Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) - Africa

Etosha National Park, Namibia. Photo: Consu Sartori

The Important Bird and Biodiversity Area Programme aims to identify, document, monitor and protect a network of sites for the conservation of birds, other biodiversity and wider ecosystems and their services. BirdLife Partners take responsibility for the IBA Programme nationally, with the BirdLife Africa Secretariat taking the lead on regional aspects and in some priority non-Partner countries. Over 1,250 sites have been identified as IBAs in 59 countries and territories.


How are IBAs identified?

A site is recognised as an IBA only if it meets certain criteria, based on the occurrence of key bird species that are vulnerable to global extinction or whose populations are otherwise irreplaceable. An IBA must be amenable to conservation action and management.

The IBA criteria are internationally agreed, standardised, quantitative and scientifically defensible. Ideally, each IBA should be large enough to support self-sustaining populations of as many as possible of the key bird species for which it was identified or, in the case of migrants, fulfill their requirements for the duration of their presence.


Current status of the IBA Programme in Africa

The IBA programme in Africa provides information on key sites for biodiversity. To date national directories have been published covering;

  • Ethiopia (EWNHS 1996)
  • Southern Africa including Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe (Barnes, 1998)
  • Madagascar (ZICOMA 1998)
  • Egypt (Baha El Din 1999)
  • Kenya (Bennun & Njoroge 1999)
  • Sierra Leone (Okoni-Williams, Thompson, Wood, Robertson & Koroma 2001)
  • Uganda (Byaruhanga, Kasoma & Pomeroy 2001)
  • Nigeria (Ezealor & Amino-Kano 2002)
  • Tanzania (Baker & Baker 2002)
  • Guinea-Bissau (Dodman, Barlow, Sa & Robertson, 2004)
  • Zambia (Leonard 2005)


National IBA Conservation Strategies

National IBA Conservation Strategies (NIBACS) are defined as flexible frameworks or documents containing goals, objectives, priorities and mechanisms for IBA conservation that guide all key players to the priorities and actions needed, and defines their roles. The aim of NIBACS is to provide a clear focus at a national level for plans and tools and to build consensus for conserving IBAs through collaborative action by stakeholders.


Future Plans

The future direction of the IBA Programme in Africa is to;

  • Identify candidate IBAs.
  • Strengthen IBA monitoring including monitoring using remote sensing with results mainstreamed into environmental policy processes, national planning and attainment of national commitments to Multilateral Environmental Agreements (e.g. National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plans [NBSAPs]).
  • Advocate for IBAs to be gazetted as protected areas.
  • Communicate the IBA Programme in Africa to all the key stakeholders at local, national and global level.
  • Develop NIBACS to guide management of IBAs.
  • Assess the ecosystem services at the IBAs and how they relate to human wellbeing and livelihoods.
  • Engage stakeholders in the management of IBAs, especially at community level.
  • Develop innovative approaches, including resource mobilisation, to achieve plans listed above. 
  • Prevent damaging development at highly threatened IBAs, through co-ordinated advocacy and interventions.
  • Update IBAs documentation regularly, including through IBA monitoring, with results compiled in the World Bird and Biodiversity Database.


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