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Location Gambia, Central River Division
Central coordinates 14o 58.00' West  13o 36.00' North
IBA criteria A4i, A4iii
Area 3,000 ha
Altitude 5 m
Year of IBA assessment 2001

Site description The site consists of a number of low, alluvial islands in the Gambia River, between the town of Kaur in the west almost as far east as the divisional capital Janjanbureh (Georgetown), where permanent saline water is replaced with fresh and where mangrove gradually gives way to freshwater riverine forest and thickets, much of which have been cleared. Between Kaur and Kuntaur is a line of seven islands separated by narrow channels and covered with Phragmites karka reedbeds. There are also three smaller islands, including Bird Island, covered with scrub. Further east, between Kuntaur and Georgetown, are two groups of islands, those of the Gambia River National Park and the Kai Hai Islands. Both groups are fringed with seasonally flooded riverine forest, dominated by Mitragyna inermis. MacCarthy Island, upon which Georgetown is located, is excluded from the IBA.

Key Biodiversity See Box for key species. This length of the river is an important roosting area for non-breeding wildfowl. Numbers are highly variable, with maxima of more than 10,000 Dendrocygna viduata and Anas querquedula, thousands of Plecopterus gambensis and an apparently declining population of Sarkidiornis melanotos, which is now recorded only in hundreds. The diminutive Bird Island, north of Kuntaur, has the only large mixed waterbird colony on the river. Although with fewer than 1,000 pairs, it is the national stronghold for breeding Phalacrocorax africanus, Anhinga rufa, Casmerodius albus and, possibly, Nycticorax nycticorax. Bird Island is also a roost site for 15,000–20,000 herons, egrets, darters and cormorants, including up to 9,500 Bubulcus ibis. Other island roosts probably remain to be discovered. Little is known of the birds of the islands with the Phragmites reedbeds, which are potential strongholds for breeding Ixobrychus minutus and Rallidae, feeding areas for waterfowl, herons and egrets and roost sites for Palearctic Hirundinidae and Motacillidae. The riverine forest of the Gambia River National Park has isolated populations of a few forest species, including two species of the Guinea–Congo Forests biome; see Table 2. These include Pyrenestes sanguineus which, in The Gambia, is found only here and in the nearby Nianimaru and Gassang forests on the mainland.

Non-bird biodiversity: The majority of recent sightings of Trichechus senegalensis (VU) are from this part of the river.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Great White Egret Ardea alba resident  1997  500 breeding pairs  A4i  Least Concern 
Great White Egret Ardea alba winter  1997  1,300 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Black Heron Egretta ardesiaca winter  1997  500 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
African Darter Anhinga rufa winter  1997  600 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds winter  1997  20,000 individuals  unknown  A4iii   

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
River Gambia National Park 2,500 protected area contained by site 2,500  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Artificial - terrestrial   15%
Wetlands (inland)   62%
Shrubland   22%

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture -
fisheries/aquaculture -
nature conservation and research -

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Islands of the Central River Division. Downloaded from on 25/10/2016

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