The Free State supports a range of biodiversity, including a number of Red Data List species,which are species that are at risk of extinction.
Based on the Red Data List, 1 species is categorised a critically endangered (Black Rhino), 4 endangered, 7 vulnerable and 9 near threatened. Guideline figures have been developed for the carrying capacity for mammal species in each provincial reserve to inform the decision on the number of animals to be removed. The issues with regard to the impact of predation by caracal and black jackal on the total biodiversity of the area are probably the most urgent but most neglected conservation issue in Southern Africa.
There are sixteen Important Bird Areas in the Free State. Based on the Red Data List, 3 bird species are categorised as critically endangered (Rudd’s Lark, White-winged Flufftail and the Wattled Crane), 3 endangered, 24 vulnerable and 22 near threatened. Currently, most conservation work involving birds is of a monitoring nature. There are 26 species that are dependent either on grasslands, wetlands, or both habitats, which are currently inadequately conserved in protectedareas.
Reptiles and Amphibians
Within the Free State there are six species of reptiles and one species of amphibian that on the IUCN Red Data list. Two species of reptiles are categorised as vulnerable and 4 species as near threatened. One species of amphibians is categorised as near threatened. No monitoring programmes are being undertaken at this time on any amphibians or reptiles in the Free State. Consequently, no specific information is available with respect to changes in population numbers or disappearance of species from particular areas.
Although a Red Data list has not been compiled for Arachnida, three family groups are vulnerable in the Free State. The Arachnids of the Free State is still largely unknown, as little work has so far been done on these animals in this Province.
Only one species of fish is listed on the Red Data List and is categorised as threatened.
Conservation of grasslands habitats is important for the protection of the listed Red Data plants species. Based on the Red Data List, 2 species are categorised as endangered, 7 vulnerable and 4 near threatened. Information on plant species and their distribution in the Free State is however limited.
The increasing use of indigenous medicinal plants for health care is resulting on intensive harvesting, particularly by the commercial and illegal traders. The Free State Province has 69 plant species of medicinal value, 11 of which are listed in the IUCN Red Data list. With the current rate of extraction, plants that are not listed or protected, risk becoming extinct. The utilisation of forest resources for firewood, timber and various other uses has increased. The rural poor are heavily reliant on natural resources for fuel wood, which is exacerbating the problem of deforestation. This is particularly apparent in the northwest region of the Province, where there is a shortage of fuelwood resulting in Acacia karroo being felled.
(Source: Free State Province State of the Environment Report, 2009)