Geography of Plants 71, 1033–1061.

Carbutt, C. & Edwards, T.J., 2004, ‘The flora of the Drakensberg Alpine Centre’, Edinburgh Journal of Botany 60(3), 581–607,


Carbutt, C. & Edwards, T.J. 2006, ‘The endemic and near endemic angiosperms of the Drakensberg Alpine Centre’, South African Journal of Botany 72, 105–132, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sajb.2005.06.001

Carbutt, C., 2019, ‘The Drakensberg Mountain Centre: A necessary revision of southern Africa’s high-elevation centre of plant endemism’, South African Journal of Botany 124, 508–529, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sajb.2019.05.032

Chatanga, P., Kotze, D.C., Janks, M. & Sieben, E.J.J., 2019, ‘Classification, description and environmental factors of montane wetland vegetation of the Maloti–Drakensberg region and the surrounding areas’, South African Journal of Botany 125, 221–233, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sajb.2019.04.028

Chatanga, P., Kotze, D.C., Okello, T.W. & Sieben, E.J., 2020, ‘Ecosystem services of high-altitude Afromontane palustrine wetlands in Lesotho’, Ecosystem Services 45, 101185, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoser.2020.101185

Colahan, B.D. 2004, ‘The status and conservation of vultures in the Free State Province of South Africa’ in Monadjem, A., Anderson, M.D., Piper, S.E. & Boshoff, A.F (eds.), Vultures in The Vultures of Southern Africa – Quo Vadis?, Proceedings of a workshop on vulture research and conservation in southern Africa., Birds of Prey Working Group, Johannesburg.

Cooper-Driver, G., Letšela, T. & Polaki, M., 2008, Searching for ferns in Lesotho, Ashworth Publishing Co., Cornwall, UK.

Cowling, R.M. & Hilton-Taylor, C., 1994, ‘Patterns of Plant Diversity and Endemism in Southern Africa: An overview’ in Huntley, B.J. (ed.), Botanical Diversity in Southern Africa, 31–52, National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.

Di Vittorio, M., Hema, E.M., Dendi, D., Akani, G.C., Cortone, G., López-López, P., Amadi, N., Hoinsoudé Ségniagbeto, G., Battisti, C. & Luiselli, L., 2018, ‘The conservation status of West African vultures: an updated review and a strategy for conservation’, Life and Environment 68 (1), 33–43.

Donázar, J.A., Hiraldo, F. & Bustamante, J., 1993, ‘Factors influencing nest site selection, breeding density and breeding success in the bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus)’, Journal of Applied Ecology 504–514.

Du Preez, L. & Carruthers, V., 2009, A complete guide to the frogs of Southern Africa, Struik Nature, Cape Town, South Africa.

Grab, S.W. & Nash, D.J., 2020, ‘ “But what silence! No more gazelles…” occurrence and extinction of fauna in Lesotho, southern Africa, since the late Pleistocene’, Quaternary International.

Hilliard, O.M. & Burtt, B.L., 1987, The Botany of the Southern Natal Drakensberg, Annals of the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, 15, 253.

Hockey, P,A,R,, Dean, W,R,J, & Ryan, P.G., (eds.), 2006, Roberts birds of Southern Africa (7th edn), Russel Friedman Books, Halfway House, South Africa.

IUCN 2018, ‘The IUCN Red Data List of Threatened Species, Version 2018-2’, viewed 1 October 2018, http://www.iucnredlist.org

Jacot Guillarmod, A., 1971, Flora of Lesotho, Cramer, Lehre. Jubb, RA 1971, ‘Oreodaimon quathlambae (Labeo quathlambae Barnard) in the Tsoelikana river, south-west Lesotho’, Piscator 81, 39–42.

Kobisi, K., 2005, Preliminary checklist of the plants of Lesotho, Southern African Botanical Diversity Network Report no. 34, SABONET, Pretoria & Roma, ISBN 1-919795-67–7.

Kobisi, K, & Kose, L.E., 2003, A checklist of Lesotho grasses, Southern Africa Botanical Diversity Network (SABONET) Report no. 17, Pretoria, ISBN 1-919795-68–5.

Kobisi, K., Seleteng-Kose, L. & Moteetee, A., 2019, ‘Invasive alien plants occurring in Lesotho: their ethnobotany, potential risks, distribution and origin’, Bothalia 49(1), https://doi.org/10.4102/abc.v49i1.2453.

Kubheka, P.S., Chakona, A. & Magunzula, D.N., 2017, ‘The Maloti minnow Pseudobarbus quathlambae (Barnard, 1938) is not extinct in South Africa’, African Journal of Aquatic Science 42(3), 303-306, https://doi.org/10.2989/16085914.2017.1363705.

Lahmeyer Macdonald Consortium & Oliver Shand Consortium 1986, Lesotho Highlands Water Project, Kingdom of Lesotho, Ministry of Water, Energy and Mining.

Letšela, T., Witkowski, E.T.F. & Balkwill, K., 2003, ‘Plant resources used for subsistence in Tšehlanyane and Bokong in Lesotho’, Economic Botany 57(4), 619–639.

Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) 1998a, Conservation development and management plan for Bokong Nature Reserve, LHDA Contract 604.

Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) 1998b, Conservation development and management plan for Tšehlanyane National Park, LHDA Contract 604.

May, E.D., 2000, The Indigenous forests of Lesotho, Morija Printing Works, Morija, Lesotho.

Meter, E.B., Edwards, T.J., Rennie, M.A. & Granger, J.E., 2002, ‘A checklist of the plants of Mahwaqa Mountain, KwaZulu-Natal’, Bothalia 32(1), 101–115.

Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Culture (MTEC) Legal Notice No. 36 of 1969, as amended by Legal Notice No. 93 of 2004 and No.38 of 2006.

Moffett, R., 1997, Grasses of the Eastern Free State, their description and uses, UNIQWA, Phuthaditjhaba.

Moffett, R., 2010, Sesotho plant and animal names and plants used by the Basotho, Sun Press, Bloemfontein, South Africa.

Mokotjomela, T., Schwaibold, U. & Pillay, N., 2009, ‘Does the ice rat Otomys sloggetti robertsi contribute to habitat change in Lesotho?’ Acta Oecologica 35, 437–443, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.actao.2009.01.004

Monadjem, A., Taylor, P.J., Denys, C. & Cotterill, F.P.D., 2015, Rodents of Sub-Saharan Africa: A biogeographic and taxonomic synthesis, De Gruyter, Berlin, Germany.

Mucina, L. & Rutherford, M.C. (eds.), 2006, The vegetation of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland, Strelitzia vol. 19, South African Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.

Mucina, L., Hoare, D., Lotter, M.C., Du Preez, Rutherford, C., Scott-Shaw, R., Bredenkamp, G.J, Powrie, L.W.…, 2006, Grassland Biome in Mucina, L. & Rutherford, M.C., (eds.), The Vegetation of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland, Strelitzia 19, South African Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria, ISBN 13.978-1-919976-21-1

National Environment Secretariat (NES) 2000, Biological diversity in Lesotho: a country study, Morija Printing Works Maseru, Lesotho.

Ogada, D.L., Keesing, F. & Virani, M.Z., 2012, ‘Dropping dead: causes and consequences of vulture population declines worldwide’, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1249, 57–71.

Phillips, E.P., 1917, ‘A contribution to the flora of the Leribe Plateau and environs’, Annals of the South African Museum 16, 1–379.

Pooley, E., 1993, The Complete field guide to trees of Natal, Zululand & Transkei, Natal Flora Publications Trust, Durban, South Africa.

Pooley, E 1998, A Field guide to wild flowers of KwaZulu-Natal and the eastern region, Natal Flora Publication Trust, Durban, South Africa.

Pooley, E., 2003, Mountain flowers: A field guide to flora of Drakensberg and Lesotho, Natal Flora publications Trust, Durban, South Africa.

Porter, R., Scott-Shaw, C.R. & Thomson, P., 1999, Nomination proposal for the Drakensberg Park to be listed as a World Heritage Site, KwaZulu-Natal Nature Conservation Service, Pietermaritzburg.

Saber, S., Tito, W., Said, R., Mengistou, S. & Alqahtani, A., 2017, ‘Amphibians as bioindicators of the health of some wetlands in Ethiopia’, The Egyptian Journal of Hospital Medicine 66 (1), 66–73.

Schmitz, M.O., 1982, Wild flowers of Lesotho, ESSA, Roma, Lesotho.

Sinclair, I,, Hockey, P, & Tarboton, W., 2002, Birds of southern Africa: the region’s most comprehensively illustrated guide, Struik Publishers, Cape Town, South Africa.

Soderstrom, T.R. & Ellis, R.P., 1982, ‘Taxonomic status of the endemic South African bamboo, Thamnocalamus tessellatus’, Bothalia 14(1), 53–67.

Stuart, C. & Stuart, M., 2015, Field guide to mammals of Southern Africa, Struik Publishers, Cape Town, South Africa.

Talukdar, S., 2002, ‘Lesotho Plant Red Data List’ in Golding, J. (ed.), Southern African Plant Red Data Lists, Report No. 14, Southern African Botanical Diversity Network, Pretoria, South Africa.

UNESCO, 1996, Biosphere reserves: the Seville Strategy and the Statutory Framework of the World Network, UNESCO, Paris.

Van Oudtshoorn, F., 1999, Guide to grasses of Southern Africa, Briza Publications, Pretoria, South Africa.

Van Wyk, B-E. & Gericke, N., 2000, People’s plants. A guide to useful plants of Southern Africa, Briza Publications, Pretoria, South Africa.

Van Wyk, A.E. & Smith, G.F., 2001, Regions of floristic endemism in Southern Africa, Umdaus Press, Pretoria, South Africa.

Van Wyk, B-E. & Smith, G., 2014, Guide to the Aloes of South Africa, Briza Publications, Pretoria, South Africa.

Van Wyk, B-E. & Van Wyk, P., 1997, Field guide to trees of Southern Africa, Struik Publishers, Cape Town, South Africa.

Van Wyk, B-E., Van Oudtshoorn, B. & Gericke, N., 2009, Medicinal plants of South Africa 2nd Edn, Briza Publications, Pretoria, South Africa.

Wybenga, W., 2006, ‘Wildflowers of Lesotho’s Tšehlanyane National Park’, Veld & Flora 92(2), 81–85.

Web material

http://redlist.sanbi.org (viewed 20 September 2020)

https://www.iucnredlist.org (viewed 26 September 2020)

http://pza.sanbi.org (viewed 22 September 2020)




How to Cite

Seleteng-Kose, L. ., Kobisi, K. ., Pool-Stanvliet, R. ., & Mohapi, K. . (2021). A rapid biodiversity assessment of Lesotho’s first proposed Biosphere Reserve: a case study of Bokong Nature Reserve and Tšehlanyane National Park. Bothalia, African Biodiversity & Conservation, 51(2). https://doi.org/10.38201/btha.abc.v51.i2.6



Original research, Reviews, Strategies, Case studies