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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.

Key Biodiversity See Box and Table 2 for key species. When flooded, Sua Pan attracts breeding Phoenicopterus minor and P. ruber, colonies of both being first detailed as recently as 1978, although there were prior reports of flamingos (Phoenicopteridae) breeding here. In 1978 the colony of P. ruber was the largest known in Africa. Flamingos also bred in 1988, 1996, 1997, 1999/2000 and 2000/1. In April 1988, 25,000–26,000 P. ruber chicks were counted, and in mid-1988 some 2,000 fledged young of P. minor. One colony of P. minor in November 1988 contained c.60,000 birds. Such breeding occurs sporadically, depending on water levels.Over 1,000 non-breeding Grus carunculatus used to be recorded on the Pans during the 1960s and 1970s, coincident with flooding of the Kafue Flats in Zambia, but only c.100 occur now. The pans, when flooded, also attract breeding Pelecanus onocrotalus and P. rufescens, Podiceps nigricollis, many Anatidae—including Anas erythrorhyncha, A. capensis, Dendrocygna bicolor, Netta erythrophthalma and Thalassornis leuconotus—as well as Glareola pratincola and Sterna caspia. At times, very large numbers of waders visit the flooded pans, e.g. Tringa stagnatilis, T. glareola, Himantopus himantopus and Philomachus pugnax may exceed the 0.5% criterion. Palearctic visitors to the grassland include Circus pygargus and C. pallidus, Charadrius asiaticus and Glareola nordmanni, which occur also to the south over Mopipi Dam and Lake Xau. Regionally threatened raptors, such as Terathopius ecaudatus, Trigonoceps occipitalis, Polemaetus bellicosus and Aquila rapax, forage over the area. Few birds use the pans when they are dry, other than Charadrius pallidus and C. pecuarius. The grasslands and woodlands have important populations of Ardeotis kori, as well as of Struthio camelus, Sagittarius serpentarius, Falco chicquera, Francolinus levaillantoides (on the periphery up to Nxai Pan), Rhinoptilus africanus, Pterocles burchelli and P. gutturalis, Mirafra africanoides, Chersomanes albofasciata and Spizocorys conirostris.

Non-bird biodiversity: Large ungulates are all declining. Panthera leo (VU) are under severe pressure from livestock owners.

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   

IBA Monitoring

2012 high favourable high
Medium - based upon reliable but incomplete / partially representative data

Natural system modifications fire & fire suppression - increase in fire frequency/intensity happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) moderate to rapid deterioration high

Phoenicopterus roseus Greater Flamingo 3467 3300 individuals 96 favourable
Phoeniconaias minor Lesser Flamingo 23000 21000 breeding pairs 92 favourable
Phoeniconaias minor Lesser Flamingo 15000 14568 mature individuals 98 favourable
Glareola nordmanni Black-winged Pratincole 34570 34560 breeding pairs 100 favourable

Whole area of site (>90%) covered by appropriate conservation designation  A comprehensive and appropriate management plan exists that aims to maintain or improve the populations of qualifying bird species  Substantive conservation measures are being implemented but these are not comprehensive and are limited by resources and capacity  high 

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 -

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 (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Makgadikgadi Pans. Downloaded from on 25/10/2016

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