Middelpunt Nature Reserve was declared on the 14 October 2022. Middelpunt Wetland is the only confirmed breeding site of the threatened White-winged Flufftail in South Africa. Nature reserve status will help ensure that this site is safeguarded for many years.
Image above: Middelpunt Nature Reserve, demarcated by the green outline, spans 500 ha and encompasses the main body of Middelpunt Wetland along with lateral seeps. Map by Mervyn Lötter.
The White-winged Flufftail (Sarothrura ayresi) is listed as globally Critically Endangered, with an estimated population size of fewer than 250 mature individuals. Ethiopia and, more recently, South Africa are the only two countries where the White-winged Flufftail is known to breed, with only one confirmed site in South Africa: Middelpunt Wetland. Dullstroom Trout Farm, the owner of the wetland, has been supportive of BirdLife South Africa’s research activities at the site. It is through these studies that the first breeding record of the White-winged Flufftail was made in South Africa. Dullstroom Trout Farm joined the Greater Lakenvlei Protected Environment in 2017. Whilst this form of protection limits activities that could threaten biodiversity, it does not prevent them entirely. Declaring Middelpunt Wetland as a private nature reserve was considered a top priority by the White-winged Flufftail International Working Group (WWF IWG) in 2019. BirdLife South Africa gained the support of the provincial conservation governing body, Mpumalanga Tourism and Park Agency, in meeting this objective. BirdLife South Africa also identified the importance of a neighbouring property belonging to Eland’s Valley Guest Farm, which supplies Middelpunt Wetland with lateral inputs (seeps). Both Dullstroom Trout Farm (308 ha) and Eland’s Valley Guest Farm (200 ha) were willing to begin the application process in early 2021. The intent to declare the nature reserve was supported by the public, with over 300 letters of support being submitted. In collaboration with Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency, the private nature reserve was officially declared on the 14 October 2022 (Mpu. Prov. Gazette No. 3449, Notice 211).
Middelpunt Nature Reserve is not only an important site for White-winged Flufftail but provides habitat to a diversity of floral and faunal species. This nearly 10,000-year-old, peat-based wetland provides benefits to the surrounding Lakenvlei farming community through water retention, purification, and flood attenuation. It is our hope that Middelpunt Wetland will continue to be a bastion of nature conservation in South Africa and the world for many years to come.
We would like to thank and acknowledge Dullstroom Trout Farm, Eland’s Valley Guest Farm, Middelpunt Wetland Trust, Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency, Conservation Outcomes, Eskom through the Ingula Partnership and the many individuals who have contributed to the research and conservation of White-winged Flufftail. Middelpunt Nature Reserve is a closed, private reserve dedicated to the conservation of White-winged Flufftail and is thus not open to tourists. Please refer to the January/February 2023 issue of African Birdlife to find out more about the declaration of Middelpunt Nature Reserve.
Dr Kyle Lloyd
Rockjumper Fellow of White-winged Flufftail Conservation
BirdLife South Africa