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Location Malaysia
Central coordinates 113o 50.00' East  7o 22.00' North
IBA criteria A4i
Area 20 ha
Year of IBA assessment 2004

Malaysian Nature Society

Summary The area is under the jurisdiction of the Putrajaya Federal Territory. This man made island is situated in the South China Sea. The island has no real protection status.

Site description (I) Physical CharacteristicsPulau Layang-Layang (also known as Swallow Reef) is a reef atoll, which is in the Spratly Islands group, is situated in the South China Sea, about 350 km off the coast of Sabah. The island was created by the Malaysian Armed Forces in 1984 by dredging coral and sand out of the centre of the atoll and piling it onto a part of the existing reef. At present, it measures about 1 km long and 200 m wide. The island serves as a naval base for the Malaysian Navy and a small resort, which caters for diving enthusiast (Davison, 1999; Gibby, 1997; Poole, 1994; Noramly and Noramly, 1985).(II) Climatic ConditionsAnnual average rainfall of 1,640 mm. Heavy rains during the north-east monsoon, less wet during the south-west monsoon. Inter-monsoon period March-June, receives least precipitation.

Key Biodiversity The island is probably the most important refuge for breeding seabird colonies, situated on its western part, especially the Great Crested Tern Sterna bergii, Black-naped Tern Sterna sumatrana, Sooty Tern Sterna fuscata, Brown Noddy Anous stolidus and Brown Bobby Sula leucogaster in Malaysia (Wells, 1991). About 10% of the Asian population of the Great Crested Tern are found on the island. From July to October, more than 10,000 wintering individuals of these species congregate on the tiny island to breed (Gibby, 1997; Haile, 1964; Poole, 1994; Noramly and Noramly, 1985; Mat Isa et al., 1997; Pilcher et al., 1999). Pulau Layang-Layang may be an important staging site for migrants other than seabirds (Davison, 1999).

Non-bird biodiversity: The surrounding waters off this man-made island have one of the best coral reefs in the world. (I) Globally threatened mammals (IUCN, 2002): None.(II) Globally threatened reptiles (IUCN, 2002): CRITICAL: Hawksbill Turtle Eretmochelys imbricata(III) Globally threatened plants (IUCN, 2002): None

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Greater Crested Tern Thalasseus bergii breeding  2004  present  A4i  Least Concern 


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Coastline   -

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
military -
tourism/recreation -

Protection status Pulau Layang-Layang has no real protection status. However, the island is indirectly 'protected' by the presence of the Malaysian Navy.

References Davison, G.W.H. 1999. Pulau Layang-Layang Revisited. Sabah Society Journal 16: 31-39.Gibby, M. 1997. Sights, Sounds and Smells. Malayan Naturalist 51(1): 24-29.Haile, N.S. 1964. Notes on birds on Spratly Island, Amboyna Bay and Swallow Reef, South China Sea. Sabah Society Journal 2: 135-137.IUCN. 2002. 2002 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. (23 June 2003).Mat-Isa, M. Mohd-Tajuddin, A., Burhanuddin, M.N., Tuuga, A., Jumrafiah, A.S. and Maria, J.A. 1997. The birds on Pulau Layang-Layang, South China Sea, Malaysia. Journal of Wildlife Management & Research, Sabah 1: 26-30. Møller, H. S. 2002. Pulau Layang-Layang, Sabah, East Malaysia. Bird Observations 26-29 May 2002. (Unpublished).Noramly, M and Noramly, G. 1985. Layang-Layang - Island Paradise for Sea Birds. Nature Malaysiana 10(4): 14-23.Noramly, G., Jeyarajasingam, A. and Ooi, C.H. (compilers) 2002. Recent Sightings. Suara Enggang 3 (May-June): 30-50.Pilcher, N., Oakley, S. and Ghazally Ismail. 1999. Layang-Layang: A Drop in the Ocean. Kota Kinabalu: Natural History Publications (Borneo).Poole, C. 1994. Layang-Layang - Malaysia's largest seabird colony. Oriental Bird Club Bulletin 20: 44-46.TRACC. No date. Bird life of Pulau Layang-Layang. (2 December 2002).Wells, D.R. 1991. Status and conservation of seabirds breeding in Malaysian waters. In Croxall, J.P. (ed.). Status and conservation of the world's seabirds: a supplement, pp. 213-223. United Kingdom: International Council for Bird Preservation. (Technical Publication No. 11)

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Pulau Layang-Layang. Downloaded from on 20/10/2016

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