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The Cape Floristic Region Hotspot

The Cape Floristic Region hotspot of South Africa with an area of 78,555 sq km has very high plant diversity with over 9,000 species of plants. The vegetation of the region is dominated by shrubland comprising hard-leafed, evergreen shrubs and forests, outliers of the Afromontane forests, occupy very small areas.

In contrast to the plant biodiversity, the animal biodiversity is not proportionately high. The region has 91 mammal, 323 bird, 100 reptile, 46 amphibian and 34 freshwater fish species. Plants here display a high degree of endemism (69%). The region is famous for members of the Protea family, especially the king protea (Protea cynaroides), the red disa (Disa uniflora) and the Clanwilliam cedar (Widdringtonia cedarbergensis). Interestingly, the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden in the region is the only botanical garden in the world to be given World Heritage Site status.

The once significant numbers of common eland (Tragelaphus oryx), African buffalo (Syncerus caffer), lions (Panthera leo), African elephants (Loxodonta africana), zebras (Equus zebra), black rhinos (Diceros bicornis) and hippos (Hippopotamus amphibius) are today found in very few numbers. Endemic to the hotspot are the Fynbos golden mole (Amblysomus corriae), Van Zyl's golden mole (Cryptochloris zyli) and the antelope bontebok (Damaliscus dorcas dorcas). Reptilian diversity is high especially that of tortoises. Unique to this region are the angulate tortoise (Chersina angulata), parrot-beaked tortoise (Homopus areolatus), geometric tortoise (Psammobates geometricus), and leopard tortoise (Geochelone pardalis). Two amphibian genera are endemic, each represented by a single species-the micro frog (Microbatrachella capensis) and montane marsh frog (Poyntonia paludicola).

Human activity in the form of agriculture, tea plantations, urban encroachments and vineyards are seriously impacting the biodiversity of the region. The greatest threat, however, has been invasion by alien plant species. About 14% or 10,859 sq km of land area is protected. A major conservation initiative underway in the region includes a World Bank and Global Environment Facility supported initiative that is funding a $6 million project called the Cape Action Plan for the Environment. The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund too has sponsored $6 million to help conservation efforts in three mega-reserves-Baviaanskloof, Cederberg and Gouritz.

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

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