Nama-Karoo Facts & Figures

species word cloudThe Nama-Karoo biome (ecological region) is the largest, but least researched of South Africa’s seven biomes.

biomes800It is also the largest of the four desert biomes.

The Nama-Karoo biome covers an area of over 135,000 square miles, four and half times the area of Lesotho….

…but less than 1% is formally protected and conserved…that’s as little as 1350 square miles about the area of Cape Town in total or the equivalent of only 3 miles of conservation land between Johannesburg and Durban.

Blue Cranes and Flamingos, Winter 2010The Nama-Karoo Biome is characterized by wide open spaces, clean air, water and a climate that soars to roasting temperatures in the summer and drops to freezing weather, and even snow in the winter. These extremes of weather have helped create the Karoo and its unpredictable feasts and famine climate has shaped the animals and plants that live here and the way people have occupied the region to the present day.

Grazing by domestic livestock has been the major cause of degradation of the ecosystem, and over-hunting in the 19th and early 20th centuries depleted the Karoo of much of its large and medium sized mammal species.

trekbokke A4 1896Other impacts of regional development also continue to threaten the natural and cultural heritage of the Karoo.

A prime example of change is the Blue Crane – once estimated as a species with a high population the numbers of  blue cranes has dramatically diminished ironically over the same time period that conservation efforts elsewhere have helped raise the numbers of endangered white rhinos.

blue crane numbersToday white rhino and Blue Crane numbers are more or less the same.

Researching and tackling the threats to Blue Cranes is a priority for the NKF.

Successes to date have seen the removal of electricity powerline along Blue Cane migration routes and the establishment of protected breeding sites and nurseries or injured cranes.

Karoo Heritage                       

Bushman_DrawingsThe Karoo’s heritage includes:

Important geology – vital mineral deposits and fossil reptiles that predate the Dinosaurs – which harbour vast and essential water supplies that support all of South Africa: 90-95% of water used in the Karoo comes from underground and the region experiences an average annual rainfall of just 200mm;

Fossil records and dark grey dwyka tillites dating back 3 billion years to a time when Africa was part of the super-continent Gondwanaland.

Ripple marks in shales evidencing a period when the Karoo was an area of inland lakes and containing the footprints of reptiles

Archaeological sites testifying to over 1 million years of human habitation in the Karoo and to the historic fauna and flora;

hand_axeHandaxes deposited where our hominid ancestors moved across the landscape.

Rockshelters where hunter-herders lived, dreamed and watch the eternal passing of the stars, and whose presence is felt in the scatters of stone artefacts and fragments of pottery of former times;.

Ancient kraals of former hunter-herder groups who met the first europeans.

Unique architecture of the small Karoo towns, and scattered farmsteads, including many nationally important sites, and the former homes of Karoo heroes and heroines, from //Kabbo, and Bretange Jantjes to Andries Stockenstroom, Francois Le Vaillant and William Burchell, Robert Sobukwe to Olive Schreiner, Sol Plaatje and Athol Fugard and many many more;

Rock art and engravings revealing the landscape perceptions, values and attitudes of the Karoo’s first people;

Distinct and diverse flora ranging from flowering Karoo plants (Opslag) to vast varieties of native grasses, stoneplants, succulents, and the famous kokerboom.

Fauna that defies the semi-desert conditions – a myriad of insects, moths and butterflies; bats, reptiles and fish, as well as small to large mammals: bat-eared foxes, mongoose, steinbok, springbok;and zebra; many species of bustards, cranes, mousebirds, egrets and eagles.

zoetvlei birdsFor a list of flora and fauna see our News & Articles Section!

A landscape character of broad plains, flat-topped hills, koppies, granite domes, mountain ranges, flat plateaus, seasonal rivers, and limited areas of wetland. The character of the Karoo’s topography of open vistas, unfolding land dotted with small settlements is part of its heritage and a feature that merits understanding and protection.