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Location Namibia, Otjozondjupa
Central coordinates 20o 37.00' East  19o 37.00' South
IBA criteria A1, A3, A4i
Area 120,000 ha
Altitude 1,100 - 1,300m
Year of IBA assessment 2001





Site description Widely known as Bushmanland after the inhabitants of this region, the new name is the Tsumkwe District. The original name has been retained because of its widespread acceptance. This very extensive wetland system in north-eastern Namibia has developed on a broad, flat watershed, on the eastern edge of the Kalahari Basin, situated between the Nhoma and Daneib drainage systems. Here, the geology restricts drainage and, as there are no major drainage lines out of the area, these pans, flooded grasslands and Acacia woodlands can remain wet throughout the dry season in years of above-average rainfall. The town of Tsumkwe lies in the centre of the area, which is inhabited by the Ju/’hoan Khoi. Livestock, so common in other parts of Namibia, are largely absent from the area, since a hunter-gathering lifestyle was until recently practised by all the inhabitants. However, cattle-farming has been introduced, and will, in time, replace the traditional nomadic lifestyle.

The Bushmanland Pans system is centred on the Nyae-Nyae wetlands, which run in a broad arc south-east of Tsumkwe. The Nyae-Nyae Pan itself consists of a large deflation basin comprising both grassland and open wetlands. Also included are the Pannetjies Veld wetlands 25 km east of Tsumkwe, comprising mainly flooded woodland, the Klein Dobe wetlands (two pans of 30 and 50 ha) 15 km north of Tsumkwe and the CinQo wetlands 40 km north-east of Tsumkwe. The wetland system as a whole is both extensive and variable.

The wetlands are widely interconnected and many wetland-types intergrade into one another, including: (1) Unvegetated open-water pans with highly alkaline evaporite basins; these pans are the last to dry up and can be up to 1.5 m deep. (2) Doline pans appear to be sinkholes formed in areas underlain by calcrete. When full, these are more than 2 m deep and unvegetated. (3) Open-water pans form where the underlying soils are not very alkaline. Vegetation is dominated by floating and submerged macrophytes such as Persicaria, Scirpus, Nymphaea, Aponogeton, Elytrophorus, Eragrostis and species of algae (Characeae). The pans are of medium size and the water in them can persist for three months. A second type of open-water pan develops where shallow calcareous sands make the pans more alkaline. In these, the vegetation is dominated by sedges (Cyperaceae) and floating mats of Persicaria which form in the deeper parts of the system. (4) Grass pans are small pans where organic clays have impeded the drainage; these are dominated by Echinochloa or Diplachne; the latter are the commonest pans in the system. (5) Wet grasslands develop on calcareous sands where the period of inundation is short. (6) During periods of extreme inundation on clay soils, flooded woodland develops. Occasionally scrubby areas of Grewia and Croton become periodically flooded in years of very high rainfall. The high-lying areas surrounding the pans hold palms such as Hyphaene.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus winter  740-3,950 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Lesser Flamingo Phoeniconaias minor non-breeding  2,000 individuals  A1  Near Threatened 
Slaty Egret Egretta vinaceigula non-breeding  15-200 individuals  A1, A4i  Vulnerable 
Dickinson's Kestrel Falco dickinsoni resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus winter  present  A1  Near Threatened 
Wattled Crane Bugeranus carunculatus winter  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Himantopus himantopus non-breeding  391-1,140 individuals  A4i  Not Recognised 
Caspian Plover Charadrius asiaticus winter  50-200 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Great Snipe Gallinago media winter  present  A1  Near Threatened 
Black-winged Pratincole Glareola nordmanni winter  common  A1  Near Threatened 
Bradfield's Hornbill Lophoceros bradfieldi resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Black-lored Babbler Turdoides melanops resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Kurrichane Thrush Turdus libonyanus resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
White-breasted Sunbird Nectarinia talatala resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 

Habitats

IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Shrubland   12%
Grassland   87%

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture -
tourism/recreation -
other -
Notes: Traditional hunter-gathering.

Other biodiversity Among mammals, the temporary wetland system supports the near-endemic Mastomys shortridgei, and threatened species include Acinonyx jubatus (VU), Lycaon pictus (EN) and Loxodonta africana (EN).

References Biesele and Weinberg (1990), Hines (1989, 1993, 1996), Jones (1988), Mendelsohn and Ward (1989), Olivier and Olivier (1993), Robertson et al. (1998), Simmons et al. (1998).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Tsumkwe pan system. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 31/10/2014

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