The Maputaland region on the east coast of South Africa is host to a variety of marine, coastal, wetland, estuarine and terrestrial ecosystems that support remarkable biodiversity. The region forms part of the Maputaland–Pondoland-Albany biodiversity hotspot – one of 34 biodiversity hotspots identified around the globe as Earth’s most biologically rich areas.

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The iSimangaliso Wetland Park, covering 3320 km2, represents the largest formally protected habitat area within the Maputaland region. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999, iSimangaliso is host to a variety of relatively unspoiled ecosystems that include coral reefs, sandy beaches, extensive coastal dunes, estuarine and freshwater lakes, savannah, and several wetlands of international importance. This includes Lake St Lucia, the single most important nursery for estuary-associated fish and invertebrates on the south-east coastline of Africa and the largest protected estuarine habitat for hippos, crocodiles, and aquatic birds on the continent. The Park is home to 243 rare and endangered species, including black and white rhino, elephants, buffalo, coelacanths, whales, sea turtles and some 250 fish species and 526 bird species. The Park forms one of only two marine world heritage sites within the Indian Ocean region.

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