The fossil sensitivity map is an important step forward in the proactive management of palaeontological and geological heritage resources. The map will guide and assist developers, heritage officers and practitioners in screening palaeontologically sensitive areas at the earliest stages of the development cycle. 

PalaeoTechnical Reports 

The successful development of the sensitivity map owes itself to a number of initiatives and partners. Since 2008, SAHRA, Heritage Western Cape and Amafa/Heritage KwaZulu-Natal have commissioned palaeotechnical reports from expert palaeontologists such as Dr John Almond, Dr John Pether and Dr Gideon Groenewald. These reports have been used by heritage officers across the country to assess the impacts on fossils by developments. However, this process has been extremely cumbersome and time consuming as the fossil bearing formations were not georeferenced so that footprints of applications could be overlaid systematically against the sensitive geological formations. This information was also not readily accessible by members of the public unless they explicitly requested copies of the palaeotechnical reports. 

Council for GeoScience & SAHRIS 

The successful development of SAHRIS in 2012 opened up a range of possibilities to automate access to and dissemination of the valuable information contained in the palaeotechnical reports. Furthermore, a number of provinces had only been partially assessed (or not at all). The extraction of the technical information onto a Geographical Information System (GIS) provided a means to eliminate gaps in the sensitivity maps where geological formations overlapped provincial boundaries. SAHRA approached the Council for GeoScience (CGS) in order to access to their 1:250 000 geological shapefile data. The CGS were happy to collaborate and on 19 September 2013, SAHRA and the CGS signed a license agreement for the use of their data. Over the last few months, SAHRA's palaeontogical heritage officer, Ms Jenna Lavin, has combined the Palaeotechnical Report information with the shapefile data on SAHRIS and has developed a Fossil Sensitivity Map for South Africa. 

Fossil Sensitivity Map 

This map is available on the SAHRIS mapping system as a layer that can be switched on and off. The different colours on the map represent different levels of estimated palaeontological sensitivity. 

ColourSensitivityRequired Action
REDVERY HIGHField assessment and protocol for finds is required
ORANGE/YELLOWHIGHDesktop study is required and based on the outcome of the desktop study, a field assessment is likely
GREENMODERATEDesktop study is required
BLUELOWNo palaeontological studies are required however a protocol for finds is required
GREYINSIGNIFICANT/ZERONo palaeontological studies are required
WHITE/CLEARUNKNOWNThese areas will require a minimum of a desktop study. As more information comes to light, SAHRA will continue to populate the map

Fossil Heritage Layers 

The map can be used in conjunction with the inventory of Fossil Heritage Layers on SAHRIS ( This data has been taken from the Palaeotechnical reports compiled by Dr Almond, Dr Pether and Dr Groenewald and provide information on the kinds of fossil heritage known from geological formations in South Africa as well as the approximate age of the formations and the fossil sensitivity of the formations. The palaeotechnical project is continuing and as more information is provided, the Fossil Heritage Layers will be updated with new information. 

It is SAHRA's hope that this information will assist in the proactive management of South Africa's palaeontological heritage and provide a new insight into South Africa's unique heritage. This map can be utilised by the South African public, learners and researchers alike. Most importantly, this map can be used by developers as an early-warning system for potential impacts to significant palaeontological heritage. 

ProvinceURL on SAHRIS to the Palaeotechnical Report
Western CapeWestern Cape Palaeotechnical Report
Eastern CapeEastern Cape Palaeotechnical Report
Northern CapeNorthern Cape Palaeotechnical Report
KwaZulu-NatalKwaZulu-Natal Palaeotechnical Report
Uploaded Documents
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License Agreement between CGS and SAHRA 2013 (639.46 KB) 639.46 KB