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Marico Biosphere Reserve, South Africa


Located in the north of the country, this biosphere reserve comprises a unique freshwater ecosystem which includes the Molemane, Molopo and Marico river systems. The ecosystem is characterized by wetlands and a dolomitic system, which constitute a valuable part of South Africa’s natural heritage. The savannah and grassland areas support vulnerable plant species such as Searsia maricoana. Endemic fauna include 73 species of mammal such as the African elephant, the black rhinoceros and the lion. The main economic activities are subsistence agriculture, livestock, game ranching and tourism.


Designation date: 2018

Photo gallery ǀ  Press release


Regional network: AfriMAB

Ecosystem-based network:



    Surface :
    447,268 ha

    • Core area(s) : 21,499 ha
    • Buffer zone(s) : 64,350 ha
    • Tansition zone(s): 361,419 ha


    • Central point: 25°29'18"S - 26°23'47"E

    Administrative authorities

    Marico BR Management Authority
    1 Vergenoeg Road West, 2850 Groot Marico

    Tel.: +27 14 503 1108


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    Ecological Characteristics

    The most noteworthy of the environmental characteristics of the area is the dolomitic aquifers that underlie much of the area and which gives rise to three river systems: the Marico River, the Molopo River and the Molemane River. The Molemane River feeds into the Klein-Marico River (“Small” Marico River) which later feeds into the Marico River, outside of the proposed Marico BR boundaries. The Marico River, in turn, feeds into the Limpopo River, which serves four countries in total: South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. As the Marico River is one of the cleanest and healthiest rivers in South Africa, it is significant in the provision of water to the Limpopo River systems.

    The Marico BR covers parts of two biomes, the Savannah and the Grassland Biomes, encompassing sections of five bioregions and a total of seven vegetation types. Furthermore,  the proposed Marico BR area has a high representativity of biodiversity compared to the surrounding area.



    Socio-economic characteristics

    A total number of 34 000 permanent residents are estimated to live within the boundaries of the proposed Marico BR. The most prominent ethnic group is the Batswana, with Afrikaner and other groupings forming the minority groups. The languages mostly spoken in the proposed Marico BR area are Setswana, English and Afrikaans.  

    Economic activities in the area are mainly rural-based, with the biggest economic sectors being dryland subsistence agriculture, with livestock grazing and game farming on the natural vegetation being the mainstay for the area. Tourism and game farming are ever-increasing in the area. Only two small towns fall within the Marico BR area - Groot-Marico and Ottoshoop (Figure 2). Both fall within the Transition Area of the proposed Marico BR. The towns of Zeerust, Mahikeng, Lichtenburg, Koster and Swartruggens are larger, accommodating more economic activities. However, these towns fall outside the boundaries of the proposed Marico BR. Agriculture is both the primary economic activity and the main land use in the area. Most of the land that falls within the proposed Marico BR is privately owned.



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    Last updated: March 2019