Reptiles, Amphibians and Fish
So far, there have been 147 reptile, 42 amphibian, and 57 fish species identified in the Biosphere Reserve.
There is very high endemism noted amongst the reptiles within the Biosphere Reserve (36 species). Unique species include the Mariepskop Dwarf Chameleon (Bradypodion spp. Indet.) which appears to have been isolated by processes accounted for by the natural island biogeography theory.
Snakes are not normally the main attraction for visitors, but there is always great curiosity and fear surrounding these reptiles, especially the great venomous snakes of southern Africa, such as the Black Mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis) and puff adder (Bitis arietans arietans). The cordylids, or plated lizards are being studied a more extensively now by international herpetologists. Nine of the cordylids in the biosphere area are endemics.
Endemic reptiles found only at Mariepskop alone include the Mariepskop Dwarf Chameleon (Bradypodion spp. Indet.) and its Flat Gecko (Afrodeura sp. indet).
The African Rock Python (Python sebae natalensis), considered vulnerable, is in demand in the traditional medicine market and amongst reptile collectors.
Only 50% of South Africa's frog species are found within the Biosphere Reserve, but considering that this is a small percentage of the area of South Africa and that it is not exactly prime frog habitat, this is more valuable than one may think. There are 7 endemics and the only red data species is the Golden leaf-folding frog (Afrixalus aureus), which is considered rare.
Generally frogs are not considered to be of great intrinsic or economic importance, but they are extremely important biological indicators because of their sensitivity to toxins in the environment. Institutions involved in bio-monitoring, especially in the aquatic environments, are now looking at using frogs more effectively in monitoring programmes. The African Bullfrog (Pyxicephalus edulis) is one of the few frogs which has an economic value because it is eaten quite extensively locally when it can be found.
Of the 57 fish species found in the Biosphere Reserve, 32 out of 39 of the important species are of economic importance. Most of the small barbels are valuable aquarium species, while the majority of the larger species are important angling species. The Tigerfish (Hydrocynus vittatus) is well known for the vigorous fight which it gives to the angler.
Also on the increase in demand, especially amongst fly fishermen, is the Small scale yellowfish (Barbus polylepis). Mpumalanga Parks Board is busy with a breeding and reintroduction programme. This species has declined in its natural habitat, due to competition from exotic species and the deterioration of the condition of the streams. Catch and release angling is promoted. A local river Barbel (Barbus treurensis) is a vulnerable endemic of the Treur River. The site at which they are found, has also been declared a National Heritage Site.
In each of these three animals kingdoms, there are a number of local subspecies, which indicate diversification or adaptation of species to the local environment.