2 April 2023
Krantzkloof Nature Reserve, managed by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, comprises 668 hectares of coastal scarp forest, sourveld grassland, rugged cliff faces and riparian vegetation. The Natal Group sandstone plateau is cleft by the Molweni and Nkutu River gorges, and these two rivers have scoured the sandstone down to granite bedrock in many places. The grassland is classified as KwaZulu-Natal sandstone sourveld, the most threatened terrestrial habitat in the eThekwini metropole – just 2% of the original habitat remains in the Durban area. This magnificent reserve was established in 1950. At elevations ranging from 140 to 520 metres above sea level, it borders on suburbs, informal settlements and privately-owned conservancies. Numerous trails of various difficulty criss-cross the reserve, most of which require a moderate level of fitness and agility.
This wide range of habitats, geological features and sub-tropical climate has created a haven for wildlife and has resulted in species diversity across the animal and plant kingdoms – there have been 274 tree species, 253 birds, 40 mammals, 36 reptiles and 24 amphibia recorded in the Reserve. A haven for wildlife indeed, and a privilege to have a reserve such as Krantzkloof in Durban’s midst.
Unfortunately for the public, the Reserve has been closed since the devastating floods in April and May last year, when several of the trails were extensively damaged. Since then, only a handful of researchers have been allowed in to continue their monitoring of plants and wildlife. Two groups were given access in April – the Lepidopterists Society (Lepsoc) and Birdlife eThekwini (BeKZN). The latter group comprised of 12 BeKZN members and 4 Honorary Officers who were keen to expand their knowledge from some of the province’s top birders. After a brief introduction in the parking area to the group, we set out to explore the Uve Trail, one of the least rugged of the Reserve’s many trails
Our first surprise was seeing goats on one of the cliff faces. Apparently, they had gained access through the border fence and had made their (hopefully, temporary) home in the reserve. Plans are afoot to remove them, although the terrain makes this an extremely tricky operation.
The indigenous close relative of the bugweed – Solanum giganteum (Healing bitter-leaf) – in one of the bush clumps next to the trail.
Birding was on the slow side, but a mix of grassland, bush clump and forest birds were seen and/or heard. Raptors seen were Crowned Eagle, Brown Snake-eagle, Black Sparrowhawk and African Goshawk. We had good sightings of the resident Trumpeter and Crowned Hornbill as well as Yellow-throated Longclaw.
Swifts and swallows always caused a lot of debate – but we did see African Palm, White-rumped and a number of Little Swift as well as Black Saw-wing, Barn and Lesser-striped Swallow.
African Stonechat also made an appearance, along with Purple-crested Turaco. Knysna Turaco was heard but not seen.
One of the issues that plague the park is poaching: we stumbled across 2 dogs and heard poacher’s voices. This alerted the Honorary Officers who rallied the Head Ranger (Waldo Bekker) and the guards on duty, who eventually chased men and beasts out of the Reserve. We were asked to leave as the rangers came in armed to the teeth, and we could have been victims of a stray bullet. A salutatory reminder of what contentious issues the custodians of Krantzkloof have to face, often on a daily basis.
Many thanks to Waldo Bekker for allowing us access, and to the Honorary Officers (especially Jenny Bosch) for accompanying the group and for opening and closing the Uve Road gate. Also, to Rob McLennan-Smith for atlassing and providing the bird list below.