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Location Botswana, Central
Central coordinates 25o 30.00' East  20o 45.00' South
IBA criteria A1, A3, A4i, A4iii
Area 1,200,000 ha
Altitude 900 - 1,000m
Year of IBA assessment 2001

BirdLife Botswana (Partner Designate)

Site description A very large and diverse area between 19°40’S and 21°30’S, and 24°10’E and 26°20’E, once the flat bottom of the old Kalahari Lake, in north-west Botswana. The Makgadikgadi Pans comprise seasonally inundated salt-pans, surrounded by grasslands, low tree-and-bush Acacia savanna and stunted mopane woodland. Along the Boteti river there is well-developed riparian woodland, with tall trees also near Gweta and Odiakwe. Hyphaene palms fringe many drainage courses and extend north to Nxai Pan.There are two main pans, the Sua Pan, fed by the Nata river in the east, and the Ntwetwe Pan in the east. These two large pans are alkaline flats akin to the soda lakes of the Kenyan Rift Valley. The Nata Delta section of Sua Pan rarely dries out completely and is therefore particularly important for waterfowl. Flows vary greatly from year to year; 1987/88 had double the inflow to Sua Pan since records started in 1967. A number of small pans lie to the north and south, including Rysana Pan west of Orapa.The Boteti river flows from the Okavango Delta to the west of the Pans and then across and into the southern part of the site; after heavy rains, pools remain throughout the winter and attract a variety of waterfowl. The Boteti, when it flowed strongly, also discharged into Lake Xau just south of Mopipi, although the Mopipi Dam (more than 16 km²) now intercepts any water. There are concentrations of settlements to the north of the Pans and in the west along the Boteti from Mopipi to Rakops and up to Xhumaga and to the Maun road.Land-uses include tourism (including motorbike safaris), hunting (for trophy, subsistence and bird-trade), and cattle-grazing, which is widespread over adjacent areas of the Pans. There is heavy use of the Boteti river fringes by people and stock, with pressure on the Makgadikgadi National Park from livestock.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus breeding  17,500 breeding pairs  A4i  Least Concern 
Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus winter  50,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Lesser Flamingo Phoeniconaias minor breeding  10,000 breeding pairs  A1, A4i  Near Threatened 
Lesser Flamingo Phoeniconaias minor winter  60,000 individuals  A1, A4i  Near Threatened 
African Spoonbill Platalea alba winter  369 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Great White Pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus resident  1,500 breeding pairs  A4i  Least Concern 
Great White Pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus winter  6,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Wattled Crane Bugeranus carunculatus winter  100 individuals  A1  Vulnerable 
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta breeding  85 breeding pairs  A4i  Least Concern 
Chestnut-banded Plover Charadrius pallidus breeding  135 breeding pairs  A4i  Near Threatened 
Black-winged Pratincole Glareola nordmanni winter  5,000 individuals  A1, A4i  Near Threatened 
Burchell's Sandgrouse Pterocles burchelli resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Barred Wren-warbler Camaroptera fasciolata resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Burchell's Glossy-starling Lamprotornis australis resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Kalahari Scrub-robin Erythropygia paena resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds breeding  50,000-99,999 individuals  unknown  A4iii   
A4iii Species group - waterbirds winter  100,000-499,999 individuals  unknown  A4iii   

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Flamingo Sanctuary 42,500 protected area contained by site 42,500  
Makgadikgadi National Park 487,710 protected area contained by site 487,710  
Nata Sanctuary Private Game Reserve 31,000 protected area contained by site 25,000  

Local conservation groups The local conservation group below is working to support conservation at this IBA.

Name Year formed
Nata Santuary Trust 1988


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Artificial - terrestrial   1%
Wetlands (inland)   29%
Shrubland   7%
Grassland   60%

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture -
hunting -
nature conservation and research -
tourism/recreation -

Other biodiversity Large ungulates are all declining. Panthera leo (VU) are under severe pressure from livestock owners.

Related state of the world's birds case studies

References Borello (1997), Liversedge et al. (1989), McCulloch (2000), McCulloch and Borello (2000), Penry (1994), Robertson and Johnson (1979), Rutina (1995), Smithers and Paterson (1959).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Makgadikgadi Pans. Downloaded from on 25/10/2014

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