South Africa

Protection for South Africa’s Rarest Tortoises

Project Cost: $44,445

Funding Raised: $44,445

$209.65 per acre (1 acre = 43,560 sq ft)
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2X The Impact

Thanks to generous donor support, we have successfully reached our fundraising goal for this project.

Endemic to the Western Cape of South Africa, the Geometric Tortoise is one of the world’s most endangered reptiles. Due to urban and agricultural expansion, however, the turtle has lost nearly 95% of its habitat.

Urbanization and agricultural expansion now threaten to sever an important ecological corridor running through an already endangered landscape.

To save this corridor and protect the largest remaining population of the Geometric Tortoise, Rainforest Trust has partnered with the South African Tortoise Conservation Trust (SATCT) to purchase 212 acres of Fynbos (shrubland) habitat and create the Geometric Tortoise Preserve.

Fast Facts

Breede River Valley, Western Cape Province, South Africa

212 acres

Key Species
Geometric Tortoise (EN), Angulate Tortoise, Parrot-beaked Tortoise, Lampranthus scaber (EN plant species), Athanasia crenata (EN plant species)

Lowland Fynbos shrubland

Agricultural expansion, urbanization, overgrazing, uncontrolled fire

Purchase 212 acres to create the Geometric Tortoise Preserve

Local Partner
South African Tortoise Conservation Trust (SATCT),
Turtle Conservancy

Financial Need

Price Per Acre


The proposed reserve, located within the Upper Breede River Valley bioregion, contains some of the last remaining intact lowland Fynbos habitat.

The valley is the global stronghold of the Endangered Geometric Tortoise and the highest density of tortoises in the area is found in Rainforest Trust’s project site. The proposed reserve will protect 15-25 percent of the entire remaining wild population of Geometric Tortoises. In addition to multiple species of tortoise, the area supports significant populations of at least five rare plant species – perhaps as many as 12 – and has a very high local and regional conservation value. These plants are part of the Breede Alluvium Fynbos, an endangered vegetation type restricted to the Upper Breede River Valley. None of this ecosystem has been protected, and less than 43% of it remains.


Urban sprawl spreading outward from Cape Town presents an immediate risk to habitat in the Upper Breede River Valley.

In addition, agricultural development in the area poses a threat as populations in nearby cities rise and demands on local natural resources increase. Much of the Breede River Valley is covered with vineyards and ranches, making the loss of more habitat inevitable without protection.


The population of South Africa’s Western Cape Province is composed of a diverse mixture of native Africans, whites and inhabitants of Indian and Asian descent.

Four languages are spoken in this multi-cultural society, Afrikaans being the dominant with 50% of the population using it as a first language. The total population of the Western Cape Province is 5.8 million, with approximately two-thirds of residents living in the metropolitan area of Cape Town.


The creation of the Geometric Tortoise Preserve will protect critical habitat for the Geometric Tortoise as well as other endemic plant and animal species at high risk of extinction.

To successfully protect local wildlife, SATCT will establish a habitat restoration and management plan with the participation of local stakeholders, including CapeNature (the South African provincial government conservation agency in Cape Town). The preserve will serve as a model for tortoise conservation on a landscape scale throughout the Breede River Valley and will focus on threats from invasive species, habitat restoration and revegetation, and wildfire prevention. Monitoring activities will also be used to collect baseline data, document tortoise populations, and allow the SATCT to adjust and adapt its management strategies where necessary.