email a friend
printable version
Location Angola, Namibe
Central coordinates 12o 35.00' East  16o 54.00' South
IBA criteria A1, A2, A3
Area 1,592,000 ha
Altitude 0 - 800m
Year of IBA assessment 2001

Site description This is the largest National Park in Angola and is situated in the south-western corner of Namibe, between the Curoca and Cunene rivers. The altitude ranges from sea-level to about 800 m at Posto do Iona and higher in the Tchamalinde Mountains, and there is a gradient in rainfall, from about 100 mm at the coast to 300 mm or more on the eastern boundary of the park. The protected area includes the mouth of the Cunene river, the extensive sand-spit and bay of the Baia dos Tigres and about 200 km of Atlantic coastline. Of particular importance is that the park is contiguous with the Skeleton Coast Park in Namibia, which is itself contiguous with the Namib-Naukluft National Park so that all three protected areas form a continuous block covering some 1,200 km of Namib Desert coastline and adjacent dunes. There are a variety of desert and semi-desert ecosystems in Iona National Park, including mobile dunes along the coast, calcrete plains,desert grasslands of perennial Aristida and Stipagrostis, arid montane shrubland and open woodland and arid savanna. Welwitschia mirabilis is common on gravelly substrates (Huntley 1974b). As a result of the rainfall gradient, the perennial grasslands in the park lead into AcaciaCommiphora semi-arid savanna and, further east, to mopane (Colophospermum mopane) woodland.

Key Biodiversity See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. Only 114 species have been recorded for the area, but the avifauna is likely to be far richer than this, with all the typical Namib Desert avifauna present. The site is important for species restricted to the Namib–Karoo and Kalahari–Highveld biomes. Among species of global conservation concern, Namibornis herero and Estrilda thomensis are frequently encountered residents, while Spheniscus demersus, Morus capensis and Sterna balaenarum are frequent to common non-breeding visitors along the coast. Observations of an adult S. balaenarum feeding young, and adults carrying fish at the mouth of the Cunene river in December (Simmons and Braine 1994), as well as specimens of S. balaenarum in breeding plumage (but with small gonads) at the same locality in November (Pinto 1973b), all support the suggestion by Brooke (1981) that this tern may breed in dunes along the coast of extreme south-west Namibe (i.e. at this site). The coastal parts of the park are an important part of the non-breeding range of Sterna maxima albididorsalis.

The bays and coastal pans, as well as the Curoca river on the northern border of the park, support at least 58 species of waterbird (40% of Angolan list), some in numbers considered at least nationally significant, e.g. Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis, Ciconia nigra, Phoenicopterus minor and a diversity of smaller wading species. Large scavengers including Leptoptilos crumeniferus, Gyps africanus and Torgos tracheliotus are frequent to common in the park. The park is one of the few remaining places in Angola where Struthio camelus occurs in the wild, and is also the only locality in Angola where Falco rupicoloides has been recorded breeding (Dean et al. 1988). South-western Angola is a significant part of the breeding range of Apus bradfieldi. There are no records of this species breeding in the park, but birds in breeding condition have been collected just outside the park at S. João do Sul (Brooke 1971). The rare dark-rumped morph of Apus horus toulsoni has been collected at Tombua (Porto Alexandre), just outside the park boundary (Pinto 1973b), and is highly likely to occur within the park boundaries.

Non-bird biodiversity: Large herbivores in the park include Diceros bicornis (CR), Equus zebra hartmannae (EN) and Aepyceros melampus petersi (Huntley 1974a). Carnivores include Lycaon pictus (EN), Hyaena brunnea (LR/nt), Acinonyx jubatus (VU) and Panthera leo (VU) (Cabral 1987; Cabral and Simões 1988).

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Hartlaub's Francolin Pternistis hartlaubi resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
African Penguin Spheniscus demersus winter  present  A1  Endangered 
Lesser Flamingo Phoeniconaias minor winter  present  A1  Near Threatened 
Cape Gannet Morus capensis winter  common  A1  Vulnerable 
Ludwig's Bustard Neotis ludwigii resident  1998  present  A3  Endangered 
Rüppell's Bustard Heterotetrax rueppelii resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Damara Tern Sternula balaenarum winter  common  A1  Near Threatened 
Rüppell's Parrot Poicephalus rueppellii resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Monteiro's Hornbill Tockus monteiri resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Gray's Lark Ammomanes grayi resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Stark's Lark Eremalauda starki resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Barred Wren-warbler Camaroptera fasciolata resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Rockrunner Achaetops pycnopygius resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Bare-cheeked Babbler Turdoides gymnogenys resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Kalahari Scrub-robin Erythropygia paena resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Herero Chat Namibornis herero resident  1998  present  A1, A2, A3  Least Concern 
Karoo Chat Cercomela schlegelii resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Tractrac Chat Cercomela tractrac resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Cinderella Waxbill Estrilda thomensis resident  1998  present  A1, A2, A3  Least Concern 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Iona National Park 1,515,000 protected area contained by site 1,515,000  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Rocky areas   19%
Grassland   17%
Desert   62%

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research -

References Huntley (1974a), Huntley and Matos (1994).

Contribute  Please click here to help BirdLife conserve the world's birds - your data for this IBA and others are vital for helping protect the environment.

Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Iona National Park. Downloaded from on 24/10/2016

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife