Nama Karoo ecoregion
Also see the West Coast Karoo
The Nama Karoo is also known as the Great Karoo and covers the plateau to
the west of the Highveld grassland, and north of the Little Karoo.
The region covers the central plateau of the Cape Province and extends over
the Orange River into Namibia in the northwest.
The Great Karoo is divided into two regions which by the Great Escarpment
which lies about 100 km to 200 km inland from the West Coast. The higher parts
elevate to 900 - 1'300 m, the lower parts to 550 m - 900 m.
351'100 square kilometers
Rivers and pans
- Orange River (originates in Lesotho in the east)
- Sak River
- Most rivers are dry and sun only after rains
- Fish River normally flows only during the rainy season
- Fish River Canyon is second in size only to the Grand Canyon of America.
- The canyon is 161 km long, up to 27 km wide, and in places almost
550 m deep with sheer, precipitous sides.
Nature Reserves found in this ecoregion are:
Droughts are common in this harsh climate. Seasonal and daily temperatures
- Rainfall mostly in summer between December and March
- annual rainfall: between 100 mm - 500 mm
- rainfall decreases from east to west and from north to south
- Daily variation sometimes up to 25°C
- mean maximum in summer (January) : exceed 30°C
- mean minimum winter (July): -0°C
- shallow lime-rich soils
- underneath the soil are the Ecca and Beaufort groups, below wich is the
- Karoo dolerite sills form the flat-topped hills typical of the Nama Karoo
- dinosaur and mammal-like reptile fossils are commonly found
Dwarf shrubs (chaemaphytes) and grasses (hemicryptophytes) dominate the region.
There are 2'147 species of which 377 are endemic.
- Stipagrostis spp.
- Acacia karroo
- Diospyros lycioides
- Grewia robusta
- Rhus lancea
- Tamarix usneoides
There are few strict endemics in the region and only a few species occur
- strictly endemic
- Visagie's golden mole (Chrysochloris visagiei, CR)
- Grant's rock mouse (Aethomys granti)
- Shortridge's rat (Thallomys shortridgei, LR)
- riverine rabbit (Bunolagus monticularis, EN)
- Gerbillurus vallinus and Petromyscus monticularis, LR
- quagga (Equus quagga) was hunted to extinction in the 19th Century
No longer happening
During the mid- to late-1800s European travelers and colonists reported game
migrations numbering millions across the Nama Karoo. One account recalls a
herd taking three days to pass through a small town. These animals are not
extinct, but this migratory path no longer exists due to hunting and fences.
Springbok were the most numerous.
- springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis)
- wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus)
- blesbok (Damaliscus dorcas)
- quagga (Equus quagga)
- eland (Taurotragus oryx)
- strictly endemic
- ferruginous lark (Certhilauda burra, VU)
- Sclater's lark (Spizocorys sclateri, LR)
- Karoo chat (Cercomela schlegelii)
- tractrac chat (Cercomela tractrac)
- red lark (Certhilauda burra)
- Karoo scrub robin (Cercotrichas coryphaeus)
- red-headed cisticola (Cisticola subruficapillus)
- Namaqua prinia (Phragmacia substriata).
- vulnerable birds
- tawny eagle (Aquila rapax)
- martial eagle (Polemaetus bellicosus)
- African marsh harrier (Circus ranivorus)
- lesser kestrel (Falco naumanni)
- blue crane (Anthropoides paradiseus)
- kori (Ardeotis kori)
- Ludwig’s (Neotis ludwigii) bustards
- red lark
There are 10 near-endemic species.
- Karoo dwarf chameleon (Bradypodion karrooicum
- Boulenger's Padloper (Homopus boulengeri)