Geography in Lesotho
The Kingdom of Lesotho, encompassing approx. 30,355 km², is located in the south-east of South Africa and is a part of the South African high plateau (Highveld), at approx. 1400 m above sea level, relatively lower in the west and a mountainous area in the east that includes the Drakensberg Mountains structured. Settlement of the country takes place mainly on the plateau called Lowland, while the charming landscape of the mountain ranges rising well over 2000 m above sea level is largely deserted. The wildly rugged Drakensberg Mountains with the highest peak in southern Africa, the Thabana Ntlenyana (3482 m above sea level) stretch here in a crescent-shaped arc from southwest to north through the country.
The mountain range drains through numerous rivers, of which the Oranje and the Caledon are the most important and carry the precipitation over the Vaal far in the west to the Atlantic.
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Flora and fauna in Lesotho
The vegetation in Lesotho is characterized by open grasslands and mountain pastures with low shrubs. There are peat bogs in the highlands. Trees only appear sporadically in protected valleys or plantations (eucalyptus trees, acacias) and in the villages (peach trees), smaller eucalyptus forests are the result of afforestation measures.
The large animal world of Lesotho has been greatly reduced in its populations through intensive hunting. The deer antelope is the largest wild mammal in Lesotho. Larger birds such as storks, ibis, herons and vultures, including the rare bearded vulture, are relatively common. The smaller bird species include weaver birds and the nectar-sucking malachite nectar bird. But also reptiles, including some species of snakes, amphibians and a few fish, as well as numerous interesting insects and other small animals are native to Lesotho.
National parks and nature conservation in Lesotho
Due to the intensive hunting, the formerly diverse fauna of Lesotho can only be observed in the country’s only protected area, the Sehlabathebe National Park in the Drakensberg (68 km²). Large populations of antelopes, baboons and jackals live here. Larger mammals such as lions or zebras no longer appear here either.
The national park, which has existed since 1969, is located in the Maloti Mountains in the extreme southeast of the country on the border with South Africa, at an average altitude of around 2450 m above sea level. Wide grasslands and sandstone cliffs predominate. On the northern edge of the national park there are steep basalt mountains that are up to 2900 meters high. The area is criss-crossed by several year-round water-bearing rivers such as the Tsoelikane and has numerous wetlands. In the park is the Tsoelikane waterfall.
The Tšehlanyane National Park in the Butha-Buthe District is another nature reserve in Lesotho.