Overview

Distribution

Range Description

This species is confined to the Witbank and Middelburg districts in the upper catchment areas of the Olifants River, which include the Wilge and Klein Olifants Rivers, in the provinces of Gauteng and Mpumalanga of South Africa. Occurs at 1,100 to 1,400 m asl.
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
This species occurs in open grassland and sheltered valleys.

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
CR
Critically Endangered

Red List Criteria
A2acd; C1

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2010

Assessor/s
Donaldson, J.S.

Reviewer/s
Agenbag, L. & Bsenberg, J.D.

Contributor/s

Justification
E. middelburgensis has declined continuously over at least the past 40 years and populations are still declining due to poaching and disease. Based on numbers of plants in collections, rate of decline, and a limited number of repeat photographs, decline is estimated as >80% over the past 50 years.

History
  • 2003
    Critically Endangered (CR)
  • 1998
    Endangered (E)
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Population

Population
The population is small and thought to number only 120 mature individuals.

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Threats

Major Threats
The discovery of the taxon in the Middelburg district triggered off a serious collector threat during the 1960s. The general accessibility of sites and the proximity of the distribution region to the Pretoria/Witwatersrand urban complex resulted in an extremely heavy exploitation during those years when cycad-collecting became a fashion (Fourie 1984). Although legislation has curbed the activities of collectors, the exploitation by individuals of the taxon is still ongoing today.

The development of semi-intensive agricultural areas within and around the distribution range of the taxon must have had a tremendous effect on the stability of the taxon, especially with the increased burning of the habitat and grazing practices (Fourie 1984). The taxon is extremely vulnerable to fire and not stimulated as is the case with Encephalartos lanatus (Fourie 1984).

Individual plants have become isolated and there is consequent reproductive failure (Fourie 1984).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
The taxon is listed as Specially Protected in the provincial conservation Ordinances and is included on Appendix I of the CITES Appendices. Within Gauteng, individuals of the taxon occur within private nature reserves. The distribution range of the taxon falls within the boundaries of NEGI (North Eastern Gauteng Initiative) - a conservancy initiative.

Plants occur in the Loskopdam Nature Reserve, the Ezemvelo Nature Reserve (D. MacFadyen pers. comm.) and the Rhenosterpoort Private Nature Reserve.
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