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Succulent Karoo Hotspot

This arid region, the Succulent Karoo hotspot, covering an area of 102,691 sq km and bordering the coasts of Namibia and South Africa is remarkable for having the world's highest density of succulent plants. The vegetation type in the region is mainly dwarf shrubland with a predominance of succulents.

This hotspot has 6,356 plant, 75 mammal, 226 bird, 94 reptile, 21 amphibian and 28 freshwater fish species. Species of succulents notable to the region include the botterbooms (Tylecodon paniculatus) and halfmems (Pachypodium namaquanum), a stem succulent that grows up to 4 m.

Among birds the only endemic is the Barlow's lark (Certhilauda barlowi). Other birds found here include black harriers (Circus maurus), Karoo bustard (Eupodotis vigorsii), Ludwig's bustard (Neotis ludwigii), Karoo chat (Cercomela schlegelii), dune lark (Certhilauda erythrochlamys) and dusky sunbird (Nectarinia fusca). Among mammalian inhabitants are found two endemics-De Winton's golden mole (Cryptochloris wintoni) and the Namaqua dune mole rat (Bathyergus janetta). Mammals like the riverine rabbit (Bunolagus monticularis) an important flagship species of this region and small populations of mountain zebra (Equus zebra), gemsbok (Oryx gazelle) and springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis) can also be seen here.

High reptile endemicity is found among geckos, lizards and tortoises. An endemic lizard found here is the armadillo girdled lizard (Cordylus cataphractus) and endemic tortoises include the Namaqualand tent tortoise (Psammobates tentorius trimeni) and the Namaqualand speckled padloper (Homopus signatus signatus). A single endemic frog species is represented by the desert rain frog (Breviceps macrops). Surprisingly, none of the species of freshwater fish are endemic. Invertebrate diversity is quite high and is represented by scorpions, monkey beetles, wasps, bees and the unusual long-tongued flies.

Mining and extraction activities, use of land for agriculture, ostrich farming and overgrazing, and illegal collection of succulents and bulbs have greatly disturbed the natural habitat of the region. Only about 2.5% or 2,560 sq km of this land is protected Conservation initiatives in the region include a Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund sponsored project that has set aside over $8 million for biodiversity conservation efforts in the region.

[The information has been sourced from the Conservation International website on biodiversity hotspots ( Accessed in February 2008.]

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