White rhino (Ceratotherium simum), Ithala, South Africa
©CI/Photo by Russell A. Mittermeier

Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany, which stretches along the east coast of southern Africa below the Great Escarpment, is an important center of plant endemism.

The region's warm temperate forests are home to nearly 600 tree species, the highest tree richness of any temperate forest on the planet. The celebrated, bird-of-paradise flower is a distinctive hotspot endemic. The rescue of the southern subspecies of white rhinoceros from extinction, which took place in this hotspot, is one of the best-known success stories in African conservation.

Regrettably, much of the once expansive grasslands and forests in which many of the large mammals dwell is facing increased threats from industrial and local farming and also the expansion of grazing lands.


Hotspot Original Extent (km²) 274,136
Hotspot Vegetation Remaining (km²) 67,163
Endemic Plant Species 1,900
Endemic Threatened Birds 0
Endemic Threatened Mammals 2
Endemic Threatened Amphibians 6
Extinct Species† 0
Human Population Density (people/km²) 70
Area Protected (km²) 23,051
Area Protected (km²) in Categories I-IV* 20,322
†Recorded extinctions since 1500. *Categories I-IV afford higher levels of protection.


The Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany Hotspot lies along the east coast of southern Africa, below the Great Escarpment, extending from extreme southern Mozambique (south of the Limpopo River, where it adjuts on the Coastal Forests of Eastern Africa Hotspot) and Mpumalanga province in South Africa (south of the Olifants River) in the north, through eastern Swaziland to the Eastern Cape province of South Africa in the south. The region is floristically, climatologically and geologically complex. There are at least three clear foci of high endemism and high diversity in the area, the names of which have been amalgamated as the name of this hotspot: Maputaland (Tongaland) in the north, Pondoland further south, and Albany in the southwest.

The topography of the region ranges from ancient sand dunes and low-lying plains in the north to a series of rugged terraces deeply incised by river valleys in the central and southern parts. The hotspot also incorporates several mountain ranges, including the Sneeuberg, Winterberg, Amatola Mountains, Ngeli Range, Lebombo Mountains and Ngoye Range. The area is bordered on the west by the Great Escarpment, which separates the elevated interior plateau of southern Africa from the coastal lowlands.

The hotspot's vegetation is comprised mainly of forests, thickets, bushveld and grasslands. About 80 percent of South Africa's remaining forests fall within this hotspot. These warm temperate forests, which are home to nearly 600 tree species, have the highest tree diversity of any of the world’s temperate forests. The area also has a remarkable succulent flora, principally in the Albany region; these are mainly stem succulents, as opposed to the dominant leaf succulents found in the Succulent Karoo in the western parts of southern Africa. One type of forest (Licuáti forest), three types of thicket, six types of bushveld, and five types of grassland are restricted to the hotspot.

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