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Executive Summary


Study Area




Rock Art

Sociology: Human Component

Living Culture and Creative Cultural Assets

Arts Heritage: A Case Study

Mission History


Botanical Diversity

Endemic Flora

Orchidaceae of the Soutpansberg

Medicinal Plants

River Health and Water Quality

Lepidoptera (Butterflies and Moths)


Spiders (Araneae)



Indigenous Birds


Private Game Reserves and State Reserves

FishesDown load PDF version

P.S.O. Fouche* and I.G. Gaigher**
* University of Venda for Science and Technology
**Lajuma Research and Environmental Education Centre

Sources of information

The two most important data sources on freshwater fishes are the Albany Museum and the JLB Smith Institute of Ichthyology of Rhodes University. Various other museums, both nationally and internationally, universities, research institutions (e.g. in Skukuza) and the Department of Nature Conservation, Limpopo Province, house valuable collections and/or distribution data. This information is available on request. Data on fish distribution is available electronically from the JLB Smith Institute.

The Department of Biological Sciences of the University of Venda did a detailed distribution survey of the fishes of the Soutpansberg. The results of this survey can be obtained from the department.

The whole Soutpansberg is drained by the Limpopo River system. Forty four of the 50 species found in this system have been collected from the Soutpansberg. This represents ten families and 19 genera.

Summary statistics

Due to climatic diversity and the abundance of perennial streams, the Soutpansberg presents a high diversity of aquatic biotopes for fish. The mountain also contains the only inland freshwater lake in Southern Africa, namely Lake Fundudzi. This explains the relatively high diversity of species, e.g. 88% of Limpopo River system species within a relatively small area. The Soutpansberg contains more fish species than the Pongola River system (40 species), The Tugela River system (12 species) and the Orange River system(16 species). Twenty eight percent of all Southern African fish species occur in the Soutpansberg.

The Soutpansberg contains no endemic fish species. However, it does share seven endemics with the adjacent Incomati and Limpopo River systems. It also contains the only known localities of lungfish (Protopterus annectens) and Clarias theodorae in the northern part of South Africa. Each of these species is only known from one single locality in this region. Three Soutpansberg species are listed in the SA Red Data Book on Fishes namely Nothobranchius orthonotus (rare), N. furzeri (endangered) and Opsaridium peringueyi (rare).

Major studies and publications

ENGELBRECHT, J. 1998. A checklist of Fish Species occurring in the Limpopo, Sabie and Incomati Rivers. Appendix 2 of a Specialist report for the Sasol Natural gas Mozambique to South Africa Project

FOUCH, P. S. O. & GAIGHER, I. G. 2001. Niche differentiation in the rheophilic fishes of the Mutshindudi, in Gaigher, I.G. (Ed) “A Sociobiological study of the aquatic resources and their utilization in an underdeveloped rural region, the Mutshindudi River Catchment." WRC project report 714/3/01, 52–69.

GAIGHER, I. G. 1969. Aspekte met betrekking tot die Ekologie, Geografie en Taksonomie van Varswatervisse in die Limpopo- en Incomatiriviersisteem. Unpublished Ph.D. Thesis, Randse Afrikaanse Universiteit.

GAIGHER, I. G. 1973. Habitat preferences of fishes from the Limpopo River system, Transvaal and Mocambique. Koedoe 16: 103–116.

GAIGHER, I. G. 1998. The diversity, distribution, habitat preferences and conservation status of fishes of the Limpopo River system, South Africa. Verhandlungen Internationale Vereinigung für Limnologie 6: 2237–2239.

GAIGHER, I. G. & FOUCHE, P. S. O. 2001. A rapid method of habitat integrity assessment of small perennial streams in the Northern Province, South Africa, based on rheophilic fish. SIL Vehandlung, vol 27.

GAIGHER, I. G., VAN DER WAAL, B. C. W. & FOUCH, P. S. O. 2001. Fish distribution in the Mutshindudi River system, in Gaigher, I. G. (Ed) “A Sociobiological study of the aquatic resources and their utilization in an underdeveloped rural region, the Mutshindudi River Catchment.” WRC project report 714/3/01, 45 - 51.

KLEYNHANS, C. J. 1984.Verspreiding en status van sekere seldsame vissoorte van die Transvaal en die ekologie van sommige species. Unpublished Thesis, University of Pretoria.1984.

POLLING, L., MOKGALONG, N. M. & SAAYMAN, J. E. 1983. The fishes of the Limpopo and Olifants River Tributaries (Limpopo drainage basin; South Africa): part V. Annotated checklist of the Luvuvhu River subsystem, Limpopo River System. University of the North Series A30.

RUSSELL, I. A. 1997. Monitoring the conservation status and diversity of fish assemblages in the major rivers of the Kruger National Park. Unpublished PhD Thesis, Univ of Wits.

SKELTON, P. H. 1987. South African Red Data Book — Fishes. South African National Scientific Programmes Report no. 137.

SKELTON, P. H. 1993. A Complete Guide to the Freshwater Fishes of Southern Africa. Southern Book Publishers, Halfway House.

Recommendations for priority studies

The fishes is the only vertebrate group for which relatively detailed distribution data is available. Studies should concentrate on the ecology of rare species.

“Hot spots” of particular importance

The hotspots will include those areas where rare species occur, namely the Nwanedi River, perennial streams and the Pafuri Floodplain area.

Copyright: Soutpansberg—Limpopo Biosphere Initiative